Researchers seek to understand sleep support for perinatal mothers


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Sleep support for perinatal mothers is being investigated by a team of researchers from the Sleep/Wake Research Centre.


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Professor Leigh Signal

A team of researchers from Massey University’s Sleep/Wake Research Centre are hoping to develop an understanding of the sleep-related information, services and interventions offered to mothers in the perinatal period.

A survey has been developed and extended to providers who offer services to wāhine during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period. The survey asks a series of 10 questions surrounding the information, services and interventions available to New Zealand wāhine in this stage of life.

Professor Leigh Signal from the Sleep/Wake Research Centre in the School of Health Sciences is the study’s principal investigator, and says the overarching aim is to improve mental health for mothers in New Zealand.

“Sleep and mental health are tightly connected, and both can change markedly in pregnancy and when caring for an infant. Recent science suggests that improving sleep can lead to better mental health for women during this period.”

Professor Signal adds that the information gathered will be used in future research on how best to support sleep, circadian rhythms and mental health during the perinatal period.

“We want to determine what services are currently being offered to support the sleep of perinatal women so that we are best placed to develop appropriate sleep information and interventions for the perinatal period. This is an innovative, simple, low cost, non-pharmacological and achievable method of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of New Zealand women and their families.”

The study has been funded by a Health Research Council of New Zealand Activation Grant, and is being conducted by a team of researchers with expertise in maternal sleep and mental health. The team includes Professor Leigh Signal, Dr Bronwyn Sweeney, Clare Ladyman, Dr Tanya Wright, Dr Mark Huthwaite, Associate Professor Katie Sharkey, Dr Bei Bei and Professor Jane Fisher. Professor Chris Cunningham and Hannah Mooney are team members providing a Māori health perspective, and Dr Riz Firestone is providing Pacific health expertise.

The team are working in collaboration with Te Hiringa Hauora/Health Promotion Agency and Te mate Tuatea me te mate Pōuri o Aotearoa/Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Aotearoa.

The survey can be accessed here.

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