Marie-Hélène Pennestri, Ph.D.

Regular Researcher
Rivière-des-Prairies Mental Health Hospital
Assistant Professor, Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, McGill University


2011-2015, Postdoctoral fellowship in psychiatry, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University

2004-2011, Doctorate in clinical psychology, research / intervention (PhD), Center for Advanced Studies in Sleep Medicine, University of Montreal

2010, Masters in clinical psychology (M.Ps.), University of Montreal

Research interests

Sleep development in infants and children

Sleep and sleep disorders in children and adults

Transition to parenthood

Sleep and vulnerable populations

Methodological approaches

Actigraphy, polysomnography, questionnaires.


2019-2022, Improving your child's sleep: an innovative and beneficial intervention for families living in vulnerable contexts, Co-researcher, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)

2018-2023, Transition to parenthood: realistic sleep-related expectations as a protective factor mothers 'and fathers' mental health, Principal Investigator, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

2018-2022, Better understand the links between infant sleep, mother-child interactions, parental mental health, and children's mental and physical health: a family perspective, Principal Investigator, Fonds de recherche du Québec-Santé (FRQS)

2018-2019, Increasing the dissemination of best practices in psychology: Practice guidelines, practice-research networks, clinical tools, progress tracking, and evidence based practice, Co-researcher, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC, Connection Grant)

2017-2022, Responding to the developmental needs of children living in situations of psychosocial vulnerability and neglect - Research and intervention group for vulnerable and neglected children (GRIN), Co-researcher, Fonds québécois de recherche Société et Culture (FQRSC)

2017-2019, Infant sleep development in the context of the transition to parenthood: what do mom and dad think?, Principal Investigator, Quebec Association for Infant Mental Health

2016-2019, Quality of infant and maternal sleep as predictors of the mother-infant relationship: the moderating influence of maternal perceptions and expectations, Principal Investigator, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)

2018, Family Law and Early Childhood Care: How Law and Psychological Knowledge Can Interact to Determine What is in the Best Interests of the Child, Principal Investigator, Fondation du Barreau du Québec

My team

Rebecca Burdayron, M.A.

Ph.D. candidate
McGill University

Bryan Butler, M.A.

Ph.D. candidate
McGill University

Gabrielle Chénier-Leduc, B.Sc.

Ph.D. candidate
Université de Montréal

Christopher Kalogeropoulos, M.A.

Ph.D. candidate
McGill University

Samantha Kenny, M.A.

Ph.D. candidate
McGill University

Christine Laganière, M.A.

Ph.D. candidate
McGill University

Émilie Esther Maldonado-Lannes, B.Sc.

B.Sc. candidate
McGill University

Marjolaine Chicoine, M.Sc.

Laboratory coordinator

Jean Paquet, Ph.D.

Research Associate and Biostatistician

Dominique Petit, Ph.D.

Research Associate

Selected publications

Kenny, S., Burdayron, R., Lannes, E., Dubois-Comtois, K., Béliveau, M.J., Pennestri, M.H. (2020). Mothers’ and Fathers’ sleep: Is there a Difference between First-time and Experienced Parents of 6 month-olds? Journal of Sleep Research Dec 3:e13238. doi: 10.1111/jsr.13238. Online ahead of print

Pennestri, M.H., Burdayron, R., Kenny, S., Béliveau, M.J., & Comtois-Dubois, K. (2020). Sleeping through the night or through the nights? Sleep Medicine Oct 10;76:98-103. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2020.10.005. Online ahead of print.

Robillard, R., Dion, K., Pennestri, M.H., Solomonova, E., Lee, E., Saad, M., Murkar, A., Godbout, R., Edwards, J., Quilty, L., Daros, A., Bhatla, R., Kendzerska, T. (2020). Profiles of sleep changes during the COVID-19 pandemic: Demographic, behavioral and psychological factors. Journal of Sleep Research. Nov 17:e13231. doi: 10.1111/jsr.13231. Online ahead of print.

Pennestri, M.H., Petit, D., Paquet, J., Desautels, A., Touchette E., Côté, S., Tremblay, R.E., Boivin, M., & Montplaisir, J. (2020). Childhood restless legs syndrome: a longitudinal study of prevalence and familial aggregation. Journal of Sleep Research. Aug 11:e13161. doi: 10.1111/jsr.13161.

Laganière, C., Pennestri, M.H., Rassu, A.L. Barateau, L., Chenini, S., Evangelista, E., Dauvilliers, Y., & Lopez, R. (2020). Disturbed nighttime sleep in children and adults with rhythmic movement disorder. Sleep, May 27:zsaa105. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsaa105. Online ahead of print.

Burdayron, R., Kenny, S., Dubois‐Comtois, K., Béliveau, M. J., & Pennestri, M. H. (2020). Infant sleep consolidation: a preliminary investigation of parental expectations. Acta Paediatrica. Jun;109(6):1276-1277. doi: 10.1111/apa.15151. Epub 2020 Jan 9.

Chénier-Leduc, G., Béliveau, M. J., Dubois-Comtois, K., Butler, B., Berthiaume, C., & Pennestri, M. H. (2019). Sleep Difficulties in Preschoolers with Psychiatric Diagnoses. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(22), 4485. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16224485.

Dubois-Comtois, K., Pennestri, M. H., Bernier, A., Cyr, C., & Godbout, R. (2019). Family Environment and Preschoolers’ Sleep: The Complementary Role of Both Parents. Sleep Medicine, Jun;58:114-122. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2019.03.002. Epub 2019 Mar 19.

Laganière, C., Gaudreau, H., Pokhvisneva, I., Atkinson, L., Meaney, M., & Pennestri, M. H. (2019). Maternal characteristics and behavioral/emotional problems in preschoolers: how they relate to sleep rhythmic movements. Journal of Sleep Research. Jun;28(3):e12707. doi: 10.1111/jsr.

Pennestri, M. H., Laganière, C., Bouvette-Turcot, A.A., Pokhvisneva, I., Steiner, M., Meaney, M., & Gaudreau, H. (2018). Uninterrupted infant sleep, development, and maternal mood. Pediatrics. 142(6). pii: e20174330. doi: 10.1542/peds.2017-4330. Epub 2018 Nov 12.

-Tessier, M.P., Pennestri, M. H., et Godbout, R. (2018). Heart rate variability of typically developing and autistic children and adults before, during and after sleep. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 134, 15-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2018.10.004.

-Dubois-Comtois, K., Cyr, C., Pennestri, M. H., & Godbout, R. (2016). Poor quality of sleep in foster children relates to maltreatment and placement conditions. SAGE Open. 1-7. doi:10.1177/2158244016669551

Pennestri, M. H., Gaudreau, H, Bouvette-Turcot, A. A., Moss, E., Lecompte, V., Atkinson, L., Lydon, J., Steiner, M., & Meaney, M. J. (2015). Attachment disorganization among children in neonatal intensive care unit. Early Human Development, 91:601-606.

Pennestri MH, Moss E, O’Donnell K, Lecompte V, Bouvette-Turcot AA, Atkinson L, Minde K, Gruber R, Fleming AS, Meaney MJ, & Gaudreau H. (2015). Establishment and consolidation of the sleep-wake cycle as a function of attachment pattern. Attachment and Human Development. 17(1):23-42.

Petit D, Pennestri MH, Paquet J, Desautels A, Zadra A, Vitaro F, Tremblay RE, Boivin M, & Montplaisir J. (2015). Childhood sleepwalking and sleep terrors: a longitudinal study of prevalence and heredity. JAMA Pediatrics, 169 (7): 653-658.

Bouvette-Turcot AA, Pluess M, Bernier A, Pennestri MH, Levitan R, Sokolowski M, Kennedy J, Minde K, Steiner M, Meaney M, & Gaudreau H. (2015). Effects of Genotype and Sleep on Temperament. Pediatrics, 136(4):e914-921.

Pennestri MH. (2015). Lorsque la vie arrive trop tôt : répercussions psychosociales de la naissance prématurée sur l’enfant et ses parents. Dans : Réflexions sur la réanimation du bébé grand prématuré : une approche transdisciplinaire. Yves Tremblay, Anne-Marie Gagné, Marie-Hélène Pennestri, Eds. Québec, Canada : Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec., Chapitre 3, p.91-116. ISBN 978-2-9810983-5-1.

Pennestri MH, Montplaisir J, Fradette L, Lavigne G, Colombo R, & Lanfranchi PA. (2013). Blood pressure changes associated with periodic leg movements during sleep in healthy subjects. Sleep Medicine,14(6):555-561.

Pennestri MH, Montplaisir J, Colombo R, Lavigne G, & Lanfranchi PA. (2007). Nocturnal blood pressure changes in patients with restless legs syndrome. Neurology, 68: 1213-8.


Development of the sleep-wake cycle in infants

At birth, infants sleep fragmented into several short periods of a few hours, with no differentiation between day and night. Gradually, infants' sleep consolidates, but at a very different rate from infant to infant, from night to night, and depending on several internal and environmental characteristics. The aim of this project is to better understand the process of consolidation of sleep in infants and the processes associated with it.

Transition to parenthood and sleep deprivation

The arrival of an infant is a happy event, but also characterized by many challenges! One of the main challenges for new parents is without a doubt sleep deprivation. In this project, we are evaluating the impact of sleep deprivation in new parents on their mental health and on the quality of their relationship with their child. We are also studying the role of parental expectations and perceptions during this transition period, in order to better understand how these expectations can modulate the link between parents' sleep and their mental health.

Sleep quality and sleep disorders in children and adolescents

This project evaluates the quality of sleep and the evolution of sleep disorders in children and adolescents. The goal of this project is to better understand the links between sleep, physical health, mental health and social interactions in different populations. Indeed, these links are studied in cohorts of typically developing children, but also in more vulnerable populations (children in different family configurations, children living in foster families, children born prematurely).