Maria Breda, Maristella Lucchini, Natalie Barnett, Oliviero Bruni
Presented at World Sleep, Rio de Janeiro, 2023
Sleep plays a critical role in maintaining optimal mental health. New mothers are particularly at risk for poor sleep and mental health. Several factors are known to contribute to poor sleep in this population, including the demands of caring for their newborn, managing the needs of other children, the sleep environment, occupational status, and available social support. Partner support at night could serve as a vital function in protecting maternal sleep, yet studies are lacking to evaluate its impact. Given the high rates of postpartum depression and its profound implications for both maternal and infant outcomes, understanding modifiable factors associated with better maternal sleep is critical to support maternal health. Thus, the aim of this study is to quantify the associations between maternal depression symptoms, sleep duration, and partner involvement in infant care at night.
Materials and Methods
We recruited 117 mothers at 3-4 months postpartum (3.2±0.4 months), among Nanit consumers in the US. Mothers completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), and the Brief Infant Sleep Questionnaire (BISQ-R), which entails items regarding partner involvement in nighttime caregiving. Objective infant sleep metrics were obtained from the Nanit (11±4nights). We ran two linear regressions, one with maternal depression scores as dependent variable and sleep duration as independent, and one with maternal sleep duration as dependent variable and who takes care of the baby at night as independent. Number of children, baby's sex, baby's and mother's age, infant total sleep time, and number of night awakenings were included as covariates.
Among recruited mothers, 78% were first time mothers, and 37% were stay-at-home parents/on parental leave. Mothers reported sleeping 6.7±1.1 hours per night and had an EPDS score of 6.2±4.8, with 11% of the sample having an EPDS score≧13, indicating a high likelihood of clinical depression. The majority (55%) of mothers reported that their partner was not involved in infant care at night, while the remainder reported that both parents were equally involved (36%) or that their partner was the only one involved in infant care at night (8%). Longer sleep duration was significantly associated with lower EPDS score (β=-1.2±0.4, p=0.002). Partner involvement in infant care at night was significantly associated with maternal sleep duration, which was on average 40 minutes longer for mothers whose partners were involved in infant care at night, compared to mothers who were attending baby's needs without help (β=0.7±0.2, p=0.001). Number of children, maternal age, baby’s age and sex, baby’s total sleep time and number of awakenings were not associated with maternal sleep duration.
Previous research has established the important role of social support for maternal mental health and sleep postpartum, but this study is the first to quantify the association between partner involvement in infant care at night and maternal sleep duration, accounting for infant sleep. These results provide evidence for actionable recommendations to improve postpartum maternal sleep.
About the researchers
The authors include Maria Breda, Maristella Lucchini, Natalie Barnett, and Oliviero Bruni.
- Dr. Maristella Lucchini serves as Senior Clinical Researcher at Nanit. In her role, Maristella works to secure grant funding in collaboration with Nanit’s university research partners and supports the development of the company’s research collaborations around the world. Previously, Maristella served as an Assistant Research Scientist in the Division of Developmental Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center where she led projects across several cohorts focusing on sleep health for pregnant and postpartum women and their children. Maristella’s research focused on underserved communities and sleep health disparities in the perinatal period. During her years as a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in the Department of Psychiatry, Maristella was selected to participate in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Young Investigator Research Forum. She holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Politecnico di Milano.
- 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.