Pregnant women experiencing anxiety or depression are at increased risk of giving birth to children who will have sleep problems in infancy and even early childhood, reports Early Human Development.

The survey of more than 14,000 British women concluded that for babies born to anxious or depressed mothers, sleep was less satisfactory, accompanied by refusal to go to bed, waking too soon and repeatedly getting out of bed.

“It [problematic sleep] may be part of the reason why mood-disturbed pregnancies are linked to children’s behavioral disorders, like depression, hyperactivity and anxiety, later on down the road,” said lead author Thomas O’Connor, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

O’Connor added, “It remains to be seen if the sleep problems we witnessed may play an active, causal role in priming the path for these children’s emotional and cognitive problems in later life, or if both conditions merely fall out of the same stressful pregnancies.”

Studies have shown that pregnant woman produce greater amounts of cortisol, a hormone that may adversely affects the unborn child’s suprachiasmatic nucleus, a nerve cell cluster that controls sleep rhythms. However, O’Connor said that the link between the cell cluster and children with poor sleep hygiene required further study.