The Effect of Epilepsy on Sleep Quality During Pregnancy and Postpartum

Neurology. 2022 Jul 19;99(15):e1584-e1597. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200959. Online ahead of print.


Objective: This study seeks to understand how sleep is affected in pregnant women with epilepsy (WWE) relative to healthy pregnant women during pregnancy and postpartum and to non-pregnant WWE during comparative time periods.

Background: Sleep impacts maternal health and mood during pregnancy. Maternal sleep disturbances are related to poor fetal growth and increased fetal deaths. Epilepsy is the most common neurologic condition in pregnancy. Sleep disruption can worsen epileptic seizures. The interplay between epilepsy, pregnancy, and sleep is poorly understood.

Design: /Methods: The Maternal Outcomes and Neurodevelopmental Effects of Antiepileptic Drugs (MONEAD) study is an NIH-funded, prospective, observational, multicenter study, enrolling women from December 2012 through January 2016. Sleep quality was assessed utilizing the average Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index collected during pregnancy; postpartum; or analogous time periods. Sleep scores range from 0 to 21 with higher scores indicating worse sleep quality; scores > 5 are associated with poor sleep quality.

Results: Of 351 pregnant WWE, 105 healthy pregnant women, and 109 non-pregnant WWE enrolled in MONEAD, data from 241 pregnant WWE, 74 healthy pregnant women, and 84 non-pregnant WWE were analyzed. Pregnant WWE had worse sleep (higher mean sleep score) during pregnancy compared to healthy pregnant women in unadjusted analysis (p=0.006), but no longer significant in adjusted analysis (p=0.062), pregnant WWE (least square mean sleep score (95% CI) = 5.8 (5.5, 6.1)) vs. healthy pregnant women (5.1 (4.6, 5.7)). During postpartum, pregnant WWE (5.6 (5.4, 5.9)) had similarly impaired sleep compared to healthy pregnant women (5.7 (5.2, 6.2); adjusted p=0.838). Sleep was significantly worse in pregnant WWE vs non-pregnant WWE (for comparable time period) in pregnancy and postpartum in unadjusted and adjusted analyses. Adjusted scores for pregnant WWE in pregnancy (5.7 (5.4, 6.0)) and postpartum (5.7 (5.4, 6.0)) compared to non-pregnant WWE (4.7 (4.2, 5.3); p=0.002) and (4.1 (3.6, 4.7); p<0.001), respectively. Sleep quality between pregnancy and postpartum varied only in healthy pregnant women (change in mean score = 0.8 (0.2, 1.3); p=0.01), whose sleep was worse in postpartum.

Conclusions: Pregnant WWE had worse sleep during pregnancy and postpartum than non-pregnant WWE during comparable periods in the adjusted analysis.The study is registered at as NCT01730170.

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