August 15, 2019

Study Seeks to Better Understand the Relationship Between Sleep-Disordered Breathing and Depression During Pregnancy

The U-M Department of Psychiatry is looking to recruit pregnant women who are snoring and are feeling down or depressed to take part in a study aimed at studying the effects on mood and cortisol.

Sleep-disordered breathing is a term encompassing many conditions that obstruct breathing while one is asleep. Individuals who suffer from sleep-disordered breathing may experience snoring; pauses in breathing or gasping for air when asleep; and disturbed sleep, with snoring being the most common symptom. It has been estimated that up to 26 percent of the adult population in the U.S. suffers from sleep-disordered breathing. For women, pregnancy is a time of increased risk for sleep-disordered breathing due to physiological changes.

A research team within the U-M Department of Psychiatry’s Sleep and Circadian Research Laboratory is looking at the impact of treatment of sleep-disordered breathing during pregnancy on depression outcomes and cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is released when you are stressed or when your heart rate increases, and it is also important for the development of the fetus during pregnancy. 

The U-M Department of Psychiatry is recruiting pregnant women for a study on sleep-disordered breathing

Pregnancy is an increased time of vulnerability for depression, possibly due to changes in hormones, sleep problems, and increased psychosocial stress.Leslie Swanson, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and clinical associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry, is leading the study.

“We are looking for women who are between 20-32 weeks pregnant at the start of the study, who are snoring and have been feeling down or depressed,” said Swanson.

How it works

Women who are interested in participating will complete an in-person eligibility screen at the Rachel Upjohn Building in Ann Arbor. Those who are selected for participation will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. Participants in one of the groups will be asked to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine every night during pregnancy through 12 weeks postpartum. A CPAP machine produces pressurized air, which blows through a mask, and acts as a splint to hold the airway open during sleep. All participants will complete monthly online surveys and a monthly mood assessment over the phone. Saliva samples will be collected prior to the start of the study and again eight weeks later to look at cortisol levels.

Participants will receive up to $635 for their participation.

The research

“We know that pregnancy is a time of high risk for sleep-disordered breathing, and there is a clear link between sleep-disordered breathing and depression, especially in women,” says Swanson.

“Some pregnant women are reluctant to use medication to treat their depression,” explains Swanson. “Our ultimate goal is to find new, non-medication treatments for the many women who experience depression during pregnancy. In the case of perinatal depression, finding new treatments benefits both women and their children.”

You can find out more about the study here or by emailing [email protected]