Michal Kahn, Natalie Barnett, and Michael Gradisar
The postpartum period may pose a considerable challenge for both parent sleep and sexual activity. This study assessed the links between partnered sexual frequency and satisfaction postpartum and parent sleep, infant sleep, parent nighttime caregiving, and parent-infant room sharing. Participants were 897 parents of infants aged 1-18-months (M = 8.8 ± 4.3, 49% girls). Parents completed an online survey about their sexual frequency and satisfaction, sleep, relationship satisfaction, depression, and demographic characteristics. Infant sleep and parent nighttime crib visits were measured objectively using auto-videosomnography during 2-weeks, with 8,460 nights assessed. Results indicated that the frequency of partnered sexual activity was 3.8 ± 4.2 times per month. Frequency of sexual activity increased with infant age, yet increases beyond the first 6 months postpartum were non-significant. Adjusted GEE modeling revealed that more parent nighttime crib visits were significantly associated with lower sexual frequency, regardless of infant age. Other parent and infant sleep-related factors were not significantly linked with sexual frequency in adjusted models. Moreover, sexual satisfaction was not associated with parent nighttime caregiving, parent or infant sleep, or parent-infant sleeping arrangements in adjusted models, suggesting that it may not be susceptible to the effects of disrupted sleep in the postpartum period. These findings suggest that it is not infant or parent sleep disruption per se, but rather parent nighttime engagement with the infant that is associated with parent sexual activity frequency. Longitudinal investigations are warranted to examine the directional pathways of these links.
About the Researchers
The researchers included Michal Kahn, Natalie Barnett, and Michael Gradisar.
- Dr. Michal Kahn is a sleep researcher and licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in pediatric insomnia and sleep development. She is a senior lecturer (assistant professor) at the School of Psychological Sciences at Tel Aviv University, Israel.
- Dr. Natalie Barnett serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.
- Dr. Michael Gradisar is a Professor and Director and Clinical Psychologist at the Child & Adolescent Sleep Clinic at WINK Sleep in Australia, and the Head of Sleep Science at Sleep Cycle in Sweden. Dr. Gradisar has specialized in the treatment of pediatric sleep problems since 2006. He has provided training to over 420 psychologists throughout Australia on the treatment of pediatric sleep disorders, and published several research studies evaluating the treatment of insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders in children, adolescents and adults. In all, Dr. Gradisar has over 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals, has authored several book chapters, and has presented on sleep-related research and intervention internationally.