Neuroimmunology of Pregnancy-Related Sleep Disturbances

  • Michele L. Okun
  • Mary E. Coussons-Read


Sleep is undoubtedly disturbed during pregnancy. The disturbances include an increase in nocturnal awakenings and greater periods of time spent awake during the night, as well as complaints of fatigue during the day. Although nausea (i.e., morning sickness) is most commonly expected in the first trimester, an increase in fatigue, which is often a consequence of disturbed sleep, is actually the first symptom of pregnancy (Lee 2006). Various contributors have been suggested or implicated in the magnitude of sleep disturbances in pregnancy, including hormonal, physiologic, physical (Baratte-Beebe and Lee 1999), and behavioral changes (Buster and Carson 2003; Challis and Lye 2003). As pregnancy progress, other symptoms contribute to sleep disturbances, some of them being fetal movements, leg cramps, shortness of breath, and an inability to get comfortable (Baratte-Beebe et al. 1999). This review will extend beyond the description of how sleep patterns change during pregnancy to suggest that there is an important relationship between pregnancy-associated sleep disturbances and cytokine and hormone changes that may have relevance to maternal and fetal health. Discussion will include how disturbances experienced during pregnancy are associated with cytokine alterations and hormonal changes, and how these relationships could add to a woman’s risk for developing pregnancy complications or experiencing poor pregnancy outcomes.


Sleep Disturbance Obstet Gynecol Sleep Deprivation Sleep Pattern Preterm Labor 
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© Springer 2007

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  • Michele L. Okun
  • Mary E. Coussons-Read

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