BACKGROUND:Peripartum major depression (MD) disables mothers and impairs emotional and neurocognitive development of offspring. We tested the hypothesis that critically-timed wake therapy (WT) relieves peripartum MD by altering melatonin and sleep timing, differentially, in antepartum vs. postpartum depressed patients (DP). METHODS:In a university clinical research center, we initially randomized 50 women - 26 antepartum (17 healthy comparison-HC, 9 DP) and 24 postpartum (8 HC, 16 DP) - to a cross-over trial of one night of early-night wake therapy (EWT: sleep 3:00-7:00 am) vs. late-night wake therapy (LWT: sleep 9:00 pm-01:00 am). Ultimately, we obtained mood, overnight plasma melatonin and polysomnography for: 15 antepartum women receiving EWT, 18 receiving LWT; 15 postpartum women receiving EWT, 14 receiving LWT. RESULTS:EWT improved mood more in antepartum vs. postpartum DP in conjunction with reduced (normalized) melatonin-sleep phase-angle differences (PADs) due to delayed melatonin onsets and advanced sleep onsets, and increased (from baseline) total sleep times (TST). LWT improved mood more in postpartum vs. antepartum DP in conjunction with increased TST. LIMITATIONS:Small samples potentially rendered the study underpowered to detect group differences, making confirmation with larger samples essential. Sufficient follow-up data were not available in most women to document the duration of the mood response to wake therapy. CONCLUSIONS:EWT benefitted antepartum DP more by realigning melatonin and sleep timing, whereas LWT benefitted postpartum DP more by increasing TST. Thus, consistent with precision medicine aims, maximum mood benefits accrue from timing sleep/wake interventions to specific peripartum circadian pathophysiologies.