Overview: Research shows that getting enough sleep improves parental mental health and overall well-being.
Source: Penn State
New research findings from a multi-university research team, including Danielle Symons Downs, professor of kinesiology and obstetrics and gynecology and associate director of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State, show that adequate sleep for new and established parents plays an important role in their mental health. health and, in turn, life satisfaction.
The research team analyzed sleep, physical activity, mental health and life satisfaction in couples. Their findings, published in the journal Sleep Healthindicated that meeting sleep guidelines was associated with better mental health and, in turn, life satisfaction of parents of newborns.
In addition, positive changes in mental health were observed in women, especially in women who became mothers for the first time, but no changes were observed in men, regardless of parental status.
“Given the known decline in physical activity for most couples at the transition to parenthood and our findings in this study that most parents did not meet recommended sleep hours, targeted approaches that adjust intervention doses to the changing physical activity and sleep needs of couples during the perinatal and postpartum period can be a useful intervention strategy to improve and ideally maintain parental mental health in the long term,” Downs explained.
For parents who can’t allow more time in their sleep schedule, the research team recommends avoiding eating large meals and drinking caffeine just before bedtime. This lets the body know it’s time to relax.
“The study showed that physical activity had a negligible impact on parental mental health. However, getting the recommended sleep hours was associated with better mental health for parents,” said senior author Alison Divine, a lecturer at the University of Leeds.
“Although it varied, most parents were about an hour below the recommended sleep hours. Small improvements in sleep hours can have a significant impact on parental mental health. This indicates that an intervention that prioritizes sleep health education for new parents could have a more positive impact on their quality of life.”
About this sleep and mental health research news
Original research: Open access.
“The influence of sleep and exercise on mental health and life satisfaction during the transition to parenthoodby Alison Divine et al. Sleep Health
The influence of sleep and exercise on mental health and life satisfaction during the transition to parenthood
This study examined whether sleep and physical activity affect mental health and life satisfaction during the transition to parenthood. This study examined the impact of parenthood on the mental health of new parents and parents expecting their second child, and whether change in mental health occurred dyadically between couples.
Longitudinal study of 12 months.
One hundred fifty seven couples (N = 314) between 25 and 40 years of age who were not expecting a child (n = 102), expecting their first child (n = 136) or expecting their second child (n = 76) were recruited.
Participants completed measurements at baseline, 6 months and 12 months. Sleep was rated by how often participants met the sleep guidelines (7-9 hours). Physical activity was objectively measured via accelerometers. Mental health was measured using 6 items from the short form-12 Quality of Life Survey. Life satisfaction was measured with the Satisfaction with Life scale (5 items).
Mental health was not predicted by physical activity, but was predicted by sleep. Sleep at 6 months was positively related to mental health at 6 months ( = 0.156, p < .001), and sleep at 12 months was positively related to mental health at 12 months ( = 0.170, p < .001). The change in mental health was not dyadic: Mental health increased for women, but not for men in all groups. Mental health was positively related to life satisfaction at 6 months (= 0.338, p < .001) and 12 months ( = 0.277, p < .001).
For new and established parents, adequate sleep plays an important role in mental health and, in turn, life satisfaction.