Most new mothers experience disturbed sleep after the birth of a little one. Along with the bleary eyes and bad mood, not getting enough sleep can also increase the risk of depression and anxiety for some women.

A $250,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health will help a West Virginia University sleep researcher shine the light on the sleep patterns of postpartum moms.

Dr. Hawley Montgomery-Downs, an assistant professor of psychology in the Eberly College of Arts and SciencesLife-Span Developmental Psychology Program, is now seeking subjects for the two-year project.

The study,Postpartum Sleep Deprivation and Fragmentation: Effects on Maternal Functioning,explores the different effects of postpartum sleep deprivation and sleep fragmentationfrequent sleep interruption and overall sleep losson daytime functioning.

Montgomery-Downs hopes to refine methods of measuring sleep deprivation and fragmentation in the daily routines of new motherswithout having to bed down in a sleep lab. The study will employ handheld computers, which will be used to measure daytime mood, stress and performance.

We spend one-third of our lives asleep and how well we spend that time has far-reaching effects on our lives,said Dr. Michael Perone, Chair of the Department of Psychology.Dr. Montgomery-Downs is making important strides in studying the role of sleep in a rigorous and scientific manner.

Montgomery-Downs earned a bachelors degree in experimental psychology from Humboldt State University in 1994 and was awarded a doctorate in developmental psychobiology from the University of Connecticut in 2001.

She joined WVU in 2005 and is also an adjunct assistant professor of pediatrics. She has published 20 papers and presented more than 40 others. She has several awards for her research on sleep deprivationand most recently received national attention for her study on breast-feeding and sleep-related breathing problems in newborns and toddlers.

WVU s The Life-Span Developmental Program is a doctoral program with an emphasis on the development of humans across a lifetime.

If you are interested in participating in the study, call the sleep lab at 304-216-6667 or e-mail Montgomery-Downs, .