Pennsylvania State University researchers conducted home visits with their babies between the ages of 2 years over 7 straight days and 1 month and 45 mothers to collect information about depression symptoms among the moms and their infants’ quality of sleep.
Greater amounts of sleep interruption were noted in babies whose mothers had higher levels of symptoms of depression and more worries about their babies’ sleep, the researchers found.
Then they inquired whether the mothers’ symptoms of depression caused them to behave in ways that affected their infants’ sleep, or whether infants’ night awakenings led their mothers to be more depressed, perhaps due to lack of sleep.
The researchers found that it is the melancholy-linked behavior of moms that interferes with infants’ sleep. For example, mothers with more symptoms of worries and depression were more likely to pick up babies who were sleeping.
By going to their infants during the nighttime mothers who are feeling depressed may seek mental comfort, the researchers described. Moms who worry excessively about their infants’ well being might respond to any infant sound in the night as a way to calm worries about whether their infants are famished, thirsty and comfortable, and go their babies into their own beds.
The research was published April 17 in the journal Child Development.
The findings help “us better understand what factors affect infants’ sleep in houses where mummies are depressed,” lead writer Douglas Teti, a professor of human development, psychology and pediatrics, said in a journal news release.
“Sleep problems often endure beyond early childhood and can have a negative effect on various aspects of development, including emotional, behavioral and academic performance,” Teti noted.