Objectives: This study evaluated whether sleep over the first 6 months of life was more disturbed in infants born to mothers who were depressed compared with infants from nondepressed mothers.
Design: Actigraphy was recorded for 7 consecutive days starting at 2 weeks postpartum and monthly thereafter until 6 months of age. Mothers completed daily sleep/wake diaries. Sleep data at 2 weeks and 6 months postpartum are presented here.
Setting: The home environment.
Participants: Eighteen healthy, full-term infants, 9 males and 9 females. Seven infants were born to women with no personal or family history of depression; 11 infants were born to women diagnosed with depression or with elevated levels of depression symptoms.
Measurements and Results: Total sleep time, sleep latency, sleep efficiency, and number and duration of sleep episodes were computed for nocturnal and daytime sleep in each 24-hour block. Data were coded for risk group (1 = low risk, 2 = high risk), and repeated-measures multivariate analysis of variance contrasted changes in sleep measures at Week 2 and Week 24, between risk groups. The high-risk infants took longer to fall asleep, had lower sleep efficiencies, and had more sleep bouts in the nocturnal sleep period than did low-risk infants. These effects persisted at 6 months postpartum.
Conclusions: Maternal depression is associated with significant sleep disturbance in infancy at 2 weeks postpartum that continues through 24 weeks. It remains to be determined if sleep disturbance in infancy confers a greater risk of developing early-onset depression in childhood.
Keywords: Infant sleep, circadian rhythms, depression, actigraphy, napping