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High Blood Pressure and Sleep

Sleep During Pregnancy: Too Much or Too Little Could Elevate Blood Pressure

There’s no doubt that pregnancy affects a woman’s sleep. Some moms-to-be feel that they just can’t get enough Zs, while others report having trouble falling asleep. The results of a new study published in the October 1 2010 issue of the journal Sleep suggest that getting too little or too much sleep in early pregnancy is associated with high blood pressure in the third trimester. Improving sleep habits in the prenatal period appears to have important health benefits for mom and baby.

In a study that included nearly 1,300 healthy, pregnant women, researchers at the University of Washington found that third trimester blood pressure was elevated among women who slept six hours or less per night (short sleepers) and in those who slept 10 hours or more per night (long sleepers) early in their pregnancies

The scientists also found a link between sleep duration and preeclampsia, a condition marked by pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. Preeclampsia occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy, and because it is dangerous for pregnant moms and their babies, the condition requires close monitoring by a physician. In this study, the scientists found that the risk of developing preeclampsia was almost 10 times higher in very short sleepers; those who had nightly sleep durations of less than five hours during early pregnancy.

Although it isn’t know exactly how short sleep duration leads to high blood pressure, experts have several theories. Because blood pressure is known to dip by an average of 10 to 20 percent during sleep, short sleep durations may increase the average 24-hour blood pressure and heart rate. Sleep restriction also may produce abnormalities in levels of hormones, such as endothelin and vasopressin, which play an important role in regulating blood pressure.

If you’re concerned that you’re sleeping too much or too little, be sure to discuss your concerns with your physician. In the meantime, you may be able to improve your sleep habits by taking the following steps.

  • Establish a regular bedtime and a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Limit caffeine intake, and don’t drink caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Make sure your sleeping quarters are quiet, sufficiently dark, and not too hot or too cold.
  • Reserve your bedroom for sleeping and sex. If you have a TV or a computer in the bedroom, consider moving them to another location.
  • Turn off your cell phone before bedtime.
  • Exercise daily—even if it’s just a walk around the block.
  • Eat a light snack a couple of hours before bedtime.
  • Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day, but not too close to bedtime.

The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.