Poor sleep could lead to pregnancy complications

By Missy Jaramillo

Poor sleep could lead to pregnancy complications

During your pregnancy, you may find that it's more difficult for you to do some things that used to come easily. For example, sitting or standing for long periods of time may be uncomfortable, and simply bending over to tie your shoes can be a chore through the later stages of fetal development. Another thing that may become difficult as your pregnancy continues is getting to sleep each night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 78 percent of women report that they have more trouble sleeping during pregnancy than they did when they were not expecting.

Now, recent research has shed light on how important it is for you to make sure you get adequate rest during your pregnancy. According to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, not getting enough sleep or getting a poor quality of rest during pregnancy may negatively affect your immune processes and potentially cause pregnancy complications. 

"Our results highlight the importance of identifying sleep problems in early pregnancy, especially in women experiencing depression, since sleep is a modifiable behavior," said Michele Okun, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Pittsburgh University School of Medicine and lead author of the report. "The earlier that sleep problems are identified, the sooner physicians can work with pregnant women to implement solutions."

Sleep is the key
The researchers explained that high-quality sleep is essential to the immune system of both pregnant and non-pregnant women, but it's particularly important for pregnant women. The scientists stated that pregnancy is associated with changes in sleep patterns, which can increase the body's inflammatory response and cause an overproduction of cytokines. Okun explained that while cytokines are good for many pregnancy-related problems, having too many may cause healthy cells to die and impact the body's immune system. 

The researchers examined 170 women and found that those who were depressed or sleeping poorly had the highest risk of experiencing a pregnancy complication, compared to those who slept well and did not report symptoms of depression. One pregnancy complication they observed was low birth weight. 

Tips for sleeping during pregnancy
The Mayo Clinic recommended that while pregnant, you should try to favor your left side while sleeping. This can help improve blood flow to both you and your baby. Also, it's important to keep your head elevated because this can help prevent heartburn or snoring, which are two things you may be experiencing more of now that you're pregnant. 

Furthermore, while you should be drinking plenty of fluids to keep yourself and your baby hydrated throughout the day, you may want to cut back on how much you drink at night in order to cut down on having to get up to go to the bathroom frequently during the evening. 

One of the biggest concerns that women report during pregnancy when it comes to sleep is that they are unable to get rest due to their severe heartburn. In order to combat this, you need to watch what you eat. The Mayo Clinic explained that you should be eating small meals frequently and avoiding soda, fried foods and other items in the past that have given you heartburn. Also, it's important to make sure that you have a dark, cool and comfortable sleeping space that you enjoy. 

Finally, try to stay active during your pregnancy. Exercise can help tire you out so that you'll sleep through the night, which is why you should talk to your doctor about healthy ways to get physical activity.