New mothers now get two hours less sleep a night than their own parents did - and say that both their home life and careers are suffering as a result.

New mothers now get two hours less sleep a night than their own parents did - and say that both their home life and careers are suffering as a result.

Women with young babies are surviving on just three-and-a-half hours sleep in 24 - and are woken up at least three times during the night, according to a survey.

In contrast, their own mothers, who were raising babies in the 1960s and 1970s, had the relative luxury of five hours sleep and just two interruptions a night, and took less time to settle children back to bed.

The survey by Mother & Baby magazine found that working mothers suffered the most when it came to sleep deprivation.

While their own mothers may have been able to catch up on their sleep during the day, modern parents are left trying to juggle work with a new baby and no sleep.

Eight out of 10 women in the survey had returned to work when their baby was an average of 22 weeks old. Half of working mothers said their bosses had shown little sympathy for their fatigue, while 77 per cent said the lack of sleep affected their ability to do their job.

Sleep starvation left two-thirds being irritable towards their partner, while 37 per cent felt depressed and 61 per cent were regularly reduced to tears.

Three-quarters of mothers said they thought they had the work-life balance wrong, and almost half wanted to leave work and be a full-time parent.

Commentators said that the stress of combining work with motherhood was taking its toll on both parents and children.

Elena Dalrymple, editor of Mother & Baby magazine said: "Today's working parents are so time-poor, their anxiety to get baby to bed so they can have a bit of an evening actually prevents baby from falling asleep.

"Babies latch on to their parents' anxiety and stay awake instead," she said.

"Back in the Sixties and Seventies most mums didn't work and therefore weren't so anxious about getting baby to bed.

"And dad didn't have to worry because looking after the baby was mum's full-time job. Life is much harder for today's parents."

Fifty-fiveper cent of today's fathers shared the burden of getting up in the night to tend a crying child, compared with just 30 per cent of men in the Seventies.

Women who brought children up 30 years ago said that their babies had an average of four hours in the fresh air a day, compared with just two hours now.

Working mothers also believe that nurseries and childminders added to their problems. Two-thirds of women said that their babies' carers allowed them to sleep too long in the day, meaning that at the weekend, their routines were even more disrupted.

New parents today have less family support than previous generations and less opportunity to snatch a few hours' peace.

However, the survey also revealed a tried and tested method for easing babies to sleep - the top calming tune, according to new mothers, is the theme to EastEnders.