Stress-related sleep reactivity is associated with insomnia, psychopathology and suicidality in pregnant women: preliminary results

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Sleep medicine


INTRODUCTION: Depression and anxiety symptoms are commonly experienced by women during pregnancy and may have negative consequences on mothers and newborns. Deterioration of sleep quality throughout pregnancy increases insomnia, which may lead to adverse outcomes including increased psychopathology in the perinatal period. Thus, identifying women at high risk of developing insomnia may have important clinical implications on maternal-fetal outcomes. Stress-related sleep reactivity is a well-established risk factor for future insomnia, depression, and anxiety in general adult samples. However, little is known of sleep reactivity and its relations to sleep and mood pathology in pregnancy. Therefore, we explored sleep reactivity in pregnant women and its relations to prenatal symptoms of insomnia, depression, anxiety, and suicidality.

METHOD: Sixty-two pregnant women (mean age 33.6 ± 3 years, 20.6 ± 0.6 weeks of pregnancy) were evaluated during their routine visit at the Gynecological Unit of the University of Pisa, Italy, using the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) for insomnia symptoms, the Ford Insomnia Response to Stress Test for sleep reactivity (FIRST), Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) for depressive symptoms, and the Zung Self Rating Anxiety Scale (SAS) for anxiety symptoms. Item #10 of the EPDS was used to assess for suicidality. Differences in means between women with high vs low stress-related sleep reactivity were calculated using t-test or Mann-Whitney U/Wilcoxon test. Linear/multiple regression analyses have been performed to study associations between variables.

RESULTS: Pregnant women with high stress-related sleep reactivity, relative to those with low reactivity, reported greater symptoms of insomnia (t = 6.5, 0.004) as well as higher rates of depression (62.0% vs 6.1%, p < 0.001), anxiety (55.1% vs 15.1%, p = 0.030), and suicidality (17.2% vs 3.0%, p = 0.025). Multivariate models revealed sleep reactivity to correlate independently with symptoms of insomnia, depression, and anxiety, when controlling for comorbid symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS: In mid-pregnancy, women with high sleep reactivity report elevated symptoms of insomnia, depression, and anxiety, and are more likely to endorse suicidal ideation. As a prognostic marker of future insomnia and psychiatric illness, early detection of high prenatal sleep reactivity holds potential to prevent the development of sleep and mood pathology during pregnancy, thereby potentially improving maternal and child outcomes.

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ePub ahead of print