Babies born to women who suffered from anxiety or depression prior to pregnancy are likely to sleep poorly at both 6 months and 12 months of age, shows a new study.
The researchers found that preconceptional psychological distress was a strong predictor of infant night waking, irrespective of effects of postnatal depression, bedroom sharing and other confounding factors.
A significant psychological distress prior to conception puts infant at 23-percent increased risk of infant night wakings at 6 months of age and a 22-percent increased risk at 12 months of age.
The authors warned that frequent, disruptive night wakings in the latter period of the first year of life lead to sleep problems at three years of age, which in turn are associated with behavioral problems.
Poor sleep during early childhood development also affected learning abilities.
For the study, the researchers analyzed 874 women between 20 and 34 years of age. Before becoming pregnant the women completed the General Health Questionnaire, a 12-question screening instrument that detects depression and anxiety disorders.
They found that percentage of children who woke at least once each night was higher among women with psychological distress prior to the pregnancy, both at 6 months of age and 12 months of age.
Untreated infant sleep problems can become chronic, with implications for the mental health and well being of both the child and the mother, researchers said.
The study appears in journal Sleep.