Poor sleep is independently associated with depression in postpartum women

July 01, 2009

Westchester, Ill. -- A study in the July 1 issue of the journal SLEEP suggests that postpartum depression may aggravate an already impaired sleep quality, as experiencing difficulties with sleep is a symptom of depression. Twenty-one percent of depressed postpartum women included in the study reported having also been depressed during pregnancy and 46 percent reported at least one previous depressive episode prior to conception, suggesting that new mothers diagnosed with postpartum depression are not merely reporting symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation.

Results indicate that two months after delivery, poor sleep was associated with depression when adjusted for other significant risk factors, such as poor partner relationship, previous depression, depression during pregnancy and stressful life events. Sleep disturbances and subjective sleep quality were the aspects of sleep most strongly associated with depression. Overall, nearly 60 percent of the postpartum women experienced poor global sleep quality, and 16.5 percent had depressive symptoms.

According to lead author Karen Dørheim, MD, PhD, psychiatrist at Stavanger University Hospital in Norway, depression after delivery is often not identified by new mothers, whereas tiredness and lack of sleep are common complaints. These symptoms may be attributed to poor sleep, but the tiredness could also be caused by depression.

"It is important to ask a new mother suffering from tiredness about how poor sleep affects her daytime functioning and whether there are other factors in her life that may contribute to her lack of energy," said Dørhei. "There are also helpful depression screening questionnaires that can be completed during a consultation. Doctors and other health workers should provide an opportunity for postpartum women to discuss difficult feelings."

Data were collected between October 2005 and September 2006 from 2,830 women who gave birth to a live child at Stavanger University Hospital in Norway. Sleep was measured using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and depressive symptoms using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). The mean self-reported nightly sleep duration was 6.5 hours, and sleep efficiency was 73 percent. The mean age of the mothers at the time of reply was 30 years, and the mean age of the infants was 8.4 weeks.

Depression, previous sleep problems, being a first time mother, not exclusively breastfeeding or having a younger or male infant were factors associated with poor postpartum sleep quality. Better maternal sleep was associated with the baby sleeping in a different room.

According to authors, the first three months after delivery are characterized by continually changing sleep parameters. Women who are tired during this period may attribute this to poor sleep, but the tiredness could alternatively be caused by depression; thus talking about sleep problems may provide an entry point for also discussing the woman's overall well-being. Individual women may react differently to shorter sleep duration and lower sleep efficiency during the postpartum period, and that the sleep of women with a history of depression may be more sensitive to the psychobiological (hormonal, immunological, psychological and social) changes associated with childbirth.
-end-
SLEEP is the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC (APSS), a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. The APSS publishes original findings in areas pertaining to sleep and circadian rhythms. SLEEP, a peer-reviewed scientific and medical journal, publishes 12 regular issues and 1 issue comprised of the abstracts presented at the SLEEP Meeting of the APSS.

For a copy of the study, "Sleep and Depression in Postpartum Women: A Population-Based Study," or to arrange an interview with the study's author, please contact Kelly Wagner, AASM public relations coordinator, at (708) 492-0930, ext. 9331, or kwagner@aasmnet.org.

AASM is a professional membership organization dedicated to the advancement of sleep medicine and sleep-related research. As the national accrediting body for sleep disorders centers and laboratories for sleep related breathing disorders, the AASM promotes the highest standards of patient care. The organization serves its members and advances the field of sleep health care by setting the clinical standards for the field of sleep medicine, advocating for recognition, diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders, educating professionals dedicated to providing optimal sleep health care and fostering the development and application of scientific knowledge.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Related Depression Articles from Brightsurf:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.

Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.

Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.

Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.

A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.

Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.

Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.

CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

Read More: Depression News and Depression Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.