Sleep disturbance is commonly reported during pregnancy.  A recent study looked at the impact of sleep quality on risk for depression.

In this study, 293 pregnant women were recruited. They were assessed at four time points: Time 1 (T1) before 22 weeks of gestation; Time 2 (T2) at 32 weeks; Time 3 (T3) at 3 months postpartum; and Time 4 (T4) at 6 months postpartum).  Sleep quality was assessed using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

The researchers described four distinct patterns of sleep: high sleep quality throughout (21.5%), mild decrease in sleep quality (59.5%), significant decrease in sleep quality (12.3%) and poor sleep quality throughout (6.7%).

The majority of women describe either no or mild sleep disturbance during pregnancy and the postpartum period.  The women who had the worst sleep quality at Time 1 and those who experienced significant deterioration of sleep quality across pregnancy reported the highest levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms in early pregnancy and the lowest levels of social support.  Women with the worst sleep quality during pregnancy were also the most likely to experience significant depressive symptoms during the postpartum period.

This report is consistent with other reports showing a link between sleep disruption and increased risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.  Further research is needed to determine if interventions which improve sleep also decrease the risk of mood and anxiety disorders and this vulnerable population. The big question is whether sleep interventions may decrease the risk of depression.

Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

Tomfohr LM, Buliga E, Letourneau NL, Campbell TS, Giesbrecht GF.  Trajectories of Sleep Quality and Associations with Mood during thePerinatal Period.  Sleep. 2015 Feb 18.