Poor sleep quality linked to postpartum depression

December 10, 2008

Philadelphia, PA - December 10, 2008 -- Postpartum depression (PPD) can lead to poor sleep quality, recent research shows. A study published in the current issue of the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing shows that depression symptoms worsen in PPD patients when their quality of sleep declines.

Sleep deprivation can hamper a mother's ability to care for her infant, as judgment and concentration decline. Sleep-deprived mothers also may inadvertently compromise their infants' sleep quality because infants often adopt their mothers' circadian sleep rhythms.

All new mothers experience some sleep loss following childbirth, as their estrogen and progesterone hormone levels plunge. They typically spend 20 percent more of the day awake than average during the first six weeks postpartum. Postpartum women wake more frequently and have less dream sleep than non-postpartum women, with women in their first month postpartum spending only 81 percent of their time in bed actually sleeping. Neurotransmitters that influence sleep quality also affect mood, raising sleep-deprived mothers' risk for depression. Approximately 6.5 to 13 percent of new mothers suffer from PPD in the United States, with there being more than 4.2 million births per year. This rate is nearly 50 percent among mothers in the lowest socioeconomic levels.

Study author Bobbie Posmontier of Drexel University compared sleep patterns of 46 postpartum women, half with symptoms of PPD and half without. Sleep patterns were monitored for seven consecutive days. Results showed that mothers suffering from PPD took longer to fall asleep and slept for shorter periods. The worse their sleep quality, the worse their depression.

Posmontier recommends clinicians treating women for PPD to address the importance of adequate sleep. "Mothers can develop a plan to have other family members help care for the baby at night," she said. "They also should practice good sleep hygiene. That includes going to bed at the same time every night, avoiding naps and steering clear of caffeine, exercise, nicotine and alcohol within four hours of bedtime."
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This study is published in the November/December 2008 issue of the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact professionalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

Bobbie Posmontier is affiliated with Drexel University and can be reached for questions at bp98@drexel.edu.

For over 35 years the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN) has been a premier resource for health care professionals committed to clinical scholarship that advances the health care of women and newborns. With a focus on nursing practice, JOGNN addresses the latest research, practice issues, policies, opinions, and trends in the care of women, childbearing families, and newborns.

Wiley-Blackwell was formed in February 2007 as a result of the acquisition of Blackwell Publishing Ltd. by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and its merger with Wiley's Scientific, Technical, and Medical business. Together, the companies have created a global publishing business with deep strength in every major academic and professional field. Wiley-Blackwell publishes approximately 1,400 scholarly peer-reviewed journals and an extensive collection of books with global appeal. For more information on Wiley-Blackwell, please visit www.wiley-blackwell.com or http://interscience.wiley.com.

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