Sleep and Pregnancy

Pregnant Women Need Their Sleep

Sleep problems are very common in expectant mothers, even in those that have had no prior sleep problems before becoming pregnant. The National Sleep Foundation (www.sleepfoundation.org) published a poll called Women and Sleep, where 78% of women reported more sleep disturbances during pregnancy than other times. It is also very common that expectant mothers complain of excessive daytime sleepiness, especially in the first and third trimetesters.

Sleep Problems are Common

Hormonal changes may explain the daytime sleepiness. Increased levels of Progesterone hormone, especially in the first trimester. Hormone level changes can also have an effect on muscle tone which can lead to snoring and sleep apnea, as the muscles in the upper airway may become more collapsible.

Insomnia, due to anxieties over the labor and delivery may also be a common concern. The changes in their relationships with their partner and balancing work and motherhood can also heighten anxieties and lead to insomnia.

A number of sleep disorders can be attributed to pregnancy or even made worse by it.

  • Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
  • Snoring and Sleep Apnea
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Insomnia
  • Fragmented Sleep (multiple trips to the bathroom)

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is characterized by an uncomfortable sensation in the legs that is worse at night, and is often alleviated with movement. This has been linked to changes in iron levels during pregnancy and commonly goes away after the baby is born.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea often develops during pregnancy, commonly due to changes in hormone levels, which can effect muscle tone in the upper airway making it more collapsible. In addition, the weight gain that accompanies pregnancy can exacerbate snoring and sleep apnea, especially in women that are overweight. Sleep Apnea has been found to be associated with complications during pregnancy, such as hypertension and pre-eclampsia and even more daytime sleepiness which can significanty effect the labor and delivery. Pregnant women should discuss their sleep quality and sleep quantity with their doctors.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or heartburn is a very common complaint during pregnancy. Heartburn can lead to sleep disturbances and fragmented sleep.

10 Tips for Pregnant Moms

Below are 10 tips to improve sleep and sleep habits during pregnancy.

  1. It may help to sleep primarily on your left side, as this will help with blood flow to the uterus and fetus.
  2. Avoid lying flat on your back as this may put a strain on your lower back.
  3. Drink fluids throughout the day, but cut back towards bedtime. Water is good for everybody.
  4. Do not eat very spicy foods, fried foods, or acidic foods for dinner as this can lead to heartburn or GERD.
  5. If you have heartburn, or GERD, elevate your head with pillows.
  6. Prop pillows around you to support youself during sleep.
  7. Take a nap when you can, but not too long as that may interfere with your nighttime sleep.
  8. Relax before bedtime. Breathing techniques can be helpful and may prepare you for the delivery.
  9. Talk to your doctor about your sleep quality and sleep quantity.
  10. Share the load after the baby is born, especially during the night. This can improve on the mother’s health, performance, and vigilance.