18 Dec Does sleep deprivation play a role in postpartum depression?
Nobody goes without sleep like new mothers (and often, fathers) do! Between feeding, changing, burping, soothing, feeding yourself, etc., there’s very little time for sleep. But how long can one go with little sleep and not be affected by it? The relationship between sleep deprivation and accidents has long been establised. In fact, more accidents happen due to sleep deprivation than to drinking and driving! The question is, is there a connection between lack of sleep and depression or postpartum depression? The answer is a resounding YES! Research has shown a significant relationship between chronic or ongoing sleep deprivation due to various causes and depression. More recent research looked at the role of sleep regulation in new mothers in preventing postpartum depression. For example, in one study new mothers were kept at the hospital for 5 days and nights after the birth of their baby. The baby was cared for by a nurse every night for 5 nights, allowing the new mother to sleep for 8 hours, thus putting her sleep cycle back on track. The results? Compared to new mothers who were not offered this intervention there was a decrease of 40%(!) in the incidence of postpartum depression. What can we learn from this? Most mothers care for their baby themselves and do not have the privilege of a night-nurse, nor is it a recommended practice for new mothers. However, new mothers should be aware of the importance of sleep and would well be advised to use any help they can get to catch up on their sleep. That means that house chores, meal preparation, entertaining, etc. should be put on a much lower priority than sleep. It would greatly help new mothers if the expectations others have from them are lowered and if help focused on caring for the mother while she is caring for her baby. New mothers’ expectations of themselves also have to be adjusted and self care, including sleep should be made a priority. Just like you wouldn’t expect your car to run on an empty tank, you shouldn’t expect yourself to be able to function and stay well on little sleep. Finally, a reminder to new dads: you can do everything except breastfeeding! The more you do, the better your relatinship with your baby and your wife (or partner) be. Happy new parenthood!