The relationship between sleep and postpartum mental disorders: A systematic review

J Affect Disord. 2015 May 1:176:65-77. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.01.017. Epub 2015 Jan 30.


Background: Postpartum mental disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression, psychosis) are serious conditions that affect approximately 10-15% of women after childbirth, and up to 40% of women at risk for these disorders. Research reveals an association between poor sleep quality/quantity and symptoms of anxiety, depression and psychosis. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the available evidence for the relationship between sleep and postpartum mental disorders.

Methods: Searches included MEDLINE, EMBASE, and EBM Reviews - Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, PsycINFO and EBSCOHost CINAHL through June 30, 2014. Manual searching was performed on reference lists of included articles. Published primary research in any language was included.

Results: There were 3187 unique titles/abstracts and 44 full-text articles reviewed. Thirty-one studies were included. Evidence was found for the impact of self-reported poor sleep during pregnancy and the postpartum on the development of postpartum depression, with not enough evidence for either postpartum anxiety or psychosis. The evidence for objectively assessed sleep and the development of postpartum disorders was mixed. Among the 31 studies included, 1 was strong, 13 were moderate and 17 were weak.

Limitations: Research design, method of assessment, timing of assessment, recruitment strategies, representative adequacy of the samples and inclusion/exclusion criteria all varied widely. Many studies did not use tools validated for the perinatal population and had small sample sizes without power analysis.

Conclusions: Sleep interventions represent a potential low-cost, non-pharmacological prevention and treatment strategy for postpartum mental illness. Further high-quality research is needed on this topic area.

Keywords: Mental health; Postpartum; Sleep; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Welfare / statistics & numerical data
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology*