Pregnant women who snore because of mild sleep-disordered breathing could do their unborn babies a favor by getting treated for their sleep condition, a small new study suggests.

The findings, published in the journal SLEEP, show that fetal movements are higher when a woman with preeclampsia and mild sleep-disordered breathing receives CPAP treatment for the sleep condition, compared with not receiving the treatment. Fetal movements are a positive sign of the fetus's well-being.

"What would otherwise have been considered clinically unimportant or minor 'snoring' likely has major effects on the blood supply to the fetus, and that fetus in turn protects itself by reducing movements," study researcher Colin Sullivan, Ph.D., of the University of Sydney, explained in a statement. "This can be treated with readily available positive airway pressure therapy and suggests that measurement of fetal activity during a mother's sleep may be an important and practical method of assessing fetal well-being."

The study was conducted in three parts. In the first part, researchers examined the fetal activity in 20 women who were in the third trimester of their pregnancies. In the second part, 20 pregnant women with preeclampsia (moderate to severe high blood pressure and urine protein during pregnancy) and 20 healthy pregnant women had their fetal movement monitored overnight. Researchers found in this second part that the healthy pregnant women had more fetal movements than the women with the preeclampsia -- 689 movements compared to 289.

The third part of the study included 10 women with moderate to severe preeclampsia, whose fetal movement was measured for two nights in a row. The first night, the women did not receive CPAP treatment; the second night, they did.

Researchers found that the women in the study who had mild sleep-disordered breathing and received the CPAP therapy had higher fetal movement than the women with the sleep condition who didn't receive the treatment.

The findings raise "the possibility that a simple, noninvasive therapy for SDB [sleep disordered breathing] may improve fetal well-being," commentary author Louise M. O'Brien, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan, said in a statement.

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  • Sleep Apnea Increases Risk Of Heart Attack

    The sleep disorder has a number of poor effects on the heart. "It's as if somebody's choking you, so your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up," Charles Czeisler, M.D., the Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School told <em>Health</em> magazine. "Over time, even your daytime blood pressure is higher." Sleep apnea may be responsible for a third of all cases of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/sleep-health_n_1310353.html">high blood pressure</a> in Americans, he told the magazine. A 2007 study showed just how serious these cardiovascular effects of sleep apnea are. The research found that people with sleep apnea were <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070520183533.htm">30 percent more likely to have a heart attack</a> or die of any cause over a four to five year period.

  • Sleep Apnea May Increase Depression Risk

    The under diagnosed sleep condition takes a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/30/sleep-apnea-depression-risk_n_1391707.html">serious toll on the mood</a>, according to March research from the CDC. In fact, men with sleep apnea were more than twice as likely and women more than five times as likely to feel hopeless, lose interest in their regular activites and display other signs of clinical depression, Health.com reported. Snoring did not seem to be associated with depression. Luckily, the very same <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/15/sleep-apnea-treatment-depression-cpap_n_1597703.html">treatment for sleep apnea may also ease depression</a>, according to Cleveland Clinic research.

  • Sleep Apnea May Be A Risk Factor For Diabetes

    There is a growing body of research supporting a link between the presence of sleep apnea and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/24/sleep-apnea-diabetes-type-2-_n_1539933.html">metabolic disorders like diabetes</a>, HuffPost reported in May. Both moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea were found to be predictors of the disease. A previous study found that people with sleep apnea had more than <a href="http://news.yale.edu/2007/05/24/sleep-apnea-increases-risk-heart-attack-and-diabetes">double the risk of developing diabetes</a>.

  • Sleep Apnea May Increase Cancer Risk

    Not only do people with sleep apnea have a <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/20/sleep-apnea-tied-to-increased-cancer-risk/">higher risk of developing cancer</a>, but they also have a higher risk of dying from the disease, the <em>New York Times</em> reported. Two studies in May examined this link. One found people with sleep apnea had a 65 percent higher change of developing any kind of cancer. The second found that disordered breathing contributed to a five-times higher rate of dying from the disease.

  • Sleep Apnea May Sap Your Libido

    Excessive sleepiness is certainly enough to kill the mood, but research suggests that sleep apnea in particular has an effect on sexual function in both men and women. It may <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/10/really-the-claim-sleep-apnea-causes-sexual-problems/">drive down sex hormones</a> like testosterone in a way that can extinguish the flame for women and cause erectile dysfunction in men, according to the <em>New York Times</em>. And while the typical treatment -- a CPAP machine -- is not exactly an aphrodisiac, Dr. Michael J. Breus writes, it can help not only with sleep apnea, but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/sleep-apnea_b_1661687.html">with the sexual side effects as well</a>.

  • Sleep Apnea May Increase Stroke Risk

    Researchers have long studied the link between the sleep disorder and the risk of stroke, but a small recent study found that 51 of 56 stroke patients evaluated -- or <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/sleep-apnea_b_1342311.html">91 percent of patients</a> -- had sleep apnea, Dr. Michael J. Breus wrote for HuffPost. More research is still needed to determine just what role disrupted breathing plays in this elevated risk.

  • Sleep Apnea Increases Accident Risk

    It's not rocket science -- excessive sleepiness during the day leads to sleepier drivers who are at a higher risk of crashing. But a 2008 study found that people with sleep apnea have double the risk of being in a car accident and are <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080218214401.htm">three to five times more likely to be in a serious crash</a>. The study was the first to examine the severity of car crashes among people with sleep apnea, and found that even mild disordered breathing was linked to increased risk.

  • Sleep Apnea Is Linked To Pregnancy Complications

    Granted, Perry doesn't have to worry about this particular concern. While sleep apnea is often perceived as a problem predominately for men, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/16/sleep-apnea-in-women-may-_n_1779127.html">women are not immune</a>. And, in fact, sleep apnea presents unique complications for women. A recent study found that women with sleep apnea were more likely to develop high blood pressure during their pregnancies, to require a C-section birth and their babies were more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/21/sleep-apnea-in-pregnancy-_n_1903534.html">likely to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit</a>.

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