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The Unexpected Risk of Sleep Disorders in Pregnancy

According to new research, the sleep disorders many women experience during pregnancy aren't just annoying—they could be dangerous. 

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Pregnancy is not known for its comfort, and between those "adorable" little jabs from your baby, the need to be pee every four minutes and the near-constant achiness many women experience, good sleep can be really tough to come by. Pregnancy insomnia is every bit as real as pregnancy fatigue (seriously, what a cruel joke)—and according to a new study, unsightly dark circles may not be the only side effect of disordered sleeping.

New research published in Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests there may be a link between sleep disorders in pregnancy and an increased risk of preterm birth. Researchers examined data from nearly 3 million births to come to this finding: They compared the data from 2,712 pregnant women who had been diagnosed with sleep disorders during pregnancy against that of the same number of women who had similar health profiles but no diagnosed sleep issues. A link emerged: 10.9 percent of the women with no sleep disorders gave birth before term, as compared to nearly 15 percent of women who had sleep issues.

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But is this link really worth stressing out over if you're currently pregnant? It's tough to say—while findings like this one are always worth considering, the study also found that moms who had sleep disorders were also more likely to be obese, age 35 or older and have histories of diabetes—and these are all risk factors in and of themselves. Despite the fact that researchers chose to study similar women from one group to another, those factors had the potential to skew the data.

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Sleep disorders include sleep apnea and insomnia—and it's important to remember that this research focuses on clinically diagnosed disorders, which is to say that just struggling to get a solid eight hours a night probably won't put you at risk. While the exact link between these issues and preterm birth risk isn't completely understood, it may not be a bad idea to seek out some help if you fear you may be suffering from one. And try not to lose any sleep over these findings.