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Behav Sleep Med. 2016 Oct 14:1-14. doi: 10.1080/15402002.2016.1228649. [Epub ahead of print]

Exercise During Early Pregnancy is Associated With Greater Sleep Continuity.

Author information

a Department of Psychology , University of Pittsburgh , Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania.
b Department of Statistics , University of Pittsburgh , Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania.
c Department of Health and Physical Activity, University of Pittsburgh , Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania.
d Biofrontiers Institute , University of Colorado , Colorado Springs , Colorado.



Pregnant women report disturbed sleep beginning in early pregnancy. Among nonpregnant populations, exercise has been associated with improved sleep; however, research in pregnant samples has been equivocal. We examined whether varying degrees of exercise were associated with better nocturnal sleep among pregnant women during early gestation.


172 pregnant women.


Self-reported sleep and exercise and objective sleep were collected during early gestation: T1 (10-12 weeks), T2 (14-16 weeks), and T3 (18-20 weeks) from 172 pregnant women. Exercise was categorized into three time-varying groups: 0 metabolic equivalent minutes per week (MET-min/week), 1 to < 500 MET-min/week, or ≥ 500 MET-min/week. Linear mixed-effects models were employed to test hypotheses.


A significant main effect for Time (F[2,254] = 9.77, p < 0.0001) and Time*Exercise group interaction were observed for actigraphic sleep efficiency (aSE) (F[4,569] = 2.73, p = 0.0285). At T2, women who reported ≥ 500 MET-min/week had higher aSE than those who reported 0 MET-min/week. Significant main effects for Exercise Group and Time were observed for actigraphic wake after sleep onset (aWASO; F[2,694] = 3.04, p = 0.0483 and F[2,260] = 3.21, p = 0.0419). aWASO was lowest for those reporting 1 to < 500 MET-min/week (t[701] = 2.35, adjusted p = .0489) and aWASO decreased from T1 to T3 (t[258] = 2.53, adjusted p value = 0.036). Lastly, there was a main effect for Time for the PSQI (F[2,689] = 52.11, p < 0.0001), indicating that sleep quality improved over time.


Some level of exercise among pregnant women appears to be more advantageous than no exercise at all. Moderate exercise, while still unclearly defined, may be a worthwhile adjunct treatment to combat sleep disturbances during pregnancy.

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