Exercise During Early Pregnancy Is Associated With Greater Sleep Continuity

Behav Sleep Med. Sep-Oct 2018;16(5):482-493. doi: 10.1080/15402002.2016.1228649. Epub 2016 Oct 14.


Objectives/background: Pregnant women report disturbed sleep beginning in early pregnancy. Among nonpregnant populations, exercise has been associated with improved sleep; however, research in pregnant samples has been equivocal. We examined whether varying degrees of exercise were associated with better nocturnal sleep among pregnant women during early gestation.

Participants: 172 pregnant women.

Methods: Self-reported sleep and exercise and objective sleep were collected during early gestation: T1 (10-12 weeks), T2 (14-16 weeks), and T3 (18-20 weeks) from 172 pregnant women. Exercise was categorized into three time-varying groups: 0 metabolic equivalent minutes per week (MET-min/week), 1 to < 500 MET-min/week, or ≥ 500 MET-min/week. Linear mixed-effects models were employed to test hypotheses.

Results: A significant main effect for Time (F[2,254] = 9.77, p < 0.0001) and Time*Exercise group interaction were observed for actigraphic sleep efficiency (aSE) (F[4,569] = 2.73, p = 0.0285). At T2, women who reported ≥ 500 MET-min/week had higher aSE than those who reported 0 MET-min/week. Significant main effects for Exercise Group and Time were observed for actigraphic wake after sleep onset (aWASO; F[2,694] = 3.04, p = 0.0483 and F[2,260] = 3.21, p = 0.0419). aWASO was lowest for those reporting 1 to < 500 MET-min/week (t[701] = 2.35, adjusted p = .0489) and aWASO decreased from T1 to T3 (t[258] = 2.53, adjusted p value = 0.036). Lastly, there was a main effect for Time for the PSQI (F[2,689] = 52.11, p < 0.0001), indicating that sleep quality improved over time.

Conclusions: Some level of exercise among pregnant women appears to be more advantageous than no exercise at all. Moderate exercise, while still unclearly defined, may be a worthwhile adjunct treatment to combat sleep disturbances during pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Sleep / physiology*