Insomnia, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders may be linked to preterm birth, according to new research. A large study of more than 4,000 pregnant women — half of whom had been diagnosed with severe sleep disorders — found that new mothers with these conditions were twice as likely to deliver preterm. Given the dangers of preterm birth, the findings could help physicians identify and provide interventions for women at high risk of delivering early.
“Strangely, this study has not been done before,” coauthor on the study Laura Jelliffe-Pawlowski of the University of California, San Francisco told Nature. “Seeing this relationship is important because we are just starved for interventions that can make a difference.”
Preterm birth — when a baby is born before 36 weeks (full gestation is 40) — is the number one cause of death for children under the age of five. Babies born before 34 weeks can suffer from respiratory, digestive, and neurological problems. Naturally, any risk factor for preterm birth is cause for concern, so the notion that poor sleep is linked to early delivery raises eyebrows.
At the same time, almost every pregnant woman gets at least a little less sleep as a tiny human grows inside her and fidgets on top of her bladder. Jelliffe-Pawlowski and colleagues controlled for that by focusing solely on…