The scientific reason why pregnant women should nap

Although I'm normally not much of a napper, that changes during my pregnancies. Without fail, it became virtually impossible for me to keep my eyes open when 3 o'clock rolled around during my third trimester. But rather than fight the urge to lay down for a quick doze, a new study gives pregnant mamas full permission to get a little shut-eye—for the health of their babies.

According to new research published in the journal Sleep Medicine, pregnant women who regularly nap are less likely to have a baby with a low birth weight, defined as weighing less than 5.5 lbs. A low birth weight is associated with health complications during childhood and adulthood, such as respiratory illnesses and hypertension. So snoozing doesn't only help you get through the afternoon, but also has some potentially big benefits for the long-term health of your baby.


For the report, researchers in China analyzed data from 10,111 participants in the 2012-2014 Healthy Baby Cohort study. They found that expectant mothers who regularly took afternoon naps between 60 and 90 minutes long were 29% less likely to have a baby with a low birth weight compared with mothers who didn't nap. They also found that napping five to seven days a week reduced the likelihood of having a baby with a low birth weight by 22%.

The findings are significant to Dr. Suzanne Karan of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. Although she wasn't involved in the study, she tells Reuters Health that her team is investigating a link between babies' birth weights and mothers' sleep habits. "This napping study is another signal that paying attention to sleep is an important part of your overall pregnancy health," Karan says. "Pregnancy is like a stress test that shows what health problems you could have later in life, so it's important to pay attention and treat it now."

If that isn't compelling enough, keep in mind that pregnancy fatigue is caused by the physical and hormonal changes your body is undergoing while growing a human. On top of that, nighttime sleep may be more disrupted by bathroom breaks and physical discomfort by the third trimester.

And while the new study found the biggest benefits among mamas who logged more than an hour of napping, even a power nap can go a long way toward filling your energy tank—so go ahead and snooze without the guilt.

You might also like:

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.


I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

Keep reading Show less