A new study suggests that one way to cut down on premature births is to make sure pregnant women get good sleep. The observational study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that women diagnosed with some kind of sleep disorder were more likely to give birth early, reports the New York Times. Overall, 15% of such women had preemies, compared to 11% among women without a sleep disorder. More specifically, a diagnosis of insomnia raised the risk of having a pre-term birth by 30% and sleep apnea by 40%. Similarly, sleep disorders were associated with more births characterized as "very premature," reports Nature. The study found that 5.3% of women with such disorders delivered 34 weeks or earlier, compared with 2.9% for those without a disorder.
“It seems obvious, but strangely this study has not been done before,” says co-author Laura Jelliffe-Pawlowski, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. "Seeing this relationship is important because we are just starved for interventions that can make a difference.” The authors make clear they're referring to women with diagnosed problems, not merely to women who occasionally have trouble sleeping while pregnant, which is fairly common. They found that sleep disorders are more common among women who are black, 35 or older, obese, and have other medical issues, reports Reuters. Based on the study, one piece of advice for women planning to have kids is to try to start the pregnancy at a healthy weight. (Some evidence supports therapy over pills to treat insomnia.)