It’s no secret that depression is a widespread psychological problem, both here in the U.S. and around the world. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. battles depression. And of course, no one’s immune — depression crosses gender, race, age, and income lines.
Moms are affected too. 10% – 15% of moms experience some form of depression, and the percentage is even greater for young and low-income moms. When it happens, depression affects every facet of a mom’s life: her relationship with her partner, her friendships, her own self-image, and especially her interactions with her child.
What Causes a Mom’s Depression?
Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, and the causes of a woman’s depression are numerous:
- Physical causes of depression are often hormonal and can be related to PMS, pregnancy, postpartum, or menopause.
- Psychological causes of depression include factors like stress, anxiety, and body-image (especially true for postpartum women).
- Relational causes of depression stem from strained relationships between a woman and her partner, her family members, or her friends.
- Unreasonable expectations can sometimes cause depression as well. As moms, we tend to put immense amount of pressure on ourselves to do it all and be Supermom, and when we invariably fail, we’re prone to depression.
How are Depression and Sleep Related?
Depression and sleeplessness don’t have to be related; it’s possible to experience one without the other. However, they often go hand-in-hand; it’s estimated that 80% of people who are depressed have sleep issues that are related to their depression.
Depression and sleep deprivation tend to by cyclical (and it’s a vicious cycle at that.) Exhaustion can make depression symptoms much worse in someone who’s already depressed. In fact, there’s even some evidence to indicate that sleeplessness may precede and even cause depression. Add to this the fact that depression actually makes sleep worse. People with depression tend to have a hard time falling asleep at night; once they do, they tend to sleep very lightly and wake frequently. And so depression both causes and is made worse by sleep deprivation.
How Does A Mom’s Depression Affect Her Baby’s Sleep and Development?
Research has existed for awhile now indicating that moms who are depressed may be more inclined to neglect or even to mistreat their children. As moms sink deeper into depression, they become less and less able to care for themselves, let alone their children. And of course, this can cause emotional and developmental problems for babies and toddlers:
- Babies may develop insecure attachments to mom, which can lead to developmental delays and emotional problems later in life.
- Toddlers may become aggressive and destructive as a result of the inconsistent care they get from a depressed mother.
And of course sometimes, when depression is coupled with sleep deprivation, it can drive parents to do the unthinkable and actually injure (or even kill) their child.
There’s more to the story of how a mom’s depression impacts her baby, however. New research reveals that not all depressed moms withdraw from their babies; some may actually seek out their babies more often. Researchers for this study found that depressed moms were more likely to be awakened by minor sounds (depression causes light sleep, remember?) and were more likely to wake their babies from sleep in the middle of the night.
Obviously, this is better than abuse or neglect. And if a mom occasionally wakes her baby at night just to snuggle, it’s no big deal. But this study indicates that some moms who struggle with depression do this on a regular basis, and that’s a problem. That kind of persistent, continual lack of sleep for a baby can cause developmental delays. What’s more, when moms do this often, they’re destroying any chance for getting the precious sleep that they themselves need, which only serves to make their depression symptoms worse.
Are You Depressed? What Should You Do?
Depression can be a horrible, debilitating condition. But here’s the good news — depression is not something you have to suffer through alone, in silence. In fact, you shouldn’t — doctors advise that the sooner you treat your depression, the better! And if you’re a mom, it’s even more crucial that you seek help, for your kids‘ sake as well as your own.
If you’re struggling with symptoms of depression, the first step is to get help from a licensed healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor — he or she will be able to recommend next steps. There are also an abundance of online resources (like this one) that will link you information you can use to start working through your depression. Keep in mind, however, that no internet resource can take the place of a healthcare professional. Talk to a doctor first; then, supplement with your own research.
Finally, if your depression is related to your own exhaustion, and if your own exhaustion comes from being up all night with a baby or toddler who won’t sleep, consider contacting us! We have the products and services you need to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Have you battled depression? Did it affect your children? Share your story!
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