Sleep and sleepiness among first-time postpartum parents: a field- and laboratory-based multimethod assessment

Dev Psychobiol. 2013 May;55(4):361-72. doi: 10.1002/dev.21040. Epub 2012 May 2.


The study aim was to compare sleep, sleepiness, fatigue, and neurobehavioral performance among first-time mothers and fathers during their early postpartum period. Participants were 21 first-time postpartum mother-father dyads (N = 42) and seven childless control dyads (N = 14). Within their natural environment, participants completed 1 week of wrist actigraphy monitoring, along with multi-day self-administered sleepiness, fatigue, and neurobehavioral performance measures. The assessment week was followed by an objective laboratory-based test of sleepiness. Mothers obtained more sleep compared to fathers, but mothers' sleep was more disturbed by awakenings. Fathers had greater objectively measured sleepiness than mothers. Mothers and fathers did not differ on subjectively measured sleep quality, sleepiness, or fatigue; however, mothers had worse neurobehavioral performance than fathers. Compared to control dyads, postpartum parents experienced greater sleep disturbance, sleepiness, and sleepiness-associated impairments. Study results can inform social policy, postpartum sleep intervention development, and research on postpartum family systems and mechanisms that propagate sleepiness.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actigraphy
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors