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How To Keep It Together Mentally When Your Child Can’t Sleep

Summary: Researchers find a correlation between concern over their infant’s sleep patterns and parental depression. When problems with infant sleep are resolved, parental depression was significantly lifted.

Source: University of British Columbia.

Your child’s sleep problems may be making you depressed and unsure of your parenting skills, says a new paper by UBC sleep expert and nursing professor Wendy Hall. The good news is you can turn the situation around. In this Q&A, she talks about the connection between parental sanity and infant sleep–and offers a few suggestions for parents unsure of the way forward.

What prompted you to focus on parents’ mental state for this particular study?

Researchers already have a good understanding of how poor sleep can affect children’s growth and development. We have a fairly good idea how parental depression can negatively impact children’s development and parental attachment. But we know less about how kids’ sleep can affect their parents’ mental health. This study is one of the first to look at that connection.

What did you find?

We recruited 253 families from B.C. with infants who were having trouble sleeping, and ruled out parents diagnosed with or currently experiencing clinical depression.

The families were randomly assigned to two groups. The first group received sleep intervention for their child in the form of information about infant sleep and how to solve infant sleep problems, with support from public health nurses. The second only received basic infant safety information packages. We rated the parents’ depression scores at the outset, and at six and 24 weeks after the intervention.

Image shows a mom and baby.

Once the infant sleep problem was treated, parental depression lifted significantly. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

We found a correlation between thoughts about their infant’s sleep and parental depression, even after making allowances for parental fatigue or poor sleep. In other words, parents who worried that they could not manage their children’s sleep were more likely to have higher levels of depression. That was true for both mothers and fathers.

The situation improved after the intervention, notably by the 24-week mark. Once the infant sleep problem was treated, parental depression lifted significantly. There was a reduction of almost 30 per cent of mothers and 20 per cent of fathers reporting high depression scores.

What does this mean for parents and health care professionals?

It tells us that we should listen carefully to parents of young infants, to recognize signs of depression associated with doubts about helping infants sleep that are beyond parental fatigue or lack of sleep.

It also highlights how sleep interventions can benefit both child and parent. If you can find a way to regulate your child’s sleep, your own state of mind and self-confidence get a boost. Talking to a health professional can help.

About this neuroscience research article

Source: Lou Corpuz-Bosshart – University of British Columbia
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Video Source: Video credited to UBC.
Original Research: Full open access research for “Relationships between parental sleep quality, fatigue, cognitions about infant sleep, and parental depression pre and post-intervention for infant behavioral sleep problems” by Wendy A. HallEmail author, Melissa Moynihan, Radhika Bhagat and Joanne Wooldridge in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. Published online April 4 2017 doi:10.1186/s12884-017-1284-x

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University of British Columbia “How To Keep It Together Mentally When Your Child Can’t Sleep.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 26 June 2017.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/child-sleep-mental-health-6973/>.
University of British Columbia (2017, June 26). How To Keep It Together Mentally When Your Child Can’t Sleep. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved June 26, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/child-sleep-mental-health-6973/
University of British Columbia “How To Keep It Together Mentally When Your Child Can’t Sleep.” http://neurosciencenews.com/child-sleep-mental-health-6973/ (accessed June 26, 2017).

Abstract

Relationships between parental sleep quality, fatigue, cognitions about infant sleep, and parental depression pre and post-intervention for infant behavioral sleep problems

Background

Maternal and paternal depression has been associated with infants’ behavioral sleep problems. Behavioral sleep interventions, which alter parental cognitions about infant sleep, have improved infant sleep problems. This study reports relationships between parental depression, fatigue, sleep quality, and cognitions about infant sleep pre and post-intervention for a behavioral sleep problem.

Methods

This secondary analysis of data from Canadian parents (n = 455), with healthy infants aged 6-to-8-months exposed to a behavioral sleep intervention, examined baseline data and follow-up data from 18 or 24 weeks post intervention (group teaching or printed material) exposure. Parents reported on sleep quality, fatigue, depression, and cognitions about infant sleep. Data were analyzed using Pearson’s r and stepwise regression analysis.

Results
Parents’ fatigue, sleep quality, sleep cognitions, and depression scores were correlated at baseline and follow-up. At baseline, sleep quality (b = .52, 95% CI .19–.85), fatigue (b = .48, 95% CI .33–.63), doubt about managing infant sleep (b = .44, 95% CI .19–.69), and anger about infant sleep (b = .69, 95% CI .44–.94) were associated with mothers’ depression. At baseline, fathers’ depression related to sleep quality (b = .42, 95% CI .01–.83), fatigue (b = .47, 95% CI .32–.63), and doubt about managing infant sleep (b = .50, 95% CI .24–.76). At follow-up, mothers’ depression was associated with sleep quality (b = .76, 95% CI .41–1.12), fatigue (b = .25, 95% CI .14–.37), doubt about managing infant sleep (b = .44, 95% CI .16–.73), sleep anger (b = .31, 95% CI .02–.59), and setting sleep limits (b = −.22, 95% CI -.41-[−.03]). At follow-up, fathers’ depression related to sleep quality (b = .84, 95% CI .46–1.22), fatigue (b = .31, 95% CI .17–.45), sleep doubt (b = .34, 95% CI .05–.62), and setting sleep limits (b = .25, 95% CI .01–.49).

Conclusions
Mothers’ and fathers’ cognitions about infant sleep demonstrate complex relationships with their depression scores. While mothers’ setting sleep limit scores are associated with decreased depression scores, fathers’ setting limits scores are associated with increased depression scores. Parental doubts about managing infant sleep and difficulties with setting sleep limits require attention in interventions.

“Relationships between parental sleep quality, fatigue, cognitions about infant sleep, and parental depression pre and post-intervention for infant behavioral sleep problems” by Wendy A. HallEmail author, Melissa Moynihan, Radhika Bhagat and Joanne Wooldridge in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. Published online April 4 2017 doi:10.1186/s12884-017-1284-x

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