Why Sleep During Pregnancy is Important to Your Baby’s Health

woman sleeping
Image via Mindi Stavish

Any woman who is pregnant will tell you it's nearly impossible to get an uninterrupted night of sleep during pregnancy.  From nausea in the first trimester to frequent bathroom breaks, heart burn, and leg cramps in the third trimester, it certainly can be a long nine months.  Pregnancy is a time in your life when you are exhausted and crave more sleep than you ever have before, so it can be frustrating when your sleep is interrupted night after night.  

A new study by Michele L. Okun, PhD, et al., published in the journal Psychomatic Medicine, revealed that poor sleep can disrupt normal immune processes, leading to lower birth weights and other complications. 

Pregnancy is often associated with changes in sleep patterns, including shortened sleep, insomnia symptoms, and poor sleep  quality.

In the study, 170 depressed and non-depressed pregnant women were interviewed and their sleep was evaluated, starting at 20 weeks. Additionally, their levels of plasma cytokine concentrations and their sleep patterns were measured for the next 10 weeks. Cytokine are small signaling molecules within the immune system. While cytokines are important for numerous pregnancy-related processes, excessive cytokines can attack and destroy healthy cells and cause destruction of tissue in pregnant women, thereby inhibiting the ability to ward off disease, as well as cause pre-term labor.

Pregnancy is often associated with changes in sleep patterns, including shortened sleep, insomnia symptoms, and poor sleep  quality. This study also demonstrated that pregnant women with depression are more likely to have disturbed sleep, leading to a poor immune system and an overproduction of cytokines. In turn, this can lead to negative pregnancy outcomes. It is important that these issues be addressed by a woman's physician, as soon as possible, in order to implement a treatment strategy addressing the sleep problems.

This was the first study that researched the relationship between sleep problems, depression, and inflammatory cytokines. The final results of the study demonstrated the following:

1. Depressed women with poor sleep patterns were at the greatest risk for negative birth outcomes, including pre-term birth.
2. At 20 weeks gestation, women who were depressed had higher levels of inflammatory cytokines, compared to women who were not depressed.
3. At 30 weeks gestation, there was no significant difference in cytokines levels between depressed and non-depressed women. This was attributed to the fact that as a pregnancy progresses levels of cytokines increase normally.
4. A shift in immunity during pregnancy, such as depression or poor sleep, may lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes, including pre-term birth and low birth weight.

 This study shows how important sleep is for the body while a woman is pregnant.  If you are experiencing excessive sleep problems, it can and should be addressed by your doctor.  

What are some tips you use to help you get a good night sleep while pregnant?  

What do you think?

Why Sleep During Pregnancy is Important to Your Baby’s Health

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

Tell us what you think!


  1. mommy nhoj says:

    I am late sleeper before I got pregnant. I literally dragged myself in bed to get as much sleep as possible.

  2. Olivia says:

    I’m 28 weeks and I barely sleep and it’s to the point where my two year old has picked up on my poor sleeping habit

  3. LaTasha says:

    My sleep pattern is jacked up….. Because of all the pain that I am constantly in.

  4. Phammom says:

    I’m lucky not to have to many sleep problems.


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