The amount of sleep you get while you’re pregnant not only affects you and your baby but could impact your labour and delivery as well.
Lack of sleep during pregnancy has been tied to several complications, including preeclampsia (a severe condition that affects your blood pressure and kidneys).
This condition could result in premature birth. Therefore, now is the time to take sleep seriously.
One of the first symptoms you may notice is being overwhelmingly tired, even exhausted when you become pregnant.
Sleep will be irresistible to you. You can most likely blame your changing hormones for this, especially the extra progesterone that comes with being pregnant.
In the beginning, pregnancy also lowers your blood pressure and blood sugar, making you feel tired.
Shortly after the first trimester, your energy should return. Sometime during the third trimester, you’ll begin to feel tired again.
Some of this feeling can be blamed on the sheer physical exhaustion that comes from growing a baby and its stress on your body.
However, your weariness during this time directly relates to your inability to get a good night’s sleep.
Even if you’ve never had trouble sleeping before, you may find it much more difficult while you’re pregnant.
What Is Meant By Excessive Sleeping During Pregnancy?
What constitutes excessive is somewhat objective, and it also depends on your specific sleep needs and habits.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the amount of sleep necessary for good health varies by age.
Each day, between 7 and 9 hours of sleep is recommended at the age most women find themselves pregnant. (Genetics and sleep quality can affect these numbers, but this is an excellent general guideline for how much shut-eye is needed.)
If you find yourself routinely sleeping upwards of 9 to 10 hours straight and you’re getting good quality sleep, that might be a sign that you’re getting excessive sleep. However, if you’re up several times during the night or have disturbed sleep patterns, you may need to spend more time in bed resting than usual.
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Why Does Sleep Matter So Much?
Science has shown that sleep is necessary for all kinds of vital bodily functions and restoring energy and allowing the brain to process new information it has taken in while awake.
Without sufficient sleep, it’s impossible to think, react quickly, focus, and control emotions. A chronic lack of sleep can even lead to serious health problems.
What Makes You Feel So Sleepy During Pregnancy?
It’s common to feel more tired than usual during the first and third trimesters of your pregnancy.
In the first trimester, your blood volume and progesterone levels increase. This can leave you feeling pretty sleepy.
By the third trimester, carrying around the extra baby weight and emotional anxiety of impending labour can have you longing to spend some spare time in bed.
In addition to these hormonal and physiological changes, you may not be getting great quality sleep.
Pregnancy-related discomforts, as well as increased stress and anxiety levels, can also result in restless nights. This can leave you feeling more tired during the day or craving naps.
Are There Risks To Excessive Sleeping During Pregnancy?
One study has argued that there may be risks to excessive sleep in your third trimester.
In the study, women who slept for more than nine continuous hours without disturbance and routinely had a non-restless sleep in the last month of their pregnancy had a more remarkable instance of stillbirth.
Before you start setting alarms to wake you every few hours, it’s important to note that this study has been contested by scientists who feel that the longer, non-restless nights resulted from decreased fetal movement and not the cause of the stillbirths.
While you may not want to oversleep, it can be worth it to spend at least 8 hours in bed, as there are some potential benefits to getting sufficient sleep during the late stages of your pregnancy.
Are There Benefits To Sleep During Pregnancy?
One older study found that women who slept less than 6 hours at night toward the end of their pregnancy had longer labours and were 4.5 times more likely to have cesarean deliveries.
Furthermore, they found that women with severely disrupted sleep had longer labours and were 5.2 times more likely to have cesarean deliveries.
Also, animal research suggests that insufficient sleep during pregnancy may have long-term effects on offspring. So, if you’re waking up several times in the middle of the night, you might want to budget some extra evening or morning time in bed!
In addition to getting enough sleep, it’s essential to think about the quality of sleep you’re getting.
Research has indicated that the sleep-disordered breathing that can develop during pregnancy may be related to an increased risk of preeclampsia.
Finally, snoring, which is more common in pregnant women than non-pregnant women, has been linked to preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
What Problems Can Affect Sleep During Pregnancy Or Cause Excessive Sleeping?
There are many reasons why your sleep may look different during pregnancy. Some potential causes include:
During the first trimester, your blood pressure and blood sugar levels decrease, potentially leading to feelings of fatigue.
Increasing progesterone levels during this period can also lead you to want more sleep.
Restless Leg Syndrome:
Many pregnant women experience some unpleasant nights due to a need to move their legs. It might be triggered by rising estrogen levels or a lack of folic acid and iron.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (Gerd):
A muscular ring at the bottom of your esophagus opens to let food into your stomach. In women with GERD, this ring will stay loose and allow food and liquid back up into the throat.
Pregnancy can lead to GERD, as the extra pressure on the stomach can hinder the ring’s proper closure.
Especially in the first and third trimesters, you may find yourself spending lots of time in bed but not getting good sleep.
One reason for insomnia is pregnancy-related aches and pains. Heightened stress levels and anxiety around giving birth and caring for a child can also lead you to be up long past your regular bedtime.
Talk to your doctor right away if your breathing is restricted while sleeping.
One review found that some women develop sleep apnea during pregnancy, potentially due to hormonal and physiological changes.
While it may resolve after pregnancy, it can be linked to various other health concerns, so it’s essential to get this checked out!
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By the third trimester, you may find yourself waking up several times a night to use the bathroom.
Well, you can thank your growing baby for putting extra pressure on your bladder.
You can try to limit your fluid intake right before bedtime to help with this, but remember that you don’t want to become dehydrated!
Why Sleeping Can Be Difficult?
The first and most pressing reason behind sleep problems during pregnancy is the increasing size of the fetus, which can make it hard to find a comfortable sleeping position.
If you’ve always been a back or stomach sleeper, you might have trouble getting used to sleeping on your side (as doctors recommend). Also, shifting around in bed becomes more difficult as the pregnancy progresses and you get bigger.
Other common physical symptoms may interfere with sleep as well:
The Frequent Urge To Pee:
Your kidneys are working harder to filter the increased volume of blood moving through your body, and this filtering process creates more urine. And, as your baby grows and the uterus gets bigger, the pressure on your bladder increases. This means more trips to the bathroom, day and night. The number of nighttime trips may be more significant if your baby is mainly active at night.
Increased Heart Rate:
Your heart rate increases to pump more blood, and as more of your blood supply goes to the uterus, your heart works harder to send sufficient blood to the rest of your body.
Shortness Of Breath:
The increase of pregnancy hormones will cause you to breathe in more deeply. As a result, you might feel like you’re working harder to get air. Later on, breathing can feel more difficult as your enlarging uterus takes up more space, resulting in pressure against your diaphragm (the muscle just below your lungs).
Leg Cramps And Backaches:
The extra weight you’re carrying can contribute to pains in your legs or back. During pregnancy, the body also makes a hormone called relaxin, which helps prepare it for childbirth. One of the effects of relaxin is the loosening of ligaments throughout the body, making pregnant women less stable and more prone to injury, especially in their backs.
Heartburn And Constipation:
Many pregnant women have heartburn, which is when the stomach contents reflux back up into the esophagus. In addition, during pregnancy, the entire digestive system slows down, and food stays in the stomach and intestines more extended, which may cause heartburn or constipation.
These can both get worse later on in the pregnancy when the growing uterus presses on the stomach or the large intestine.
Your sleep problems might have other causes as well. For example, many pregnant women report that their dreams become more vivid than usual, even having nightmares.
Stress can interfere with sleep, too. Maybe you’re worried about your baby’s health, anxious about your abilities as a parent, or feeling nervous about the delivery itself. All of these feelings are normal, but they might keep you (and your partner) up at night.
Path To Improved Health
Sleep should never be seen as a luxury. On the contrary, it’s a necessity — especially when you’re pregnant.
According to the National Institutes of Health, women who are pregnant need a few more hours of sleep each night or should supplement nighttime sleep with naps during the day.
For many pregnant women, getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night becomes more difficult the farther along they are in their pregnancy. There are many physical and emotional obstacles to sleep in this stage. Anxiety about being a mom or about adding to your family can keep you awake. Fear of the unknown or about the delivery can cause insomnia. Plus, there is the getting up every few hours to go to the bathroom. It also can be challenging to find a comfortable position in bed, especially if you are a former stomach sleeper.
If any of the following keeps you awake at night, try these strategies to get a good night’s sleep.
Most pregnant women suffer from heartburn, a form of indigestion that feels like burning in their chest and throat at some point in their pregnancy.
Heartburn can wake you up in the middle of the night and ruin a good sleep. Minimize the chance for this by avoiding spicy foods. Also, cut down on rich foods for dinner.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Few things are more distracting than restless legs syndrome (RLS), especially when trying to go to sleep.
While you can’t take traditional RLS medicines when you are pregnant, you can try to reduce RLS feelings with a good prenatal vitamin that includes folate and iron.
Morning Sickness — At Bedtime
Despite the name, morning sickness can occur any time and is often worse later in the day.
Try eating a few crackers at bedtime and keep a stash in your nightstand in case a wave of nausea hits as you are trying to go to sleep.
There are many ways insomnia can creep in and compromise your sleep time. Often, it’s just about being able to shut down your brain.
Most medicines for insomnia should not be taken while you are pregnant. Instead, try journaling some of the things you are anxious about. Write down what is stressing you, and try to let it go as you go to sleep.
Also, stop drinking caffeine by early afternoon. Try not to take long naps during the day. Doing any — or all — of these things can help ease you back into sleep at a reasonable bedtime.
Not many things can wake you as quickly and painfully as a leg cramp.
Sometimes called a charley horse, these cramps are usually a contraction of your calf muscle. Less frequently, they can occur in your thigh or your foot.
These can plague you in pregnancy because of a lack of minerals, especially calcium and magnesium.
They also are more common if you are dehydrated. To guard against leg cramps, make sure that you continue to take your prenatal vitamins and drink plenty of water and other fluids during the day.
Tips For Sleeping Success
Although they might seem appealing when you’re feeling desperate to get some ZZZs, remember that over-the-counter sleep aids, including herbal remedies, are not recommended for pregnant women.
Instead, these tips may safely improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep:
Finding A Comfortable Position
Sleep becomes a little harder to come by as your body grows, especially in the third trimester.
It’s challenging to get comfortable. It’s harder to move around and shift positions in bed. Also, if you’ve been a stomach or back sleeper, it can be hard to adjust to sleeping on your side.
The best position to sleep in when you’re pregnant is on your left side. This improves blood flow and, therefore, nutrient flow to your baby.
Try lying on your left side; knees bent with a pillow between your knees. It also helps to tuck a pillow under your stomach, as well, for extra support.
Consider Using A Pregnancy Pillow.
If you’re usually a back sleeper or just simply unable to get into a position that feels right, a pregnancy pillow can help you feel supported and comfortable while you sleep.
Address Underlying Problems.
Are you feeling stressed or anxious about giving birth? Is there something else on your mind keeping you awake? Addressing any issues that are keeping your mind racing can help you get a better night’s sleep!
One of the potential benefits of exercise is improved sleep. Plus, regular exercise can give you more energy to complete your daytime activities and help your body stay vital for the work ahead of birthing your baby!
Get A Massage.
Touch can be very soothing and beneficial to sleep! It can also relieve some of the aches and pains associated with pregnancy and improve your mood.
Establish Good Sleep Habits.
Sleep routines (going to sleep at established times after predictable patterns of behaviour) can help set the mood for a night of good quality sleep.
Create The Ideal Sleeping Space.
You may want to consider keeping electronics outside of the bedroom, investing in a new mattress, making sure that you have a clean room, or even adjusting the thermostat to the perfect temperature before you fall asleep.
Things To Consider
Sleep is essential to health. Lack of sleep is associated with many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression, and even heart disease.
If you’re pregnant, not getting an adequate amount of sleep can put you at risk for some severe conditions. Lack of sleep can also complicate your delivery.
In one research study, pregnant women who slept less than six hours late in pregnancy had longer labours and were more likely to have cesarean deliveries.
Another study reports that the sleep you get in your first trimester can affect your health in the third trimester.
Women who don’t get enough sleep (less than five hours per night) in the first trimester are nearly ten times more likely to develop preeclampsia late in pregnancy.
Preeclampsia is a condition associated with pregnancy-related high blood pressure, swelling of hands and feet, and protein in the urine.
If you’ve ever had a sleep disorder, it could be made worse by pregnancy. For example, if you’ve had sleep apnea in the past, your snoring may get worse during pregnancy.
This is especially true if you were already overweight when you became pregnant. Expect that RLS will worsen during this time. Heartburn will intensify, too.
When To See A Doctor
If insomnia, sleep apnea, or any other condition interferes with your sleep, tell your doctor. Lack of sleep during pregnancy has been linked to high blood pressure (hypertension), preeclampsia, preterm birth, and other pregnancy-related complications.
Many times, there are no symptoms that alert you when your blood pressure is elevated.
Your doctor will check your blood pressure at your prenatal visits, but contact your doctor if you have a severe headache or swelling of your hands, ankles, and feet.
Symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- Severe headache.
- Changes in vision, including blurred vision.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Not urinating as frequently.
- Shortness of breath.
- Pain in your upper abdomen on the right side.
If you’re feeling fatigued during your pregnancy, you’re not alone! Feeling exhausted is a common pregnancy symptom, particularly at the beginning and end of your pregnancy.
However, if you always feel like you’re getting poor sleep or are finding yourself needing to sleep at all hours of the day, it may be time to speak with your doctor. They can make sure that no underlying medical conditions are causing this!
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