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BMJ Open. 2012; 2(5): e001662.
Published online 2012 September 14. doi:  10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001662
PMCID: PMC3467591

Reducing postnatal depression, anxiety and stress using an infant sleep intervention

Abstract

Objective

To examine the psychological well-being of mothers following participation in a behavioural modification programme previously shown to improve infant sleep.

Design, setting and participants

A 45 min consultation with either a general practitioner (GP) or trained nurse providing verbal and written information describing sleep physiology in infants and strategies to improve infant sleep. Eighty mothers of infants 6−12 months of age with established infant sleep problems at a single general practice, Adelaide, South Australia.

Main outcome measures

The Depression Anxiety Stress Scale 21 (DASS21) immediately prior to the first consultation and again at follow-up approximately 3 weeks later. The number of infant nocturnal awakenings requiring parental support was also reported by mothers on both occasions.

Results

All measures of maternal well-being and infant nocturnal awakenings improved significantly. The mean number of maximum nocturnal awakenings decreased from 5.0 to 0.5 (mean difference 4.4, 95% CI 3.4 to 5.5). All measures of DASS21 improved significantly. The mean total DASS21 decreased from 29.1 to 14.9 (mean decrease 14.2, 95% CI 10.2 to 18.2); mean depression decreased from 7.9 to 2.8 (mean difference 5.2, 95% CI 3.7 to 6.7); mean anxiety decreased from 4.6 to 2.6 (mean difference 2.0, 95% CI 0.7 to 3.2); mean stress decreased from 16.6 to 9.5 (mean difference 7.0, 95% CI 5.1 to 9.0). The proportion of mothers assessed as having any degree of depression decreased by 85% from 26/80 (32.5%) to 4/80 (5%).

Conclusions

The number of nocturnal awakenings requiring parental support among infants aged 6−12 months significantly decreased following a single consultation on infant sleep physiology and teaching behavioural strategies to improve sleep. Significant improvements in maternal stress, anxiety and depression were also observed.

Keywords: Mental Health, Sleep Medicine

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