A small study in the journal Sleep examined the sleep of babies born to mothers who struggle with depression.
Results show that these babies are more likely to have disturbed sleep at 2 weeks of age. These sleep problems remain present at the age of 6 months.
The study involved 18 healthy, full-term babies. Seven “low-risk” infants were born to women with no history of depression. Eleven “high-risk” babies were born to women diagnosed with depression or with high levels of depression symptoms.
Babies born to depressed moms took an hour longer to fall asleep at night. They also had shorter periods of sleep. Their average total sleep time during a 24-hour period was similar to the “low-risk” babies. But their nightly sleep was 97 minutes shorter; during the daytime they had more sleep episodes of a shorter average duration.
Are these sleep problems directly linked to the mother’s depression? Is it the mother’s hormone levels that affect the infant’s sleep? This is still unclear, study author Roseanne Armitage, PhD, told the AASM.
“Whether it is maternal hormones that ‘cause’ the sleep problems in infants is not yet known,” she said. “It could be genetic, hormonal, or both.”
But Armitage thinks that it is possible to improve the sleep of babies born to depressed moms. A behavioral or environmental intervention may be helpful.
Learn more about how to help your infant sleep better on SleepEducation.com.