Infants born to depressed mothers are more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances at 2 weeks postpartum until 6 months of age, say researchers.
Sleep disturbances in infancy may result in increased risk for developing early-onset depression in childhood.
The study showed that infants born to mothers with depression had significant sleep disturbances compared to low-risk infants.
Babies born to depressed mothers had an hour longer nocturnal sleep latency, shorter sleep episodes and lower sleep efficiency.
Although average sleep time in 24 hours did not differ by risk group at eight two or four weeks, nocturnal total sleep time was 97 minutes longer in the low-risk group at both recording periods.
Those in the high-risk group also had significantly more daytime sleep episodes of a shorter average duration.
Previous studies have found that levels of cortisol, a hormone that is associated with stress, is increased during pregnancy and after delivery in depressed mothers, indicating that the mother's hormone level may affect the infant's sleep.
Dr Roseanne Armitage, director of the Sleep and Chronophysiology Laboratory at the University Of Michigan Depression Centre said that while maternal depression does have a negative effect on infants' sleep, the damage might be reversible.
"We do think that we could develop a behavioural and environmental intervention to improve entrainment of sleep and circadian rhythms in the high risk infants," said Armitage, lead author of the study.
"However, whether it is maternal hormones that "cause" the sleep problems in infants is not yet known.
"It could genetic, hormonal, or both. Regardless of the cause, they may still be modifiable since brain regulation is very plastic and responsive in childhood," he added.
The study appears in journal Sleep.