For most women, pregnancy is a time of great happiness, joy, and anticipation. Although this period is filled with great excitement and bliss, for some women this period is the opposite. Unfortunately, for many pregnancies can be a time of serious sleep disturbance. This is common even for women who never had problems sleeping.
Many women report feeling tired during pregnancy, especially during the first and third trimesters. So, when you think about all emotional and physical demands of pregnancy and even the prevalence of sleep disorders among pregnant women, it’s no wonder that mothers-to-be become so tired.
Pregnancy And Sleep
Women go through many changes during pregnancy, and the outcome of those changes is seen in sleep disorders during pregnancy. Tiredness is a very common in pregnancy and almost every woman experience it in some form. One of the reasons for sleep problems and strong fatigue during pregnancy is changing hormone levels.
For example, the rising level of progesterone levels may, at a certain level, explain excessive daytime sleepiness. This is especially relevant in the first trimester. Hormonal changes have a strong influence on muscles, which may result in snoring and sleep apnea in women that are obese. Each condition may lead to sleep disturbance or even frequent trips to the bathroom during the night.
These interruptions may not be strong, but they can be often and they can easily lead to other pregnancy-related discomforts that can result in significant loss of sleep.
Many women experience insomnia due to anxiety and emotions about labor and delivery, balancing motherhood and work, or even a relationship with their partner. This is especially true for women who are first-time mothers. For most women, getting a full night’s sleep is even harder once the baby is born. Therefore it’s crucial for pregnant women to prioritize sleep and to find effective strategies for managing their sleep problems.
The best time to prioritize sleep in pregnancy is in early pregnancy, or as early as possible.
How Much Sleep Do I Need When I Am Pregnant?
When you are pregnant, you can’t expect to have the same sleep as you did before you were blessed with this condition. Simply said, you have to sleep for two now. It means that you will need a lot more sleep and, unfortunately, you will wake more often throughout the night. You will need more sleep than usual – actually, you will need as much as you can get. Easier said than done.
Getting more sleep isn’t always easy, especially if you have more different areas that you have to balance, such as partner’s needs, children (in case you are not a first-time mother), work, or any other responsibilities. If you can it would be great if you could create your sleeping habits, so you get to go to bed earlier than usual and even have a daytime nap. It can help if you:
- Rest as much as possible during the day
- Go for a walk in the late afternoon
- Go for a walk in early morning
- Avoid tea (if you can’t try to opt for tea that promotes sleep)
- Relax before bed by taking a bath, reading, or having a nice and long backrub
It helps to know also how much sleep do you need based on your age and what can affect your sleep on your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd trimester.
Sleep During The 1st Trimester
During this period the biggest issue is tiredness. In addition, you can expect the need to pass urine more often, which will disturb your sleep significantly. It’s normal, during pregnancy, to go to the toilet more often. However, if you start feeling pain or it hurts to pass urine, talk to your doctor.
Sleep During The 2nd Trimester
New trimester comes with new challenges and many women start feeling changes and challenges in the respiratory system. You can expect to get a blocked nose and even feel stuffed up due to additional hormonal changes. During this period nasal sprays can do wonders. Some women even have leg cramps, although the reason behind this is not known. Luckily, there are several things that you can do, such as stretching your calf muscles or being active during the day. Water is always a good idea, so drinking plenty of fluids may ease cramps significantly.
Good to know: Some women reported that during this period they dream often and often have nightmares.
Sleep During The 3rd Trimester
During this period you should start creating the habit of sleeping on your side. Actually, you should sleep on your side. Experts disagree on whether you should sleep on your right on your left side, so you can sleep on the side where you feel most comfortable with.
Quick tip: If you need to feel more comfortable during your sleep, you can bend your knees and put a pillow between them. For additional support, you can put a pillow under your belly.
You should avoid sleeping on your back because you can reduce the amount of blood and oxygen going to your baby. So, if you wake and you’ he been asleep on your back, turn onto your side. If it happens a lot, put a pillow behind your back so rolling over onto your back is more difficult.
How you sleep and how much in this period can affect your overall health in years to come. Moreover, although you can expect disturbance in your sleep during the entire pregnancy, you could have the most troubles getting enough deep and uninterrupted sleep later in pregnancy.
Why Sleeping Can Be Difficult In Pregnancy?
The most pressing reason behind sleep problems during pregnancy is the increasing size of the fetus, which primarily can make it hard to find a comfortable sleeping position. This is more challenging if you have a habit of sleeping on your back or stomach – you will have trouble getting used to sleeping on your side. Also, moving around in bed becomes more difficult as the pregnancy progresses and you get bigger.
With all this in your mind you can expect to experience the following symptoms that will interfere with your sleep:
- Nocturia or the constant urge to pee: in pregnancy, your filters are working harder to filet the increased volume of blood moving through your body. This process creates more urine. Also, as the baby gets bigger, the pressure on your bladder will increase. What does this mean? This means that you will experience more trips to the bathroom, night and day. If your baby is more active during the night, you will have often visits the bathroom at night.
- Heart racing or increased heart rate: your heart will increase to pump more blood, and as more of your blood supply goes to the uterus, your heart will work harder to send sufficient blood to the rest of your body.
- Absence of breath: pregnancy hormones will increase and will cause you to breathe in more deeply. You can even feel as if you are working harder to get air. Later in pregnancy, breathing can feel more difficult as your uterus takes up more space and pressuring your diaphragm.
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS) or leg cramps and backaches: all the extra weight that you are carrying can contribute to pain in your back or legs. During pregnancy, your body will make relaxin. This hormone, Relaxin, has one role – to prepare you for childbirth. One of the effects of relaxin is the loosening of ligaments throughout the body, making women less stable. You can expect to be more prone to injuries, especially in their backs.
- Insomnia: it’s not strange for pregnant women to experience insomnia due to stress or even anxiety about labor, delivery or any other aspect pregnancy-oriented. Symptoms of insomnia include difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early or unrefreshed.
Also, some women can experience nausea, back pain, heartburn or even constipation.
Pregnancy And Sleep Problems: Treatment
Overall, treatment for sleep problems during pregnancy is always complicated. Since you are pregnant it means that what might help you might harm the fetus and vice versa. Therefore, you need to be careful with every drug therapy and not to take any over-the-counter medications without the doctor’s approval.
For example, the majority of drugs used to treat insomnia carry some risk and are not recommended for women who are nursing or are pregnant. Luckily, by practicing good sleep hygiene, most women can manage pregnancy-related insomnia.
Besides, the majority of drugs for RLS pose risks to a developing fetus. The biggest risk for developing RLS during pregnancy have those women with low levels of dietary folate or iron. This is something that you should think about before getting pregnant and get prenatal vitamins.
Obese or overweight women or even who gain excessive weight during pregnancy are always evaluated for sleep apnea. Luckily, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a safe and effective treatment for sleep apnea during pregnancy.
Also, Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) can be treated with over-the-counter antacids. Unfortunately, there are no over-the-counter antacids for women who experience frequent nighttime urination.
But, the good news here is that most of the sleep problems during the pregnancy are that they go away once the baby is born. Still, women should pay close attention to their sleep after they give birth. This is more a step of a precosion, as new sleep problems may arise.
Tips For Sleeping Success In Pregnancy
Paik killers and medicine for sleep disturbance may sound like a great instant solution, but you should never slip from your mind that in pregnancy there is always two of you. Therefore you need to think about needs both of you. So, over-the-counter sleep aids, even herbal remedies, are not recommended for pregnant women.
Instead, these tips may improve your chances of getting a good night sleep:
- Cut the drinks: cut out caffeinated drinks like coffee, soda, and even tea from your diet as much as possible if not entirely. If you just need those drinks, then restrict intake of them to the early afternoon or the morning.
- Watch what you drink before bedtime: avoid drinking a lot of fluids or even eating a full and heavy meal before you go to bed. Some women find it helpful to eat more at breakfast and lunch and then have a smaller dinner. If you are experiencing nausea before you go to bed, you can eat a few crackers before you go to bed.
- Have a sleep routine: having a routine will help your overall quality of sleep. Moreover, you will go to bed more satisfied, with the feeling that you achieved more, and most importantly you will go to bed at the same time. You should be waking up at the same time as well.
- Avoid heavy workout before your bed: don’t practice rigorous exercise before you go to bed. Instead, practice something light and relaxing, like reading a book or having a warm, caffeine-free drink, such as a cup of herbal tea.
- Learn relaxation techniques: take a yoga class or learn concrete relaxation techniques to help you unwind after an intense day. Make sure that you talk about any new activity with your doctor first.
Also, don’t forget to keep on learning and educating yourself. So, if a fear about labor or deliver keeps you awake at night and you can’t sleep, consider enrolling in a parenting class or a childbirth class. The more knowledge you have the safer and confident you will feel.
Sleeping In Pregnancy – Summary
Pregnancy is such an important period in women’s life. This is also the time when you need to balance all thing that you have in your life and different areas, so you can be rested for both of you (in case you are carrying only one child). So, the pregnancy is the period when you need a good night sleep more than ever, but it’s also the period when getting a good night’s sleep is harder than ever.
Think about sleep position and early preparation, as soon as you learn about your pregnancy, and arm yourself with proper supplements ad significant vitamins. Also, sleep on the side and create a good sleep routine that you will follow every day for good sleep.