It’s a known fact that sleep is important for overall health. It strengthens the immune system, gives energy, boosts brain power, and affects how well or poorly you react to things emotionally. But while everyone benefits from quality sleep, pregnant women need it even more. Not only does it give expectant moms the strength to endure pregnancy but it also affects the health of the baby. In fact, pregnant women who are sleep-deprived put themselves at risk of developing potentially serious health conditions. Their babies can suffer too. If there was ever a time to get adequate and quality sleep, it’s during pregnancy. To reiterate just how important it is, we’ve outlined some of the dangerous consequences of lack of sleep when pregnant.
A normal pregnancy lasts for about 40 weeks. In preterm labor, women experience contractions before the 37th week of pregnancy and this can result in premature birth. Babies who are born too soon have greater health risks and need special care. They may also have physical and mental disabilities.
Sleep deprivation can lead to a higher chance of preterm labor although it’s not exactly clear why. In a study conducted by NCBI ( National Center for Biotechnology Information ), it was found that pregnant women who slept poorly in their first and third trimesters had a greater risk of experiencing preterm labor. Poor sleep in early pregnancy (14-16 weeks) had the largest effect on preterm labor.
Sleep disturbances are fairly common during pregnancy as hormonal changes occur in expectant moms. Insomnia, restless leg syndrome (RLS), sleep apnea, and heartburn are a few things that can disrupt sleep. However, while poorer sleep quality may be expected when pregnant, there’s a reason for worry: gestational hypertension or high blood pressure.
Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s marked by the absence of protein in the urine. It’s fairly harmless on its own (and usually goes away after birth) but has the potential to progress to a serious condition called preeclampsia unless it’s kept in check. It’s not known how sleep duration and hypertension are connected, but researchers theorize that changing sleep habits in pregnancy cause hormonal fluctuations that could affect blood pressure.
The journal Sleep published a study which showed that pregnant women who slept for 6 hours or less – and even those who slept for 10 hours or more – a had elevated blood pressure in the third trimester.
We’ve mentioned how gestational hypertension can develop into preeclampsia unless treated. Now let’s look at what it is. Preeclampsia is a potentially serious health risk because it causes damage to the organs of pregnant women and can be fatal to them and their babies. The condition usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy in those who have normal blood pressure. Unlike gestational diabetes, it’s marked by excess protein in the urine. Other symptoms include the impaired liver function and decreased platelet levels.
Gestational diabetes is another consequence of the lack of sleep although the link is uncertain.
In a study by Sleep Medicine Reviews, researchers analyzed data from eight studies and found that pregnant women who slept less than 6 and a half hours at night were nearly thrice as likely to develop gestational diabetes.
Like gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes goes away after the baby is born. However, it puts infants at risk of having higher birth weights and also puts moms at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Poor sleep can weaken the immune system and leave one exposed to illnesses. But in pregnant women, the dangers are exacerbated.The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a study in which, researchers found that poor sleep quality can disrupt immunity and cause an overproduction of cytokines. Cytokines themselves interact with other cells to help the body respond effectively to infection and disease. But when there are too many of them, they attack healthy cells and prevent the immune system from fighting infection. They can lead to preterm birth, depression and cause vascular diseases in pregnant women.
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Sleep quality may be affected during pregnancy, but that’s all the more reason to do everything you can to get the best sleep possible. There are just too many dangers waiting! Taking steps like exercising early in the day, de-stressing by journaling or speaking to a friend, and following a bedtime routine can help. You can also use additional pillows for support when sleeping and the best mattress for back pain to keep your body and spine properly aligned.
Nuvanna is a mattress that’s designed to provide comfort and support. It’s the brainchild of a mattress scientist who has decades of experience in the industry. It features three innovative layers. The top boasts a cooling gel layer that draws body heat and disperses it to keep you cool when sleeping. The middle layer isolates motion so that you and your bed partner can move without disturbing each other. The bottom layer provides support and keeps your spine aligned to prevent back pain, which expectant moms tend to have.
We’ve seen the role lack of sleep plays on the health of pregnant women and their babies. It’s a grim picture, and not one anyone would want to see. If there’s one thing that every expectant mom should make a priority, it’s getting restful sleep. It can reduce the chance of lower birth weight, preterm births, hypertension, diabetes and more. It also gives you the energy to get through your pregnancy. If you find that you aren’t sleeping well, speak to your physician to identify sleep problems so that you can work toward a solution.