Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
The early postpartum period is marked by maternal sleep fragmentation and performance deficits. Although sleep gradually improves in postpartum women, reaction times gradually worsen. This performance deficit is seen beyond 6 weeks postpartum, when many women are expected to return to work, and it is unknown when (or if) new mothers' performance deficits fully recover. The current study used existing data to characterize the late postpartum period (6 months-3 years after the child was born) in terms of recovery from sleep disturbance by monitoring the behavior of mothers on both objective and subjective measures. The current study aimed to describe the sleep and overall functioning of late postpartum women in order to better inform women and policymakers about potential performance deficits, especially regarding return-to-work. Objective measures of sleep fragmentation, recorded via actigraphy, revealed recovery of sleep quality to levels found among nulliparous control women, and late postpartum subjective mood scores on the Profile of Mood States were normal. However, objective reaction times, measured via the psychomotor vigilance test, were poor among late postpartum women compared to controls, although postpartum reaction times may be improved by caffeine. Next, objective sleepiness scores, measured using the Multiple Sleep Latency Test, for both early and late postpartum women were at normal levels; however one-third of late postpartum women experienced extreme levels of sleepiness. Early and late postpartum women reported poor subjective sleep quality on the General Sleep Disturbance Scale compared to controls, and late postpartum women reported subjective quality of life scores, measured using the Quality of Life Scale, slightly below the average among healthy populations. In sum, these data support reevaluation of maternity leave policy and further research into potential interventions for late postpartum women.
Meekins, Kelsey K., "Characterization of Late Postpartum Sleep Disturbance, Caffeine-Related Performance, and Daily Functioning" (2013). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 4981.