The Link Between Sleep and Postpartum Depression

Did you know that sleep is closely tied to your mental health? New mothers, especially, are at risk of developing postpartum depression, with sleep deprivation being one of the many contributing factors. I’m a testament to this fact, having battled postpartum depression myself. In fact, my own experiences are what led me to become a sleep consultant – driven by the desire to help other struggling families.

According to Harvard Medical School, 10% to 15% of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Not even husbands are immune, as Harvard reports that as many as 10% of new fathers develop PPD within the first year after their child’s birth.

The Link Between Sleep and Postpartum Depression

The Atlantic featured a brilliant article, explaining how postpartum depression, or early parenthood depression, can affect even adoptive parents. A curious thing, right? Hormones are only a small contributor of postpartum depression, as sleep deprivation has the ability to cause a slew of emotional problems, including feelings of stress and anxiety.

My own experience with PPD began subtly; I wasn’t necessarily sad and weepy, instead, I was constantly overwhelmed. Honestly, I was just trying to keep my head above water in a completely sleep deprived state. Each day my anxiety grew and I was finding it harder and harder to keep a smile on my face and pretend to be the super awesome mother that I thought I should be. I was exhausted, anxious and downright miserable.

It’s no coincidence that my PPD was paired with sleep deprivation — 3 a.m. was an incredibly depressing and lonely time for me. It’s a vicious cycle, as this article from WomensMentalHealth.org explains:

While the fact that new mothers are often sleep-deprived will surprise few, the concern is poor sleep is considered to be a risk factor for depression, and depression may in turn contribute to or exacerbate sleep disturbance.  Several studies indicate that postpartum women with depressive symptoms experience poorer sleep quality, less total sleep time, longer sleep latency (longer time to fall asleep), less time in REM sleep, and more sleep disturbance than women without depressive symptoms.

Given the data, it’s clear that new parents need sleep to avoid negative affects on their mental health. I’ve been there, and I’ve made it my mission to help other families struggling to find a balance between caring for their babies and ensuring that the entire family is getting a healthy amount of sleep. It’s never too early to start, as there are things you can do help your newborn sleep longer, tips to avoid common baby sleep pitfalls, as well as inadvertent ways you might be hindering healthy sleep.

If you suspect you might be suffering from postpartum depression, please call your doctor immediately. If you are having thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, do not keep them to yourself. Once you’ve gotten treatment, I’ll be here to work with you and your baby’s sleep issues.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Readers should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Gift of Sleep Consulting does not assume any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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