Sleep disorders may increase the risk of preterm birth

Research Summary
Hayley Roper
Research Assistant

It is not surprising that poor sleep during pregnancy is common given the numerous changes occurring throughout the body. However, research on poor sleep and pregnancy is limited. 

As a part of the Preterm Birth Initiative, researchers analyzed medical records from about 3 million women in California who gave birth between 2007 and 2012. The results, recently published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, revealed that expecting mothers diagnosed with insomnia or sleep apnea have an increased risk of preterm birth, or delivery before 37 weeks gestation. Pregnant women with insomnia had a 30% increase in risk. Those with sleep apnea, a 40% increase. The researchers suggest that the relationship between poor sleep and preterm birth is indirect. Poor sleep may set off other processes in the body that provoke premature births. 

If poor sleep is a risk factor for preterm births, then treatment would aim to help expecting mothers get better sleep. The good news is that interventions for treating sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia already exist. And the most effective do not involve medication. More details on the study.