Can critically timed sleep deprivation be useful in pregnancy and postpartum depressions?

J Affect Disord. 2000 Nov;60(3):201-12. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0327(99)00179-2.


Background: The aim of this study was to test the efficacy of critically timed sleep deprivation in major mood disorders (MMD) occurring during pregnancy and postpartum.

Methods: Nine women who met DSM-IV criteria for a MMD with onset during pregnancy or within 1 year postpartum underwent a trial of either early-night sleep deprivation (ESD), in which they were sleep deprived in the early part of one night and slept from 03:00-07:00 h, or late-night sleep deprivation (LSD), in which they were deprived of sleep in the latter part of one night and slept from 21:00-01:00 h. Mood was assessed before the night of sleep deprivation, after the night of sleep deprivation, and after a night of recovery sleep (sleep 22:30-06:30 h) by trained clinicians, blind to treatment condition, using standardized scales.

Results: More patients responded to LSD (nine of 11 trials: 82%) compared with ESD (two of six trials: 33%) and they responded more after a night of recovery sleep (nine of 11 nights: 82%) than after a night of sleep deprivation (six of 11 nights: 55%). Pregnant women were the only responders to ESD and the only nonresponders to LSD.

Limitations: The small and heterogeneous sample size prevents us from making more definitive conclusions based on statistical analyses.

Conclusions: Although the findings are preliminary, the results suggest that with further study, critically timed sleep deprivation interventions may benefit women with pregnancy or postpartum major mood disorders and potentially provide a viable alternative treatment modality for those women who are not candidates for pharmacologic or psychotherapeutic interventions. Such interventions are needed to help prevent the devastating effects of depression during pregnancy and the postpartum period on the mother, infant, her family and society.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology
  • Bipolar Disorder / therapy*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Depression, Postpartum / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Sleep Deprivation*
  • Treatment Outcome