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Can Sleep Disruptions Lead to Recurrent Miscarriages?

Katlyn Joy |17, April 2015


We know being healthy increases our odds of a successful pregnancy. This means having a lifestyle that includes eating right, exercising regularly and getting a good night's sleep. But if you are a shift worker, or have sleeping issues that disrupt your body clock, you may have trouble carrying a baby to term successfully.

A new study published in the April Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology or FASEB reveals how a woman's uterus has its own body clock that must be synched up with her overall body clock in order for a pregnancy to survive.

Jan Brosens, MD, a researcher from the Division of Translational and Systems Medicine and Reproductive Health at Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick in Coventry, United Kingdom, states, "Infertility affects one in six couples across the world.

Miscarriage is the most common complication of pregnancy. Approximately one in seven clinical pregnancies resulted in miscarriage, mostly prior to 12 weeks of pregnancy. It is estimated that 5% of women experience two clinical miscarriages and approximately 1% have three or more losses. From a medical perspective, recurrent miscarriages and implantation failure have remained frustratingly devoid of effective therapeutic strategies."

According to the researchers, chromosomal problems account for half of all miscarriages. However, in an embryo with normal chromosomal development, the risk of miscarriage in future pregnancy rises with each subsequent miscarriage. Additionally, the likelihood of future pregnancy success decreases. The conclusion is that with each miscarriage, the reason of a maternal factor being the cause increases with each pregnancy loss.

For the study, researchers obtained cell samples via biopsy from the wombs of 70 women who had suffered repeated miscarriages. The cells were purified and then treated to simulate pregnancy. When embryonic and body clocks did not synchronize properly, consequences were possibly dire. These mismatched clocks could result in pregnancy loss and infertility. However, this mismatch could also cause complications in pregnancy such as preeclampsia, premature birth and restricted growth of the fetus when more subtle synchronization problems occurred.

This information is particularly helpful to the population of women who work night shifts or do shift work where their schedules are fluctuating. There is a known link between shift work and reproductive maladies.

The importance of these findings from this new study is that women may be treated proactively by targeting bio-rhythms in the womb, to improve the uterine environment for growing embryos.

"We believe our study has huge implications in the understanding of the body clock genes and their effect on female fertility. We hope that it will increase worldwide knowledge about possible reasons for infertility and recurrent miscarriages, so that we are able to help families achieve their dream of having children," says consulting obstetrician Professor Siobhan Quenby.

In the July 2014 online issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility, researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, published a study linking night time exposure to light to infertility.

Russel J. Reiter, a professor of cellular biology at the university states, "Every time you turn on the light at night, this turns down the production of melatonin."

This is key as the hormone melatonin has antioxidant properties that protect eggs from oxidative stress and free radicals, particularly important during ovulation.

Reiter adds, "If women are trying to get pregnant, maintain at least eight hours of a dark period at night.The light-dark cycle should be regular from one day to the next; otherwise, a woman's biological clock is confused."

To reset a body clock, follow these tips:

  • Maintain a regular and strict sleep schedule. You may need to gradually alter your schedule until you arrive at the desired one.
  • Do not nap.
  • Despite your fatigue at the start, do not sleep in.
  • Avoid bright light near bedtime and keep your bedtime hours dark.
  • Consider bright light therapy, where under a doctor's supervision, the timing, intensity, and duration of light will be determined specifically for your needs.
  • Try melatonin, also under a doctor's care.
  • Keep bedtime calm, by avoiding exercise, caffeine or other stimulants near sleep times.
  • Maintain a relaxed bedroom, that is conducive to sleep with comfy environment, temperature and low lighting.

Related Articles

Can Recurrent Miscarriages Be Prevented?

How to Cope With a Pregnancy Loss

Signs & Symptoms of Having a Miscarriage

Pregnancy Loss: Don’t Suffer in Silence


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