Sleep well and do your unborn child a favour

  • AFP
  • Updated: May 20, 2014 15:03 IST

Pregnant women in their third trimester may want to make an effort to hit the sack earlier after a new study found that poor-quality sleep in the last stretch of pregnancy might lead to adult obesity in their offspring.

That’s the conclusion of research from the University of Chicago, where scientists interrupted sleep patterns in pregnant mice and followed the health of their offspring.

During the third trimester of their pregnancy, scientists sent a motorised brush through their cages, forcing the animals to wake up briefly, step over the brush and try to resume their sleep. Another batch of pregnant mice was allowed to sleep uninterrupted in another cage.

Though newborns from both groups weighed roughly the same, researchers noted that their weight and health outcomes differed significantly as they grew into adults. Male mice born to sleep-disturbed mothers weighed 10 per cent more than their counterparts — the equivalent of 15 extra lb (7 kg) in a human adult.

A few of the animals became morbidly obese and died earlier as well. Researchers focused on male mice because their hormone levels are less complex and easier to track.

Overall, babies born after fragmented sleep also scored poorly on glucose tolerance tests and developed disproportionately high amounts of visceral white fat or ‘bad fat’, as well as elevated levels of ‘bad cholesterol’.

The findings were published recently in the journal Diabetes. The results of the study may come as poor comfort to women in their third trimester, who have to deal with protruding bellies and kicking babies.

But the National Sleep Foundation in the US offers a few tips on how to prepare for a good night’s sleep.

Quick Tips
1. Sleep on your left side to allow for the best blood flow to the fetus and to your uterus and kidneys. Avoid lying flat on your back for a long period of time.
2. Drink fluids during the day, but cut down before bedtime.
3. Exercise regularly to help you stay healthy, improve your circulation, and reduce leg cramps.
4. Try frequent bland snacks (like crackers) throughout the day. This helps avoid nausea by keeping your stomach full.
5. Special pregnancy pillows and mattresses may help you sleep better. Or use regular pillows to support your body.
6. Napping may help. An NSF poll found that 51 per cent of pregnant or recently pregnant women reported at least one weekday nap.
7. Learn to relax with breathing techniques, which can also help when the contractions begin.

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