Pregnancy drinking ‘may cause sleep problems’


Many people complain of insomnia and experts carrying out a study in the US have found that exposure to alcohol in the womb may make it more difficult to enjoy deep sleep in adulthood.

“We have known for a long time that sleep fragmentation is associated with impaired cognitive function, attention and emotional regulation,” researcher Professor Donald Wilson said. “Our study shows for the first time that binge alcohol exposure early in life results in long-lasting slow-wave sleep fragmentation, which, in turn, is associated with learning problems.”

In the study conducted by New York University researchers, as reported by the journal Neuroscience, adult mice were injected with a single dose of pure alcohol a week after birth and their behaviour was studied. This amount of alcohol was equivalent to a woman bingeing during the last three months of pregnancy. The mice enjoyed less slow-wave sleep – the type of slumber which helps to restore the body and makes long-lasting memories. These mice were also more likely to suffer from memory problems and were prone to hyperactivity.

In addition the less slow-wave sleep the mice had, the worse their memory issues became. Researchers believe the data from the study on mice could be relevant to humans too, as alcohol binges during pregnancy might affect the development of foetal brain regions which regulate sleep.

It has been claimed that as many as 1 in 100 people could be suffering from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which is caused by exposure to alcohol in the womb. Symptoms of the disorder include short-term memory issues as well as learning difficulties and hyperactivity.

Many experts warn against drinking during pregnancy, with alcohol currently linked to an increased risk of birth defects, still births and miscarriages.

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