Mom's education, prenatal depression and infant birth method linked to infant sleep duration

Our new study published this month in Sleep Medicine examined associations between a mother’s level of education, prenatal depression, method of delivery and her infant’s sleep duration. Our study analyzed data from 619 infants and their mothers participating in the CHILD Cohort Study and found that infants born to mothers without a university degree slept an average of 13.94 hours per day—23 minutes less than infants born to mothers with a university degree, and just short of the National Sleep Foundation guidelines of an average of 14-17 hours of sleep per day at three months of age.

Specifically, we found mothers without a university degree to be at significantly higher risk of having symptoms of depression during both the prenatal and postnatal periods, or the prenatal period alone, compared to women with a university degree.

We also found that the method of delivery independently predicted infant sleep duration, with infants delivered by emergency cesarean section sleeping approximately one hour less per day than infants born by vaginal delivery.

“This was an interesting finding, as we did not observe an association between shorter infant sleep and scheduled cesarean sections or vaginal deliveries,” commented first author Brittany Matenchuk, a Master’s student at the University of Alberta.

“While we are still at an early stage of unravelling the underlying biologic mechanisms, our study suggests that prenatal depression and birth mode are potential targets for healthcare professionals and policy makers to improve infant sleep duration. Mothers who experience prenatal depression or an emergency cesarean delivery may benefit from support so that infant sleep problems do not persist into childhood.”

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