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Postpartum Depression Reduces Quality Sleep

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ScienceDaily reports on December 24, 2008 that postpartum depression (PPD) can lead to poor sleep quality according to an article in the Journal of Obstetric Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 2008; Wiley-Blackwell (2008, December 24). The paper reports 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.

Sleep loss following childbirth is almost universal among mothers because estrogen and progesterone hormone levels go down. New mothers are awake 20 percent more of the day than than other women 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.

The study 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.

The study authors suggest that doctors treating women for PPD deal with getting the women 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.”