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J Sleep Res. 2015 Jun;24(3):270-8. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12265. Epub 2014 Nov 28.

What are postpartum women doing while the rest of the world is asleep?

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Department of Psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, USA.


Large individual differences characterize maternal postpartum sleep and adjustment. Our goal was to explore aspects of mothers' nocturnal environments and behaviours that may explain differences in postpartum adjustment. A total of 201 mothers of infants aged 0-6 months completed an online survey with demographics, number and duration of nocturnal awakenings, caretaking behaviours, environment and nocturnal activities during 'one typical night during the past week'. Mothers reported 2.9 [standard deviation (SD) ± 1.7] nocturnal awakenings, each lasting 33.9 (SD ± 22.5) min. Infant age was related inversely to duration but unrelated to number of awakenings. Falling asleep while feeding was less frequent among exclusively formula-feeders. Among the entire sample, mothers used a cellphone (59%), backlit tablet (25%), TV (20%) and computer (16%) during nocturnal awakenings. Watching TV and using a computer were each associated with longer nocturnal awakenings. Eighty-nine per cent of women used ≥1 extra light source during nocturnal awakenings: night light (35%), light from a cracked door (28%), desk lamp (25%), electronic device (19%) or room light (14%). Light source(s) was unrelated to number or duration of nocturnal awakenings. These data suggest that, although supplemental light sources were not associated with awakenings, TV and computer use accounted for longer awakenings. Feeding method and technology use may help to explain individual differences in postpartum adjustments and may be targets for more effective interventions.


circadian rhythm; paediatric; sleep fragmentation

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