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Ann Behav Med. 2016 Dec;50(6):862-875.

Sleep Quality Predicts Persistence of Parental Postpartum Depressive Symptoms and Transmission of Depressive Symptoms from Mothers to Fathers.

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Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 90089, USA.
Department of Psychology, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, 90095, USA.
Virginia Tech Carillion Research Institute, Blacksburg, VA, 24060, USA.
NorthShore University HealthSystem Research Institute, Evanston, IL, 60208, USA.
Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 60637, USA.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, UNC Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599, USA.
Baltimore Healthy Start, Baltimore, MD, 21218, USA.



Early parenthood is a time of chronic sleep disturbance and also of heightened depression risk. Poor sleep quality has been identified both as a predictor of postpartum depressive symptoms and as a consequence.


This study sought to clarify causal pathways linking sleep and postpartum depression via longitudinal path modeling. Sleep quality at 6 months postpartum was hypothesized to exacerbate depressive symptoms from 1 month through 1 year postpartum in both mothers and fathers. Within-couple associations between sleep and depression were also tested.


Data were drawn from a low-income, racially and ethnically diverse sample of 711 couples recruited after the birth of a child. Depressive symptoms were assessed at 1, 6, and 12 months postpartum, and sleep was assessed at 6 months postpartum.


For both partnered mothers and fathers and for single mothers, depressive symptoms at 1 month postpartum predicted sleep quality at 6 months, which in turn predicted depressive symptoms at both 6 and 12 months. Results held when infant birth weight, breastfeeding status, and parents' race/ethnicity, poverty, education, and immigration status were controlled. Mothers' and fathers' sleep quality and depressive symptoms were correlated, and maternal sleep quality predicted paternal depressive symptoms both at 6 and at 12 months.


Postpartum sleep difficulties may contribute to a vicious cycle between sleep and the persistence of depression after the birth of a child. Sleep problems may also contribute to the transmission of depression within a couple. Psychoeducation and behavioral treatments to improve sleep may benefit new parents.


Couples; Parents; Postpartum depression; Sleep; Sleep disturbance; Sleep duration

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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