Transition to parenthood: realistic sleep-related expectations as a protective factor mothers’ and fathers’ mental health

The transition to parenthood is a challenging time of life. Postnatal mental health problems have major consequences in infants and parents. Among the different factors associated with mental health, postnatal sleep disruption was shown to be associated with depressive and anxiety symptoms in both others and fathers. However, although new parents are frequently sleep-deprived, not all of them develop mental health problems. Consequently, there is a need to identify protective factors for parents’ mental health. While there is a lot of information circulating about sleep in early infancy, advice is too often contradictory, leading to unrealistic expectations in parents. In general, unrealistic expectations have been identified as a factor inhibiting the transition to parenthood. Therefore, we propose that realistic parental sleep-related expectations will have a protective influence on parental mental health. The main objective of this research program is to better understand the association between infant’s sleep patterns, parental sleep duration and quality, sleep-related expectations and mental health. We propose that realistic sleep-related expectations have a protective role for parental mental health. First-time mothers and fathers will be recruited during pregnancy. Sleep measures (infant and parents), depressive and anxiety symptoms (parents) and sleep-related expectations (parents) will be measured during pregnancy, at 3 months postpartum, and at 6 months postpartum. Given the importance of sleep in new parents, this project is of great importance to knowledge dissemination. It will help us to identify new protective factors during the transition to parenthood and contribute positively to health care services provided to expectant and new parents. Incorporating both mothers’ and fathers’ point of view will advance knowledge in the field of transition to parenthood, and will promote optimal parental mental health and healthier development in infants.