When it comes to the sleep habits of new families, most people think of the sleep deprivation that’s commonly experienced once a new baby is brought into the world.
What many don’t realize is that pregnancy can lead to a good many sleep challenges for an expectant mother.
The first trimester brings quick changes, including increases in the hormone progesterone in the bloodstream.
This particular change alone can lead to a variety of sleep changes: swelling of tissues can cause sleep apnea, for instance, energy levels can lead to unwanted daytime sleepiness, food cravings might interrupt nighttime sleep, racing thoughts may lead to insomnia, and more.
If you're pregnant and experiencing sleep troubles, don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about solutions. Your body and your unborn baby need you to get the most, best sleep possible at this important time in your life.
WHAT TO EXPECT: SLEEP DURING PREGNANCY
Generally speaking, expectant mothers can expect the following experiences, common to pregnancy, to have some kind of impact on their overall sleep throughout their entire pregnancy.
The uncertainties of pregnancy, when added to the day’s list of other worries, can take a toll on sleep, leading to insomnia.
Some women have immense cravings and feel like they cannot eat enough. These feelings don’t just happen during mealtimes, either; sometimes hunger pangs can wake up the soundest sleepers when they are pregnant. Or, food aversions may lead to problems with going to bed hungry but having no interest in eating.
Your body overall will swell as it holds more fluids, and that can lead to stuffy noses that can make it difficult to breathe comfortably at night.
Levels of fatigue may swing high or low depending upon the pregnancy. Also, one’s ability to exercise can be interrupted by many of these other symptoms. Exercise can help tremendously with a good night’s sleep, but if it’s done too close to bedtime, it can leave stress hormones at too high a level to promote an easy transition to sleep.
The uterus and the bladder will have many battles over real estate across the entirety of pregnancy as pressure from the uterus will place more voiding demands on the bladder. This can mean lots of nocturnal awakenings to use the bathroom.
The processes that define pregnancy are complex; so many different organs and tissues are undergoing transformation more or less at the same time. Your body, no doubt, will feel different and, sometimes, downright uncomfortable. Sleeping may be an uncomfortable experience as the body shape changes, weight distribution falls out of normal balance and joints and connective tissues try to keep everything in place.
Heartburn and indigestion
This is a common side effect of pregnancy and can lead to reflux disease at night, which can keep many pregnant women up late (especially if they are having nighttime food cravings).
Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure may not be something you notice, but it's something your doctor will check with each exam during your pregnancy. A combination of urinalysis and blood pressure monitoring is routinely done to identify PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension), a potential sign of the pregnancy-related condition known as preeclampsia.
There are multiple reasons why pregnant women, who are tired all the day, end up suffering with sleeplessness as well. Blame it on body chemistry and changes in mood, but don’t rule out other possibilities, like sleep apnea or restless legs.
Again, this is a chemistry imbalance; the body needs its electrolytes and when it doesn’t get them in full balance, the legs are often the first place to reveal this problem. Nighttime charleyhorses can result; they are no fun during the day, and at night, they can be tenfold worse because they disrupt your sleep.
If you are taking any medications while pregnant, make sure it is safe to do so. And keep in mind that medications are essentially chemistry. You add chemistry to your body chemistry every time you take a drug; at nighttime, this can lead to problems with insomnia when chemistry collides.
Some women experiences runs of nausea that blunt their appetite; unfortunately, morning sickness doesn’t always wait until morning.
This could have been a “thing” before pregnancy, or it could happen while being pregnant. There are multiple causes for these and they should be identified and treated whenever possible. One cause among pregnant women is anemia; the twitching and discomfort can make it very difficult to fall asleep.
More general edema in the body means plumper tissues and more opportunities to interfere with the upper airway. Swollen areas around the feet during the day can become swollen areas around the neck at the end of the day when the pregnant woman lies down to sleep, as fluids are redistributed. This can lead to sleep breathing disorders like Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Both conditions are easy and necessary to treat for the best health of both mother and baby.
Just as with sleep apnea, the added fluids that build up in the body can create resistance in the upper airway. Add to this any congestion issues in the nasal passages and the odds of becoming a first-time-ever snorer are pretty good
Dreams are a product of REM activity. With all the other changes in the body, it’s not surprising to learn that the brain is also adjusting, redirecting focus, learning, processing anxiety, consolidating new information as memories. Pregnancy is a heightened state; it makes sense that crazy dreams would follow.