Sleep duration in the population has been declining. Women occupy an increasingly prominent place in the work force without reducing most of their responsibilities at home. Consequently, sleep needs are often pushed to the bottom of women's daily priority list. Prior research has indicated that sleep deprivation is associated with higher levels of pro-inflammatory serum cytokines. This is important because higher plasma concentrations of pro-inflammatory serum cytokine levels are associated with postpartum depression and adverse birth outcomes such as preterm delivery. However, little research has directly examined how sleep deprivation may affect maternal and fetal outcomes. This review summarizes the existing data on the effect of sleep deprivation during pregnancy on maternal and fetal outcomes. We review supporting evidence for the hypotheses that sleep deprivation during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm delivery and postpartum depression, and that systemic inflammation is the causal mechanism in the association. Prior research on sleep in pregnancy has been limited by varying data collection methods, subjective self-reported sleep measures, small and non-representative samples, cross-sectional designs; descriptive or non-hypothesis driven studies. Future research with longitudinal study designs is needed to allow examination of the effect of sleep deprivation on adverse maternal and fetal outcomes.
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