peripartum mood

Sleep Changes May Increase Peripartum Depression, Anxiety

Changes in sleep and biological rhythm during the peripartum period may increase the severity of depressive and anxiety symptoms, according to the results of a recent study.

The researchers examined subjective and objective parameters of sleep, as well as biological rhythm variables. Measurements included the participants’ level of melatonin, light exposure from late pregnancy to postpartum, and 2 weeks of actigraphy at each follow-up, among others. All participants were required to complete 3 follow-up visits: during the third trimester of pregnancy, at 1- to 3-weeks postpartum, and at 6- to 12-weeks postpartum. A total of 73 women from November 2015 to May 2018 completed the study.

The results indicated that there were discrete patterns of longitudinal changes in sleep and biological rhythm variables when compared with late pregnancy, including fewer awakenings and increased mean nighttime activity during postpartum. Higher depressive and anxiety symptoms during the peripartum period were associated with specific longitudinal changes in biological rhythm parameters. Circadian quotient, activity during rest at night, and probability of transitioning from rest to activity at night were the most prominent parameters for this association.

“Biological rhythm variables beyond sleep were most closely associated with severity of depressive and anxiety symptoms across the peripartum period,” the researchers concluded. “Findings from this study emphasize the importance of biological rhythms and activity beyond sleep to peripartum mood and anxiety.”


—Leigh Precopio



Slyepchenko A, Minuzzi L, Reilly JP, Frey BN. Longitudinal changes in sleep, biological rhythms, and light exposure from late pregnancy to postpartum and their impact on peripartum mood and anxiety. J Clin Psychiatry. Published online January 18, 2022. doi:10.4088/JCP.21m13991