Maternal emotional distress and infant sleep problems:
A longitudinal study of underlying mechanisms

This longitudinal study examines the links between maternal emotional distress and infant sleep development during the first 18 months of life. Data collection has been completed and included about 150 families that were assessed during pregnancy and at 3, 6, 12 and 18 months postpartum. Both maternal and infant sleep were assessed by actigraphy (an objective measure of sleep) and by parental reports.  Our theoretical model stipulates that there are predictive bi-directional links between maternal emotional distress and infant sleep and that these links are mediated by maternal cognitions, soothing behaviors and sleep, and moderated by infant temperament and paternal involvement in infant care-giving.  We are in the process of analyzing our findings. So far, our publications that are based on this project have demonstrated that: (a) Maternal emotional distress  moderates the relationship between objective and subjective sleep 

Maternal sleep, self-regulation and mother-infant relationship:
A transactional perspective

This 5 year longitudinal study is aimed at investigating the links between maternal sleep in the post-partum period and the mother-infant relationship. While maternal risk factors, such as depression, have been extensively studied in relation to compromised mother-infant relationship, the role of maternal sleep disturbances has been almost entirely ignored in the context of caregiving behavior. This is surprising because parents' sleep in the post-partum period is often chronically disturbed, and it has been well established that disturbed sleep has significant negative implications for individuals' functioning. We posit that the following chain of transactions may occur between the mother and the infant in the context of disturbed sleep: Infants with more fragmented sleep patterns are more likely to disturb their mothers’ sleep; when mothers sleep poorly, they are more likely to show impaired self-regulation capacities, which may influence 

during pregnancy (Volkovich, Tikotzky, & Manber, 2016); (b) Paternal involvement in infant caregiving predicts better infant and maternal sleep (Tikotzky, Sadeh, Volkovich,  Manber, Meiri, & Shahar, 2015); (c) Infant and especially maternal sleep quality is poorer in co-sleeping arrangements compared to solitary sleeping arrangements (Volkovich, Zion, Karny, Meiri, & Tikotzky, 2015).

This project was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant number 1075/10).

their caregiving in a way that could negatively impact their relationship with the infant; both mother and infant are likely to react negatively to the disturbed relationship, which may, in turn, exacerbate the sleep problems, and so on. We plan to assess 240 families during pregnancy and at 4, 8, and 12 months post- partum. Parents' (both mothers’ and fathers’) and infant sleep are assessed by actigraphy and questionnaires. Maternal cognitive and emotional self-regulation are measured by computerized tasks at the lab and at home. The mother-infant relationship is assessed by questionnaires and by direct observations, using the Emotional Availability Scale.

This project is supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant number 345/15).

Parenting and sleep in single-parent families

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of single-mother families by choice. Studies focusing on this population is scarce and the question of whether mothers and infants in single-mother families differ in their sleep patterns has never been systematically investigated. The main purposes of this project is to examine maternal and infant sleep patterns in single-mother families by choice in comparison to two-parent families, and to examine whether family structure (single-mother families versus controls) moderates the link between sleep-related risk factors and between maternal and infant sleep problems.