When you are pregnant, you tend to sleep more but not as deeply. Many pregnant women experience poor quality sleep and wake up frequently throughout the night.
Even if you are getting enough sleep, you may feel more fatigued throughout your pregnancy. While this is normal and nothing to be concerned about, you may need to rest more to compensate for the lack of sleep.
What causes sleep problems during pregnancy?
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause mood swings and can drain a lot of your energy, especially in the early stages. As your pregnancy advances, your body is working constantly to nourish and care for your growing baby, which can make sleeping even more difficult. Sleep may be especially difficult during the third trimester.
The amount of deep, non-REM sleep you get decreases, whereas the amount of REM sleep increases. REM is a form of sleep in which you are more aware of your surroundings and can easily awaken. Although there is no clear physiological reason for this transformation, it does prepare you for the harsh reality of motherhood.
10 possible causes of insomnia during pregnancy
- Frequent trips to the bathroom: Your kidneys are working overtime to filter the additional blood that your body is producing, and as a result, you excrete more urine. In addition, as your baby grows, the pressure on your bladder increases. This means that there you may need to take more trips to the restroom during the night.
- Heartburn: Heartburn is a relatively common pregnancy symptom. Between 30%-50% of pregnant women experience persistent heartburn, which is most severe in the third trimester.
- Breathing problems: As your pregnancy advances, shortness of breath may become an issue. Your growing baby puts greater pressure on your diaphragm, making it more difficult for you to take deep breaths. Shortness of breath can make it difficult to sleep deeply.
- Snoring: Snoring that begins during pregnancy is often caused by fluctuating hormone levels that change muscle performance. While occasional snoring is typically no cause for concern, frequent snoring can sometimes be a sign of high blood pressure or other health problems that require medical treatment.
- Sleep apnea: If your snoring is accompanied by frequent pauses between breaths followed by gasping or choking sounds, you may have sleep apnea. Breathing pauses become more common or obvious for some women during pregnancy. This can not only disrupt your sleep but may also indicate gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. Therefore, if you detect any changes in your snoring at night, notify your doctor.
- Restless leg syndrome: During pregnancy, 1 in every 4 women experiences restless leg syndrome, which occurs when leg pain worsens at night and can only be eased by moving their legs. Unfortunately, moving your legs only provides temporary relief from discomfort. If you have leg movements that are severe enough to disrupt your sleep, you should consult your doctor.
- Discomfort: Leg cramps, itchy skin, and swollen breasts especially during your third trimester can make sleeping while pregnant difficult. Cramping may be linked to a lack of calcium and potassium, so eat more fruits and vegetables and limit your intake of carbonated drinks.
- Baby kicks: Just because you’re sleeping doesn’t mean your baby is. When you sleep, your baby may start to stretch or move around, which can cause you to wake up.
- Stress or anxiety: If you are worried about labor, childbirth, or life after your baby arrives, you may have trouble falling or staying asleep. Try discussing your concerns with your partner or a friend, which can help you relieve some of the natural anxiety surrounding motherhood. However, if you notice persistent signs of anxiety or depression, talk to your doctor.
- Dreams: During pregnancy, your dreams may be more intense, vivid, or distressing, causing you to wake up frequently throughout the night.
How to improve sleep quality during pregnancy
Most expectant mothers require more sleep than usual and should strive to improve the quality of their sleep in order to take care of their own health as well as the health of their growing baby. Tips to improve sleep quality during pregnancy include the following:
- Elevating your head or propping yourself up on pillows can help relieve indigestion. You can also take small doses of antacids to relieve heartburn.
- Some obstetricians advise pregnant women to sleep on their sides during the final months of pregnancy, as this can alleviate discomfort and promote the baby’s growth.
- Make sure you have a good mattress and pillow that support your neck and spine.
- Avoid heavy meals before going to bed. If your morning sickness is keeping you up at night, try eating a few dry crackers.
- Make a sleep schedule and practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning.
- Go to bed a little earlier than usual to get a few additional hours of sleep every night.
- Consider taking a nap during the day. However, try to nap earlier in the day to avoid disturbing your sleep at night.
- To limit the number of trips to the bathroom throughout the night, go to the toilet just before bed and avoid drinking too much in the evening.
- Reduce your intake of tea, coffee, and other caffeinated drinks.
- Stretching your calves can help reduce restless leg syndrome symptoms.
- Consult your doctor if you snore loudly or stop breathing during sleep, as you may need a sleep study to determine whether you have sleep apnea.
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Sleep During Pregnancy: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12149-sleep-during-pregnancy
Sleep During Pregnancy: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sleep-during-pregnancy.html
Insomnia during pregnancy: Diagnosis and Rational Interventions: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5017073/
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