14 Dec 5 Reasons Why Pregnant Women Should Prioritize Sleep
Lack of sleep is one of the many challenges women face during pregnancy, particularly because of the changing hormone levels and the need to provide infant care. In fact, 66 to 94 percent of pregnant women report disturbances in sleep, according to research published in the Obstetric Medicine Journal (1). Sleep problems can have serious consequences for expecting mothers. Here are a few reasons why pregnant women should pay more attention to their sleeping patterns.
1. Sleep Disorders affect the Fetus’ Development
A developing fetus needs plenty of nutrients, including oxygen. When sleep disruption occurs in the mother, the blood flow to the placenta may be compromised. When the mother’s blood oxygen declines, it may reduce the growth hormones needed for the fetus. This could lead to a number of complications for the baby.
2. Insufficient Sleep Leads to Premature Birth
Not enough sleep can bring about complications in labor. Reuters cited a study (2) that detailed how pregnant women with severe lack of sleep are more likely to deliver premature babies. Sleep apnea, which involves irregularities in breathing, can lead to high blood pressure during pregnancy. This, in turn, increases the risk of premature births.
3. Lack of Sleep Contributes to Diabetes
Research has proven that less sleep among pregnant women can result in the development of gestational diabetes, a condition that causes blood sugar levels to rise. This type of diabetes usually occurs in the second or third trimester. Because the extra glucose can trigger your baby’s pancreas to make extra insulin, it can complicate the baby’s birth weight. Large babies make the delivery more difficult, as they have the tendency to get stuck in the birth canal.
4. Sleep Problems are Linked to Depression
Sleep and depression have a complex relationship. Sometimes, a lack of sleep may cause depression while other times, it’s depression that contributes to the sleep problems. Either way, the two are always linked to each other. Depression can be a lot more harmful to expectant mothers particularly because the cytokine levels are affected. Cytokines are signal molecules that communicate with immune cells. An excess of these can harm healthy cells and tissue in pregnant women, affecting the ability to ward off diseases. In a study, it was found that depressed people have a higher concentration of dangerous cytokines.
5. Lack of Sleep Causes Longer Delivery
Giving birth is a long and painful process. For first-time moms, the average duration of active labor is eight hours, while pushing may last for one to two hours. Based on a study published by Science Daily (3), women who experienced less than six hours of sleep per night had longer labors than those who slept for seven or more hours. The researchers also found that these women were 4.5 times more likely to undergo a cesarean delivery.
While sleep problems are inevitable during pregnancy, there are solutions expecting mothers can take to decrease the disruptions. Leesa published an article focusing on sleeping strategies and discussed that you can make your environment conducive for sleeping by keeping the room temperature around 66 to 70 degrees. You can also try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, where you breathe in for four slow counts, hold your breath for seven seconds, and breathe out for eight seconds. In general, a healthy amount of sleep contributes to a healthy wellbeing. It’s best to spend enough time in bed for both your health and the baby’s.
- Cristina A Reichner. “Insomnia and sleep deficiency in pregnancy”. Obstet Med. 2015 Dec; 8(4): 168–171. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4935047/
- Obstetrics and Gynecology, online August 8, 2017.
- University Of California – San Francisco. “Inadequate Sleep In Late Pregnancy May Influence Labor And Delivery.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 January 2005. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041219180147.htm