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Home / Sleep News / Study: Dads' Drinking Before Pregnancy May Hurt Babies' Sleep

Study: Dads’ Drinking Before Pregnancy May Hurt Babies’ Sleep

Sarah Shoen

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Sarah Shoen, PR Specialist

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Father drinking beer

Fathers who drink alcohol in the months before pregnancy increase their children’s risk of sleep and behavioral problems, according to a new study.

In 2012, researchers in Shanghai asked pregnant mothers to report on their partners’ preconception drinking habits, including the frequency, type of alcohol, and size of drink in grams as well as glasses. Researchers focused on children whose fathers drank at least one drink of beer, liquor, wine, or rice wine per week in the three months before conception.

By age 6, 25% of children whose fathers drank weekly before conception had sleep problems, according to study results. Girls with fathers who reported high alcohol consumption also had a 47% increase of risk for sleep problems at age 4 compared . Researchers based this on a sample of 253 children.

The primary caregiver — in most cases, the mother — completed follow-up questionnaires when the child reached ages 2, 4, and 6 years old. Researchers also found an increase in anxious, depressed, and aggressive behavior among the children in the exposed group.

Researchers say this is the first study with evidence that fathers’ drinking has an impact on children’s sleep and behavioral health.

“Researchers did not specify a ‘safe’ amount of alcohol to consume before conceiving a child; the study showed that small amounts of alcohol increased children’s health risks.”

The results suggest that the months leading up to conception also “may be a critical window for offspring development,” researchers said.

These findings build upon previous studies showing the risks of alcohol and pregnancy. A fathers’ drinking habits before conception has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease in their children.

A mother’s alcohol use also increases risks of fetal alcohol syndrome. Even one alcoholic drink a night can decrease a woman’s sleep quality by 9.3%. One study found that a mother who drinks more than 22 alcoholic beverages a week in the months before conception was more likely to have a child with a lower IQ and attention-deficit orders, compared to future mothers who drank less.

Physicians say that sleep is an important component of pregnancy. Poor sleep quality can contribute to gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, and other conditions and can impact a baby’s development.

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Sarah Shoen

PR Specialist

Sarah has covered news topics for digital and print publications. She has a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nevada.

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