Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Depression: How to Tell the Difference
This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation
An infant in the house means normal routines are going to go through some adjustments. Feeding, burping, rocking, and changing take time, and that round-the-clock schedule can lead many new parents to experience sleep deprivation. The low-energy state usually disappears with extra rest, but sometimes, a lethargic feeling isn’t due to sleep at all—it’s a sign of postpartum depression (PPD). How to tell the difference between the two? A few clues, below.
Consider Quality Versus Quantity
Most new parents experience feelings of exhaustion at some point. In fact, 76 percent are frequently faced with problems getting enough sleep. But in PPD, which affects approximately one in seven parents, it’s quality more than quantity of sleep that’s the problem, with PPD sufferers reporting that they simply don’t sleep well.
Measure Your Mood
Sleep deprivation can cause crankiness and irritability, but a person’s mood typically improves after taking a nap or finding a few minutes in each day to relax. With PPD, on the other hand, strong feelings of irritability can linger for days or even weeks, leaving a new parent anxious and overwhelmed.
Observe Your Appetite
Becoming a new parent increases energy expenditure, so it’s natural to feel hungry, especially for women who are breastfeeding. In fact, nursing moms need an extra 400 to 500 calories a day. While some people with PPD may also feel increased hunger, often times they experience a loss of appetite, and find themselves eating less than usual.
Assess Your Attachment
Most new parents, even ones who are dragging from lack of sleep, experience a close connection with their infants. Struggling to bond with a baby, or feeling incapable of being a good parent, can be signs of PPD.
Look for the Fun
In most cases, sleep-deprived parents still find joy in their favorite activities—when they have time to actually do them. For instance, readers or outdoor enthusiasts take pleasure in sharing pop-up books with the baby or going for strolls in the park. Mothers with PPD, however, find it very difficult to enjoy their usual hobbies and lose interest in things they once found pleasurable.
If you think you may be suffering from PPD, talk with your doctor right away. There are successful ways to treat the condition, and the vast majority of parents are able to gain control of their situation, allowing them to experience all the joys—albeit sleep-deprived ones—of life with a new baby.