Girl Sleeping New moms who wish to return to their pre-pregnancy weight really need to catch up on their sleep, besides exercising. A new study has found that a lack of sleep is associated with weight gain among mothers who have just delivered a baby.

This study was conducted by Kaiser Permanente and Harvard Medical School/Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. This study happens to be the first of its kind to look at the impact of sleep deprivation on post-partum weight retention.

The study shows that mothers who reported sleeping for five hours or less per day when their babies were just six months old, had a three-fold higher risk for weight retention (11 pounds or more) when their baby turned one, compared to mothers who slept seven hours a day.

Erica P. Gunderson, PhD, an investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland and the lead author of the study said, “We’ve known for some time that sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain and obesity in the general population, but this study shows that getting enough sleep- even just two hours more- may be as important as a healthy diet and exercise for new mothers to return to their pre-pregnancy weight.”

The study also found that mothers who slept fewer hours at one year postpartum than they did at six months postpartum had twice the risk of substantial weight retention.

For this study, the researchers observed 940 women whose median age was 33 years old, and were a mix of Caucasian, African American and Hispanic women. They were queried about their sleep habits and weight at the six-month and one-year postpartum assessments.

“A new baby’s first year at home is a hard adjustment for everyone. That’s why Kaiser Permanente has integrated our care for moms with our care for babies. We give moms tools and services to make it easier to juggle everything, and get back into shape: a pregnancy e-newsletter, newborn clubs, online health encyclopedia, online programs, podcasts, videos, weight and exercise programs, and discounts for gym memberships and Weight Watchers enrollment,” said Tracy Flanagan, MD, Director of Women’s Health, Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

“But the best advice of all for moms with new babies is ask for help, get support and take care of yourself,” Flanagan added.