Sleep-deprived new mothers gave their infants a higher priority than themselves

Nadia F Hoegholt* (Corresponding Author), Svend Buus, Angus B A Stevner, Jie Sui, Peter Vuust, Morten L Kringelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


AIM: To understand why some parents are less sensitive to infant cues than others, we need to understand how healthy parents respond, and how this is influenced by factors such as sleep deprivation. Here, we examined whether sleep deprivation alters the self-infant-prioritisation effect in a population of first-time mothers within their first year of motherhood.

METHODS: The study took place at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark from August 2018 until February 2020. First-time mothers were recruited through Midwife clinics, national and social media. All women completed a perceptual matching task including an infant category. The mothers were divided into two groups depending on their sleep status: below or above 7 h of average night-time sleep, measured with actigraphy.

RESULTS: Forty-eight first-time mothers at the age of 29.13 ± 3.87 years were included. In the sleep-deprived group, the infant category was statistically significantly higher in accuracy (p = 0.005) and faster in reaction time (p < 0.001) than all other categories. In contrast, in the non-sleep-deprived group, there was no statistically significant difference between self and infant, neither in accuracy, nor reaction time.

CONCLUSION: Sleep-deprived new mothers strongly prioritised infants over self, while non-sleep-deprived new mothers showed no prioritisation of the self over the infant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-99
Number of pages7
JournalActa Paediatrica
Issue number1
Early online date9 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Special thanks to all the student researchers who helped with the data collection over the years.

This study was funded by The Center for Music in the Brain which is funded by the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF 117, awarded to PV). The project was further funded by a European Research Council Consolidator Grant CAREGIVING (No. 615539) to MLK.


  • Female
  • Humans
  • Adult
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Mothers
  • Parents
  • Health Status
  • Social Group


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