The effect of sleep pattern changes on postpartum depressive symptoms

Beth A. Lewis, Dwenda Gjerdingen, Katie Schuver, Melissa Avery, Bess H. Marcus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Research indicates that poor sleep is associated with postpartum depression; however, little is known regarding this relationship among postpartum women who areat high for postpartum depression. This study examined the relationship between changes in self-reported sleep patterns (from six weeks to seven months postpartum) and depressive symptoms at seven months postpartum among women who were at high risk for postpartum depression. Methods: Participants (n=122) were postpartum women who were at an increased risk for postpartum depression (personal or maternal history of depression) and had participated in a randomized exercise intervention trial. For the current trial, participants completed the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9; assessed depression) at six weeks and seven months postpartum. Results: Overall, sleep problems significantly improved from six weeks to seven months postpartum. However, linear regression analyses indicated that worsening or minimal improvement of sleep problems were associated with higher depressive symptoms at seven month postpartum. Regarding the specific types of sleep problems, self-reported changes in sleep latency (i.e., how long it takes to fall asleep at night), daytime dysfunction (i.e., difficulty staying awake during the day), and sleep quality (i.e., subjective rating of sleep quality) were associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms. Conclusions: Sleep problems typically improve during the postpartum phase. However, postpartum women who are at high risk for postpartum depression are at an increased risk for depressive symptoms later in the postpartum phase if sleep problems worsen or show only minimal improvement over time. Therefore, at the six-week postpartum clinic visit, women should receive education regarding potential worsening of sleep patterns and strategies for preventing sleep-related problems. Trial registration: Registered with (NCT00961402) on August 18, 2009 prior to the start of the trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalBMC Women's Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (grant number R21 MH73820), who was not involved in data collection, analysis, interpretation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s).


  • Exercise
  • Physical activity
  • Postpartum depression
  • Sleep


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