The Physical and Social Environment of Sleep in Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Postpartum Women

While the postpartum period is often characterized by poor sleep, other factors can impact maternal sleep. This article examines the physical and social sleep environment of socioeconomically disadvantaged postpartum women.

This study assessed aspects of the physical and social sleep environment at two, four and eight weeks postpartum. Participants were 18 years or older, insured by Medicaid, multiparous, and had access to a telephone. Perceived awakenings, select sleep hygiene practices, bed sharing, and reasons for sleep disruption were explored.

Key Findings:

  • The average participant was 25, partnered (78%), and a minority race or ethnicity. Half of the sample had an annual income below 50 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • At two weeks postpartum, 52 percent of participants slept with the television on. The device regularly remained on all night for 69 percent of participants.
  • The mean number of people living in the household at two weeks postpartum was 4.9. Most participants reported sleeping in bed (89%), and most infants slept in same room as mom (82%).
  • Most participants consumed caffeinated drinks: 84 percent at four weeks, and 89 percent at eight weeks.

This study shows that modifications to the sleep environment must address how sleep hygiene and environmental factors impact the postpartum period to potentially improve socioeconomically disadvantaged women’s health.