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Health & Pregnancy

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Poor Sleep in Pregnancy Linked to High Blood Pressure

Too Much, Too Little Sleep in Early Pregnancy May Raise Preeclampsia Risk

More Study Needed continued...

"Moving forward, large-scale sleep studies should include pregnant cohorts so that health care providers and mothers-to-be can more fully appreciate the health risks of insufficient sleep," 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, says in a news release.

In the study, more than 1,200 healthy pregnant women were asked about their sleep habits since becoming pregnant at 14 weeks into their pregnancy. Overall, 20.5% of women said they slept nine hours per night, 55.2% of women slept seven to eight hours per night, and 13.7% slept six or fewer hours per night, and 10.6% of women slept 10 hours or more per night early in their pregnancy.

More than 6% of women were diagnosed with preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure during the study. Women who got less than five hours of sleep per night were almost 10 times more likely to develop preeclampsia, the study showed.

Good Sleep Hygiene in Pregnancy a Must

"This was a rather groundbreaking study," says Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleepand the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Ariz.

"It is a great start and one of the first, if not the first, study to look at how sleep can have an effect on blood pressure during pregnancy -- specifically first-trimester sleep," he says.

The study points to the importance of good sleep hygiene in pregnancy, he says.

For starters, "you need to be careful about how much weight you are gaining," he says. Some pregnant women may develop sleep apnea, a sleep disorder marked by pauses in breathing while asleep. "If your bed partner notices that you have started snoring or light breathing, call your doctor for evaluation," he says.

Exercise is known to improve sleep quality. "If you are comfortable and your doctor has said it is OK to exercise during pregnancy, moderate exercise will help with overall sleep," he says. Cutting back on caffeine is also important during pregnancy, and as a means of improving sleep.

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