According to several studies (including an American study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh), a lack of sleep could have consequences on the health of the unborn baby and be the cause of a premature birth.
This is because poor quality sleep affects the mother’s immune system. The study found that when the latter lacks sleep, she produces excess cells called “cytokines”, which are usually responsible for regulating the immune system. In excess, cytokines can attack healthy cells and tissues. In doing so, they can have a negative impact on the fetus and cause, among other things, vascular diseases that can potentially lead to premature labor.
Therefore, sleep is essential for pregnant women to ensure the proper functioning of the immune system and consequently the health of the baby. This is why sleep disorders should be identified early in pregnancy in order to remedy them as soon as possible. This can involve a change in eating habits, or improving sleep hygiene and your bedding.
It thus goes without saying that the importance linked to the quality of sleep is also valid for young parents, especially when we know that they lose an average of 3 hours of sleep per night during the first months after birth.
It is indeed very common for a pregnant woman’s sleep to be disturbed throughout her pregnancy, and more especially during the first and third trimesters.
Several factors can be at the origin of these disorders:
- Hormonal changes: During the first three months, the increase in progesterone can make pregnant women very tired. Due to its natural sedative power, this hormone can cause hypersomnia during the day. While it is recommended to take naps if you are very tired, they should not be too long (no more than 20 minutes) as this may upset the natural sleep cycle.
- Various aches and pains: lower back pain, restless legs syndrome, concerns for the unborn child: all of these factors can prevent the mother from finding a comfortable position to sleep. This is why it is often recommended that she sleep on her left side. In addition to improving her own sleep, it also promotes the flow of blood and nutrients to the baby. At the same time, it may be beneficial to stretch before and after sleeping to relieve pain.
- Anxiety and stress: These are particularly common during the first month of pregnancy (fear of miscarriage among others). Stress is well known to affect the quality of sleep in general, and it is also the case in pregnant women. It is important to listen to these fears and verbalize them if necessary (with your partner, your doctor, or loved ones).
If the quality of sleep plays a major role in our daily physical and mental health, this is all the more the case for a pregnant woman who is about to welcome a newborn baby. It is essential to clearly identify the main risk factors upstream in order to be able to provide adequate solutions when the time comes.
Cassidy is a certified dietician with a focus on patients suffering with diabetes. She has more than 10 years of experience, working with patients of different background. She writes health-related article for the Scientific Origin.