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Durham University

Durham Infancy & Sleep Centre



New-Mum-Sleep: An Exploration of How Sleep is Experienced by Mothers of Infants Aged 1-6 Months in Comparison to Non-Mothers.

Researchers at Durham University’s Infancy & Sleep Centre invite women with babies under 2 months old, and women without babies, to take part in a study exploring women’s sleep changes during the first 6 months of motherhood.

What is the study about?

Various aspects of new motherhood can affect sleep, including how mothers feed their babies, where babies sleep, and whether postnatal depression is experienced. This study will compare the sleep of new, first-time mothers who choose to either breastfeed or formula feed, with the sleep of women of the same age who are not mothers during the same period. We aim to find out how sleep patterns vary for all 3 groups of women, and how they relate to mood and daytime functioning.

Who do we need?

Women of reproductive age who have not had a baby, and women who have recently had their first baby – babies must be under 2 months of age at the time of signing up. All participants must be non-smokers and over 18.

What will it involve?

We would like to monitor your sleep (and your baby’s sleep if applicable), for 5 nights every month using actigraphy and sleep diaries. Actigraphs are small wrist-worn devices (similar to a fit-bit) that monitors sleep patterns. We will ask you to wear one for 5 days, and ask that babies wear one around their ankle for the same period. We will also ask you to record your sleep and your baby’s sleep on a paper form known as a sleep diary. This allows us to compare your sleep perceptions with the data from the actigraph. We will arrange to drop off and pick up the actigraphs and sleep diaries to your home, workplace, or wherever is convenient to you. We will also ask you to complete a questionnaire each month that will allow us to assess mood (e.g. post-partum depression/PPD) and day-time functioning. If your answers suggest you may be experiencing PPD we will recommend you contact your GP or Health Visitor and sign-post you to sources of support. We would also like you to spend a night in our Sleep Lab when your baby is 2, 4 and 6 months old, (3 nights in total). Non-mothers will be age-matched to participating mothers and their data will be collected at the same time points.

The Overnight Study

This will take place in the Sleep Lab, located at Hilton Cottage in Durham, which is like a domestic bedroom with video cameras for us to record sleep patterns and movements, and mother-baby interaction during night-time.

When you come to the lab you will follow your normal routine, sleep for the night, and leave in the morning (we provide breakfast). A researcher will be present in another room while you are there to make sure everything records properly. We will ask you to wear an actigraph during your sleep study nights so we can assess the accuracy of the actigraph against the video
recordings. This will help us to validate the results.

If you are willing to take part in this research, you will be asked to complete a consent form and an enrolment form about you and your baby. Please see our video about taking part in a sleep study at Hilton Cottage here:

Confidentiality & Ethics

All information we collect will be securely stored and remain confidential according to GDPR. All information will be identified using anonymous codes, and your name will not appear in any publications or reports. Approval from the Durham University Ethics Committee has been obtained and the project is covered by Durham University indemnity insurance.

A thank-you

As a gratuity we can offer you a £20 high street gift voucher for each of the 3 overnight studies in our sleep lab, and £40 in vouchers for completing the 5-day sleep monitoring at 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 months, to compensate for your time and any expenses you incur in helping us with this research (up to £100 total per participant).

If you choose to help us with this study, you can change your mind at any point and if you decide that you do not wish to continue, you may withdraw at any time and do not have to give us a reason; any information you have provided will be destroyed on request.

For more information please contact Ms Fran Tugwell, Durham Infancy & Sleep Centre Project Researcher at // 07870 325 692 or Dr Charlotte Russell, Durham Infancy & Sleep Centre Manager, at // 0191 334 0260. This project is supervised by Durham Infancy & Sleep Centre Director, Professor Helen Ball, Durham Infancy & Sleep Centre, Department of Anthropology, Durham University.

Durham University is responsible for providing information about how personal data is used. For its general policy, see