I remember when I had my first child—I could barely sleep with all the feedings (I was breast feeding) and the constant worry if I was doing it all right. I didn’t have much help, as we don’t have family nearby. But I can’t imagine what that would have been like had I been depressed. Now we are learning that new mothers who suffer from depression not only have increased risk for sleep disorders, they also pass on the tendency for poor sleep onto their infants. Here is how Medline reports this finding about depression and sleep deprivation in new mothers:
Greater amounts of sleep disruption were noted in infants whose mothers had higher levels of symptoms of depression and more worries about their infants’ sleep, the researchers found.
They then investigated whether the mothers’ symptoms of depression caused them to behave in ways that affected their infants’ sleep, or whether infants’ night awakenings led their mothers to be more depressed, perhaps because of lack of sleep.
The researchers found that it’s the depression-linked behavior of mothers that interferes with infants’ sleep. For example, mothers with more symptoms of depression and worries were more likely to pick up babies who were sleeping.
Mothers who are feeling depressed may seek emotional comfort by going to their infants during the night, the researchers explained. Mothers who worry excessively about their infants’ well-being might respond to any infant sound in the night and move their babies into their own beds in order to ease concerns about whether their infants are hungry, thirsty and comfortable.
The study was published April 17 in the journal Child Development.
The findings help “us better understand what factors influence infants’ sleep in homes in which mothers are depressed,” lead author Douglas Teti, a professor of human development, psychology and pediatrics, said in a journal news release.
“Sleep problems often endure beyond early childhood and can have a negative effect on various aspects of development, including emotional, behavioral and academic functioning,” Teti noted. read more here
If you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing depression, please try your best to recommend they seek help.