If you’re pregnant and just want to sleep for the most part of the day, you don’t have to feel guilty because a study has suggested that taking lots of naps during pregnancy is linked to a healthier weight for your baby.
Researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology analyzed data the 2012-2014 Healthy Baby Cohort study, which includes 10,111 women in China, a country where taking afternoon naps are typical. The participants answered questions about their sleep habits during pregnancy and delivery. Among them, 442 had babies with low birth weight.
More naps, the better for pregnant women
Low birth weight, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is when a newborn weighs less than 5.5 pounds (2500 grams) at birth. Babies with low birth weight are more at risk of developing an infection during their first week of life. They are also more prone to have long-term health issues, such as respiratory illness, diabetes, and hypertension, even delays in motor and social skills development and learning disabilities.
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The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the World Health Organization (WHO) 2015 data showed that 20.1% of newborns in the Philippines — that’s nearly half a million babies — were born too small or had low birth weight.
According to the study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, preggos who took afternoon naps for at least an hour and a half showed a significantly lower chance (29%) of delivering a baby with low birth weight compared to preggos who reported they didn’t take naps at all. The extra 30 minutes of snoozing made a big difference, too. The researchers noted that expecting women who napped for just an hour only had a “reduced” risk of delivering a baby that’s too small.
Snoozing for an hour and a half during afternoons for almost all seven days of the week showed the strongest link between pregnancy naps and healthy birth weight.
Sleep is essential for prenatal health, not necessarily naps
Researchers behind the study say this was the first time to examine the association of low birth weight with afternoon napping during late pregnancy. They are not saying that naps pregnant women take causes their unborn baby to gain weight. What this latest study does show is we need to know more how sleep can affect an unborn baby. Previous research has tied sleep issues during pregnancy with preterm birth.
“Sleep is another vital sign that we should measure [during pregnancy],” Dr. Suzanne Karan of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, who also wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters Health.
Pregnant women always get the “sleep more now before the baby arrives” because they will be up most nights. Well, this study is another good reason to go ahead and nap all you want.