A study conducted in China found that infants whose mother has depression, anxiety, or a sleep disorder are more likely to have sleep disorders themselves.
A study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth found that parents with sleep disorders are likely to have infants with sleep disorders as well. The study, conducted in China, aimed to analyze the effects of maternal and paternal emotion and sleep disorder on infant sleep.
Data collection was performed at the Women and Children Health Care Center in the Second Affiliated Hospital of Shantou University Medical College between April 2019 and December 2020. Participants were included if they had a singleton pregnancy, intention to have regular antenatal care and give birth at the hospital, and able to understand relevant scale options. Exclusions included: did not give birth at hospital; had a preterm birth; had thyroid, liver, kidney, lung, or heart disease before and after pregnancy; either parent had mental disorders prior to pregnancy; infants had congenital malformation; or data were incomplete.
Both mother and father of the baby filled out the self-rating depression scale, the Self-Rating Anxiety Scale, and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index at the third trimester and within 3 months of delivery. A Brief Screening Questionnaire for Infant Sleep Problems, filled out by the mother, was used to assess infant sleep.
According to the surveys, third trimester incidence of maternal depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders were 29.3%, 19.7%, and 51.3% respectively; postpartum depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders were 28.5%, 14.0% and 67.4% respectively. Depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders that extended from the third trimester to postpartum was 13.3%, 8.0%, and 43.3% respectively.
The incidence of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorder in the father was 26.8%, 8.9%, and 34.5% respectively. There was a positive correlation of maternal depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders between the mother and father.
Infant variables, such as gender, feeding, rooming-in with parents, and vitamin D intake, did not influence infant sleep. However, parent variables could influence infant sleep, with the education level of the father being a significant influencer. Age of parents, BMI of parents, income, residential area, and smoking did not have any influence on infant sleep.
Infants whose mothers had sleep disorders that extended from the third trimester to postpartum or whose father had depression could have higher incidences of sleep disorders.
Risk factors for infant sleep disorders were:
The incidence of infant sleep disorder was 30.4% in infants whose father had university education level or higher but increased to 44.7% in infants whose father had low education levels. Infants whose mothers had postpartum depression, anxiety or sleep disorders had infant sleep order incidence rise from 35.1%, 38.1%, and 27.5% to 54.1%, 55.6% and 46.8% respectively. Mothers who had sleep disorders extend from the third trimester to postpartum had an incidence of infant sleep disorder of 51.8%
There were some limitations to this study. This was a single-center cohort study with a small sample size, which may lead to selection bias. The results may also only identify a single factor in maternal sleep disorders affecting infant sleep. Future studies should expand sample size.
Paying attention to the maternal emotion and sleep conditions during pregnancy and postpartum should be a top priority. “Early detection and intervention of maternal sleep disorders in the late pregnancy can reduce the postpartum sleep disorders of the mothers to subsequently decrease the incidence of infant sleep disorder,” the researchers wrote.
Lin X, Zhai R, Mo J, Sun J, Chen P, Huang Y. How do maternal emotion and sleep conditions affect infant sleep: a prospective cohort study. BMC pregnancy and childbirth.2022;22:237. doi:10.1186/s12884-022-04504-6