WESTCHESTER, Ill.Following the birth of a baby, it is common for new mothers to awaken to the sound of their baby’s cry several times a night. Constantly getting out of bed to tend to their baby’s needs causes a disruption in the mother’s sleep, which may affect her physical and emotional well-being the next day. However, a study published in the December 1 issue of the journal SLEEP states that a behavioral-educational intervention may bring some much-needed relief to both mother and baby.

The study, conducted by Robyn Stremler, RN, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, focused on 30 first-time mothers and their infants, who were randomly assigned to sleep intervention or a control group. The sleep intervention included a 45-minute meeting with a nurse to discuss sleep information and strategies, an 11-page booklet and weekly phone contact to reinforce information and problem solve. The control group received a 10-minute meeting during which only maternal sleep hygiene and basic information about infant sleep were discussed, a one-page pamphlet and calls on the third and fifth week to maintain contact without provision of advice.

Questionnaires were completed at the beginning and after six weeks. Sleep diaries, along with mother and infant actigraphy, were completed at six weeks.

The results showed that the mothers in the sleep intervention group averaged 57 minutes more nighttime sleep and, as compared with the mothers in the control group, fewer rated their sleep as a problem. In addition, infants in the sleep intervention group had fewer nighttime awakenings and had maximum lengths of nighttime sleep that were, on average, 46 minutes longer than those in the control group.

“Everyone recognizes that sleep is very important for mental and physical health, but new mothers struggle to get enough sleep in the first few weeks after birth,” said Stremler. “What is exciting about this research is the clear evidence that the Tips for Infant and Parent Sleep (TIPS) program improves mothers’ and babies’ sleep six weeks after birth. By providing new moms with strategies for settling babies, teaching babies the difference between day and night, and developing healthy adult and infant sleep habits, sleep significantly improved for both mothers and babies.”

Those who have trouble sleeping are advised to discuss their problem with their primary care doctor, who will determine whether a visit to a sleep specialist is necessary.

SLEEP is the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC, a joint venture of the AASM and the Sleep Research Society.

SleepEducation.org, a website maintained by the AASM, provides information about the various sleep disorders that exist, the forms of treatment available, recent news on the topic of sleep, sleep studies that have been conducted and a listing of sleep facilities.

For a copy of this study, entitled, “A Behavioral-Educational Intervention to Promote Maternal and Infant Sleep: A Pilot Randomized, Controlled Trial”, or to arrange an interview with an AASM spokesperson regarding this study, please contact Jim Arcuri, public relations coordinator, at (708)492-0930, ext. 9317, or jarcuri@aasm.org.