Open Access Open Badges Research article

A postal survey of maternal sleep in late pregnancy

B Lynne Hutchison1*, Peter R Stone2, Lesley ME McCowan2, Alistair W Stewart3, John MD Thompson1 and Edwin A Mitchell1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Paediatrics, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

3 School of Population Health, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2012, 12:144  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-144

Published: 10 December 2012



Sleep disturbances in late pregnancy are common. This study aimed to survey sleep problems in third trimester pregnant women and to compare sleep in the pre-pregnancy period with the third trimester.


Third-trimester women (n=650) were sent a postal survey containing questions relating to sleep experience, including perceived sleep quality, sleep difficulties, night waking, sleep environment, snoring, daytime tiredness and daytime napping. Time periods reported on were before pregnancy and in the last week.


Respondents numbered 244 (38%). Before pregnancy, the mean reported duration of night-time sleep was 8.1 (SD 1.1) hours; in the last week this had decreased to 7.5 (SD 1.8) hours (p<.0001). Only 29% rated their sleep quality in the last week as very good or fairly good, compared with 82% rating their sleep this way before the pregnancy. The main reasons for sleeping difficulties were discomfort (67%) and pain (36%). Snoring increased significantly over the course of the pregnancy, with 37% reporting snoring often or every night in the last week. Those with a pre-pregnancy body mass index of greater than 25 were significantly more likely to snore (p=.01). Only 4% of women had an abnormal Epworth Sleepiness Scale score (i.e. >10) prior to pregnancy, whereas in the last week 33% scored in the abnormal range. Likewise, 5% had regularly napped during the daytime before pregnancy, compared with 41% in the last week.


Sleep problems are common in women in late pregnancy, and increase markedly compared with before pregnancy.

Pregnancy; Sleep disturbances; Sleep quality; Snoring; Daytime sleepiness