Studies carried out by a team at Pittsburgh University have shown how poor sleep can affect the health of the pregnant mothers and unborn babies.
It is often assumed that pregnant women don’t sleep well. “Most healthcare providers don’t ask pregnant women about their sleep, as it is thought to be a normal part of being pregnant,” said Louise M O’Brien, a sleep specialist and associate Professor of Neurology.
But research at Pittsburgh University has shown that pregnant women who have poor quality sleep, or too little sleep, are more likely to have premature babies, or babies who suffer from diabetes or have a low birth weight. “Pregnancy reduces a mother’s immunity and anyone without sufficient sleep is disrupting the body’s ability to repair itself on a daily basis,” said Dr Okun, lead author on the study. Lack of quality sleep means that the blood vessels cannot not provide enough blood flow and nutrition to the placenta and fetus.
Lifestyle choices, such as drinking alcohol, smoking or being obese may mean disturbed sleep. Stress is also a factor and can lead to a vicious circle where stress from lack of sleep can cause lack of sleep.
The study recommends that pregnant women should have 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.