Sleep, Pregnancy and Blood Pressure

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The first study to examine the association between insufficient sleep and blood pressure among pregnant women found that getting too little or too much sleep in early pregnancy is associated with elevated blood pressure in the third trimester. The study suggests that improving prenatal sleep hygiene may provide important health benefits.

According to the study’s results, the mean systolic blood pressure in the third trimester was 114 mm Hg in women with a normal self-reported nightly sleep duration of nine hours in early pregnancy, 118.05 mm Hg in women who reported sleeping six hours or less per night, and 118.90 mm Hg in women with a nightly sleep duration of 10 hours or more in early pregnancy.

After adjustments for potential confounders such as age, race and pre-pregnancy body mass index, mean systolic blood pressure was 3.72 mm Hg higher in short sleepers and 4.21 mm Hg higher in long sleepers. Similar results also were found for diastolic blood pressure. "Both short and long sleep duration in early pregnancy were associated with increased mean third trimester systolic and diastolic blood pressure values," said principal investigator and lead author Dr. Michelle A. Williams, professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington and co-director of the Center for Perinatal Studies at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Wash.

"If our results are confirmed by other studies, the findings may motivate increased efforts aimed at exploring lifestyle approaches, particularly improved sleep habits, to lower preeclampsia risk," said Williams.

1,272 healthy, pregnant women participated in the study which found an association between sleep duration and preeclampsia, a condition that involves pregnancy-induced hypertension along with excess protein in the urine.

The risk of developing preeclampsia was almost 10 times higher in very short sleepers who had nightly sleep duration of less than five hours during early pregnancy.

Overall, about 6.3 percent of participants were diagnosed with either preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension without proteinuria. Williams advises pregnant women and women who are planning to become pregnant to develop healthy habits that promote sufficient sleep.

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