Pregnancy

Lack of Sleep During Pregnancy May Increase a Mother's Risk for Preeclampsia

Lack of Sleep During Pregnancy May Increase a Mother's Risk for Preeclampsia

Key Takeaways

  • Frequent urination and uncomfortable position while trying to sleep can be one of the causes for mothers not receiving enough sleep during the night.
  • High blood pressure induced by pregnancy is a symptom of preeclampsia.
  • According to a specific study, women who participated in the study that received less than five hours of sleep during the night were likely to develop preeclampsia.

A study published in the journal, Sleep, has shown that too much or too little sleep during pregnancy may increase the risk of high blood pressure and related complications during pregnancy. High blood pressure induced by pregnancy is a symptom of preeclampsia, which later increases the risk of more serious eclampsia. Preeclampsia is a serious condition, which is linked to excess protein in urine. 

The systolic pressure of women who slept for six hours or less during the first trimester was 3.72 times higher in the third trimester, when compared to women who slept for nine hours. According to experts, pregnant women should have nine hours of sleep per day, as they have more needs to be fulfilled with sleep, when compared to those who are not pregnant.

The systolic pressure of women who slept for 10 hours or more during the first trimester was 4.21 points higher in the third trimester, when compared to women who slept for nine hours. Systolic pressure represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. A similar increase was noted in the diastolic pressure of women who had too less and too much sleep during the early stages of pregnancy. Although the increase noted is small, in some cases, this may increase blood pressure to a very high range.

The average systolic pressure of women who slept for nine hours during the night in their first trimester was 114 in their third trimester. The average pressure of women who had didn't have enough sleep was 118.04. The results showed that the mean systolic pressure of women who slept for more than 10 hours during the early stages of pregnancy was 118.90.

It is still not clear how too little and too much sleep is linked to the pressure in pregnant women. According to Michele A. Williams, ScD, a professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington in Seattle and the co-director of the Center for Perinatal Studies at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, future studies on sleep should include a cohort of pregnant women so that more people would be aware of the importance of not sleeping enough during pregnancy.

In this study, the researchers collected data on the sleeping habits of about 1,200 healthy pregnant women, since becoming pregnant. A total of 20.5% of the women slept for nine hours per night, while 55.2% slept for seven to eight hours every night. Out of the total, 13.7% women had less than six hours of sleep, while 10.6% of the participants slept for more than 10 hours per night.

About 6% of the participating women were diagnosed with preeclampsia during the study. Results showed that women who had less than five hours of sleep during the night were 10 times more likely to develop preeclampsia.

According to Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleep, and the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, this is a very important study, as it focused on the effect of sleep on blood pressure during pregnancy. The findings highlighted the importance of good sleep practice in pregnancy. If the symptoms of this condition are noticed by the mother's partner, it should be reported to a doctor immediately.

Manju Monga MD, the Berel Held Professor and the division director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston, also feels that pregnancy and sleeping issues coincide with each other. In some cases, the continuity of sleep is lost due to increased frequency of urination or due to the uncomfortable position for sleeping. Morning naps may also make it difficult to get proper sleep during the night. Monga advises that pregnant women should do something relaxing and less stressful before going to bed.