Summary: Study shows adequate sleep improves parents’ mental health and overall well-being
New research from a multi-university research team including Danielle Symons Downs, professor of kinesiology, obstetrics and gynecology and associate director of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State, shows that for new and established parents, getting enough sleep plays an important role in their mental health health and thus in their life satisfaction.
The research team analyzed sleep, physical activity, mental health and life satisfaction in couples. Their results, published in the journal sleep healthsuggested that adherence to sleep guidelines was associated with better mental health, and therefore life satisfaction, among parents of newborns.
In addition, positive changes in mental health were observed in women, particularly in primiparae, but no changes in men, regardless of parental status.
“Given the known decline in physical activity in most couples with the transition to parenthood, and our findings in this study that most parents failed to meet recommended bedtimes, targeted approaches were developed that match intervention doses to changing levels of physical activity and sleep.” Adjusting couples’ sleep needs during the perinatal and postpartum periods can be a useful intervention strategy to improve, and ideally preserve, the parents’ long-term mental health,” Downs explained.
For parents who can’t schedule more time for sleep, the research team recommends avoiding eating large meals and drinking caffeine close to bedtime. This lets the body know it’s time to relax.
“The study showed that physical activity had a negligible impact on parents’ mental health. However, getting the recommended sleep hours was associated with better parental mental health,” said lead author Alison Divine, Lecturer at the University of Leeds.
“Although it varied, most parents were about an hour under the recommended sleep time. Small improvements in sleep times could have a significant impact on parents’ mental health. This suggests that an intervention that prioritizes sleep health education for new parents may have a more positive impact on their quality of life.”
About this news from sleep and mental health research
Author: press office
Contact: Press Office – Penn State
Picture: The image is in the public domain
Original research: Open access.
“The Impact of Sleep and Exercise on Mental Health and Life Satisfaction in the Transition to Parenthood” by 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 assessed the impact of parenthood on the mental health of new parents and parents expecting their second child, and examined whether changes in mental health in couples occurred dyadically.
Longitudinal study over 12 months.
One hundred and fifty-seven couples (N = 314) between the ages of 25 and 40 who were not expecting a child (n = 102), were expecting their first child (n = 136), or were expecting their second child (n = 76) were recruited.
Participants completed the interventions at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months. Sleep was rated based on how often participants met sleep guidelines (7-9 hours). Physical activity was measured objectively using accelerometers. Mental health was measured using 6 items from the Short Form 12 Quality of Life Survey. Life satisfaction was recorded using the Satisfaction with Life Scale (5 items).
Mental health was not predicted by physical activity, but by sleep. Sleep at 6 months was positively associated with mental health at 6 months (β = 0.156, p < 0.001), and sleep at 12 months was positively associated with mental health at 12 months (β = 0.170, p < 0.001). The change in mental health was not dyadic: mental health increased in women but not in men across groups. Mental health was positively correlated with life satisfaction at 6 months (β = 0.338, p < 0.001) and 12 months (β = 0.277, p < 0.001).
For new and established parents, getting enough sleep plays an important role in mental health and therefore life satisfaction.