Sleep disturbances cause neurobehavioral performance and daytime functioning impairments. Postpartum women experience high levels of sleep disturbance. Thus, the study objective was to describe and explore the relation between neurobehavioral performance and sleep among women during the early postpartum period.
Longitudinal field-based study.
There were 70 primiparous women and nine nulliparous women in a control group.
Methods and Results:
During their first 12 postpartum weeks, 70 primiparous women wore continuous wrist actigraphy to objectively monitor their sleep. Each morning they self-administered the psychomotor vigilance test (PVT) to index their neurobehavioral performance. Nine nulliparous women in a control group underwent the same protocol for 12 continuous weeks. Postpartum PVT mean reciprocal (1/RT) reaction time did not differ from that of women in the control group at postpartum week 2, but then worsened over time. Postpartum slowest 10% 1/RT PVT reaction time was significantly worse than that of women in the control group at all weeks. Despite improvements in postpartum sleep, neurobehavioral performance continued to worsen from week 2 through the end of the study. Across the first 12 postpartum weeks, PVT measures were more frequently associated with percent sleep compared with total sleep time, highlighting the deleterious consequences of sleep disruption on maternal daytime functioning throughout the early postpartum period.
Worsened maternal neurobehavioral performance across the first 12 postpartum weeks may have been influenced by the cumulative effects of sleep disturbance. These results can inform future work to identify the particular sleep profiles that could be primary intervention targets to improve daytime functioning among postpartum women, and indicate need for further research on the effectiveness of family leave policies. The time when postpartum women return to control-level daytime functioning is unknown.
Insana SP; Williams KB; Montgomery-Downs HE. Sleep disturbance and neurobehavioral performance among postpartum women. SLEEP 2013;36(1):73–81.