A second-year Nutrition, Exercise and Health Student from the School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences at the University of Plymouth, has won a competitive summer studentship worth £2,500 from the Nutrition Society to address the question – could sleep and its relationship with other lifestyle factors affect weight gain in pregnancy?

Rachel Hine has received the funding which will enable her to work with researcher Kathy Redfern on an eight-week project investigating the potential interplay between sleep and weight gain in pregnancy. Rachel will use data from Kathy’s study which examines the timing and composition of weight gain during pregnancy alongside diet, physical activity and infant growth and development.

The study has recruited 75 women with a BMI of more than 30 from the Antenatal Clinical at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust. They were recruited at their 12-week scans and followed for the rest of their pregnancy.

The potential relationship between sleep and weight gain in pregnancy has been newly-identified. A recent study suggests a relationship between sleep duration, disruption and weight gain in late pregnancy, while another suggests a link between sleep and glucose metabolism during pregnancy.

The dataset from Kathy’s study will provide Rachel with a unique opportunity to examine sleep patterns alongside other maternal lifestyle factors and pregnancy characteristics.

As part of the award Rachel will present her findings at the Nutrition Society Student Conference in Reading in September. It is also hoped that Rachel’s work will contribute to a scientific publication.

As well as being overseen by Kathy, Rachel will also be supervised by Dr Gail Rees and Professor Jonathan Pinkney in collaboration with Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust.

Speaking of her award Rachel said: 

“I am grateful to the Nutrition Society for this funding and to Kathy, Gail and Jonathan for their support and mentoring. A better understanding of the role of sleep and its relationship with a variety of lifestyle factors in pregnancy will help to identify more evidence which in turn could be useful for mothers by helping to inform the design of lifestyle interventions and advice given in pregnancy.”