Insomnia more common in teens whose mums had postnatal depression

insomnia
More than a third (36%) of teenagers whose mothers suffered from postnatal depression experienced sleep problems at the age of 18, compared to only one in five (22%) teenagers whose mothers didn’t suffer from postnatal depression.

Insomnia affects between one in two and one in 10 people worldwide and can be debilitating. It can lead to memory problems and fatigue, and raises the risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.

Such health problems have a high economic cost, both direct (healthcare, drugs, tests and research) and indirect (absenteeism, lack of productivity).

Now, for the first time, researchers have looked to see if postnatal depression in women could contribute to their children having sleep problems in adolescence. It is already well established that postnatal depression can affect a child’s mental health and how well they do at school but the impact of it on sleep has not been examined before.

By looking at Children of the 90s (University of Bristol), a unique 25-year-long study of 14,500 mothers and their children (born in 1991 or 1992), researchers were able to ask teenagers when they were 16 and 18 about their sleep problems and compare their answers to the information more than 10,000 mothers had provided years before about postnatal depression. The study is based at the University of Bristol.

By assessing the problem so many years after the children were born, the researchers were able to rule out sleepless nights during infancy as the cause of the postnatal depression and ask the teenagers themselves about their sleep problems rather than rely on what their mothers said (which may have been affected by their depression).

What they found is that more than a third (36%) of teenagers whose mothers suffered from postnatal depression experienced sleep problems at the age of 18, compared to only one in five (22%) teenagers whose mothers didn’t suffer from postnatal depression.

This was the case even after a number of important factors were taken into account:

  • Whether the teenager suffered from depression when they were aged 16
  • Whether the teenager had experienced sleep problems as a young child (measured at the ages of 6, 18 and 26 months)
  • The mother’s education, her age when the child was born, and the number of other children in the family
  • Whether the mother smoked or experienced depression when pregnant

Although a mother’s depression increases the likelihood that her child will have sleep problems, the reasons for this are not clear.

Dr Rebecca Pearson from the University of Bristol, who supervised the research, suggests three possible reasons:

  • Shared genes between the mother and child can affect sleeping patterns
  • Antenatal depression which precedes postnatal depression can have a biological effect on the child while it is still in the womb
  • Postnatal depression can make it more difficult for mothers to help regulate their baby’s emotions and their ability to establish regular and calm sleeping patterns. Continued depressive symptoms in the mother during her child’s early years (up to age 12) were also found to play a role.

Speaking about the findings, she said:

“Postnatal depression can make it more difficult for mothers to interact with their babies and this could make it particularly hard to establish a regular sleeping routine and help babies to learn to regulate their emotions and settle themselves to sleep. A noisy, disruptive house can also make it difficult for children to sleep and such environments can be linked to maternal depression.

Depressed mothers are increasingly offered support to improve their mood and to promote positive interactions with their babies and we would advocate that such support also considers the child’s sleeping pattern. As we’ve shown here, maternal depression can potentially have serious long-term implications for the health and wellbeing of both the mother and her child.

There is substantial evidence that postnatal depression is linked with a broad range of child difficulties. Individual risks are often small but because depression in mothers can influence so many aspects of their child’s development, in total it is very costly.”

Anna Taylor, a medical undergraduate student at the University of Bristol who led the research, explained that:

“Poor sleep affects school performance as well as physical and mental health, all of which can have significant impact on the child’s life and what they are able to achieve, so preventing sleep problems is really important. The cost of supporting depressed mothers is far smaller than the longer-term costs of dealing with multiple problems later in life.”

Dr Pearson added:

“As far as we’re aware, no one has ever looked at the long-term effects of postnatal depression on a child’s sleeping habits as reported by the children themselves as teenagers. Luckily, Children of the 90s, with its 25-year dataset, allows us to go back in time and examine these issues in great detail.”

via University of Bristol – ALSPAC – Insomnia more common in teens whose mums had postnatal depression

The full paper, The association between maternal postnatal depressive symptoms and offspring sleep problems in adolescence has been published Open Access in Psychological Medicine, and can be viewed here.

The importance of Youth Mental Health

young children jumping_2

Find out the Guest Editors’ (Mary Cannon and John Lyne) response to questions about youth mental health following a recent special issue in Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine.

What is Youth Mental Health?

Youth Mental Health refers to mental health among adolescents and young adults. The time period covered by the term “youth mental health” typically ranges between 15-25 years of age though some would advocate that this should extend from 12-30 years. Youth mental health focuses on the well-being of young people, and aims to ensure that young people transition between childhood and adulthood with positive mental health. With this in mind a recently published issue of the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine provided a focus on mental health during this youth phase of people’s lives.

Why highlight the Youth Mental Health agenda?

It is now recognised that many so-called “adult” mental health difficulties have their origins during adolescence and young adulthood. An illness prevention focus has been very effective in reducing the prevalence of some illnesses, such as heart attacks and cancers, however similar strategies have lagged behind in the field of mental health. Appropriate help for young people early in their lives has the potential to reduce later mental health morbidity. However, despite the high levels of mental health issues among young people, services for this age-group remain fragmented and difficult to access.  The delivery of tailored youth-friendly services could help address this need and is a particular focus of youth mental health advocates.

Why publish this special issue now?

This Special Issue follows on from the adoption of Youth Mental Health as the official annual theme by the College of Psychiatry of Ireland in 2013. Several annual Youth Mental Health Research conferences have been held in Ireland since 2011, establishing Ireland as one of the leading international countries in the field of youth mental health. This special issue aims to harness the large amount of research activity in this area in Ireland and internationally.

What does the issue include?

Scientific papers were contributed by several high profile national and international researchers. New data papers are included which report the prevalence of mental disorders among young Irish adults. Risk and protective factors for mental illness in young people and the importance of early intervention in psychosis and bipolar disorder are also addressed.  Editorials and perspective pieces by experts in the field address the challenges in providing seamless care during transition from childhood to adulthood, and give examples of youth services developed in United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland. Overall this special issue brings together high quality research which highlights that youth mental health should be prioritised on health policy agendas.

 

Read the full contents of the special issue free of charge here for a limited time period

If you are using a mobile device please click here to view the issue

 

%d bloggers like this: