sleep problems during pregnancy

Restless Nights Answers to Common Sleep Concerns during Pregnancy

Everything you need to learn about sleep problems during pregnancy. Read our article to learn the symptoms, causes and solutions of sleep disorders during pregnancy.

It’s after midnight, an hour past your scheduled bedtime, and you’re still fighting to find a comfortable position to sleep. If the backaches weren’t enough, the pain of heartburn has also set in. If you could just get to sleep … Then again, after you finally doze off, it will probably be only a few hours before you’ll have to roll out of bed for your first of many nighttime trips to the bathroom.

The nine months of pregnancy are full of physical changes that affect every aspect of your daily life. And the changes aren’t just reserved for the waking hours. Sleep profoundly changes during pregnancy. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s “Women and Sleep” poll, almost 80 percent of pregnant women surveyed complained of sleep problems during pregnancy.

Here we answer 10 of the most common sleep-related questions. You might not be able to sleep like a baby, but with help, you might sleep a little easier.

The most important thing you should do for sleep problems during pregnancy is of course to consult a specialist first.

  1. I’m tired of always having to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Is there anything I can do to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep?

“Going to the bathroom seems to be the No. 1 complaint of pregnant women related to sleep,” says Dr. Meir Kryger, author of A Woman’s Guide to Sleep Disorders and past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

In the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, frequent urination is usually caused by increased progesterone (the pregnancy hormone) in the body. By the third trimester, the expanded uterus limits the amount of fluid the bladder can hold, which equals more trips to the bathroom.

Dr. Kryger suggests not drinking a lot of fluids before bedtime, but he also cautions women to make sure they stay hydrated during the rest of the day. “Drinking water is very important to the health of both mother and baby, so don’t try to limit your intake of fluids,” he says. “However, if a woman is going to the bathroom an awful lot of times both day and night, then she should consult her doctor. This could be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as diabetes or pre-eclampsia.” Also check our another articles to learn more : Diabetes and Pregnancy – You Can Still Have a Healthy Baby —- What is Preeclampsia in Pregnancy?

The Sleep Foundation recommends placing a night light in the bathroom to use instead of the bright bathroom lights. This less-arousing light should help get you back to sleep quicker.

  1. I’m in my first trimester and feel very tired. Is this normal?

Yes, women in their first few months of pregnancy often complain of tiredness. According to the Sleep Foundation, rises in the pregnancy hormone progesterone can cause women to feel drowsy and tired. However, the foundation also found that women during this phase of pregnancy did not sleep as deeply during the night as they had prior to becoming pregnant. The best advice is to follow your body’s needs and sleep when you are sleepy. Try to make changes to your schedule so you can squeeze in time for sleeping in or for napping.

  1. I sometimes can’t make it through the day without taking a nap. Will this affect the quality of my nighttime sleep?

“No, if you are tired, napping can help,” says Dr. Kryger. “Make sure, though, to limit the naps to between 15 to 45 minutes; otherwise they might affect your nighttime sleep. Also make sure that you nap early in the day. Naps four to six hours before bedtime will not generally affect your nighttime sleep.”

  1. I’ve had trouble getting to sleep because my legs won’t keep still when I lie down. Is this odd sensation normal?

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is not limited to pregnant women, although many women first experience it during pregnancy. This syndrome, characterized by tossing and turning and irritating leg sensations, can persist throughout the night. Dr. Kryger advises women, if they believe they are suffering from this syndrome, to consult their physicians because RLS can signal a deficiency.

“Iron and/or folic acid deficiencies are known causes of RLS,” says Dr. Kryger. “Women who have these sensations should have their iron levels checked. A prescribed multivitamin high in iron and folic acid can then be given. Also it’s important to note that RLS seems to go away soon after childbirth in most women.”

  1. I am 8 months pregnant and get the worst heartburn at night. It keeps me awake and is rather painful. What can I do to stop this annoyance?

During pregnancy, particularly in the latter months, an enlarging uterus can place added pressure on the stomach, causing acid reflux or heartburn. Dr. Kryger suggests several ways to combat this annoying and painful problem at bedtime. “Try to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day,” he says. “Stop eating a couple of hours before bed. Avoid spicy or fried meals or those that contain a lot of dairy products several hours before sleeping.” You can also try propping your head up more with pillows when you sleep.

  1. Now that my belly has grown, I am having trouble finding a comfortable position to sleep. Do you have any suggestions?

“It’s going to get better once the baby is born, but during the third trimester sleeping can become interrupted just by the physical discomforts of pregnancy,” says Dr. Kryger. “For most women, by this stage sleeping on the back is practically uncomfortable, but most women will find a good position through trial and error.”

To learn about sleeping positions during pregnancy : Best Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy

“As a chiropractor who specializes in pregnancy care I most frequently hear questions about getting comfortable while sleeping,” says Dr. Johanna S., a chiropractor with more than 10 years’ experience treating pregnant women in Bridgewater, Mass. “Even though it’s not healthy for your spine, many people sleep on their stomachs; when you’re pregnant that’s just not possible anymore. Some experts believe that sleeping face up is actually dangerous, for fear that if a pregnant woman lies on her back for extended periods the baby cuts off blood supply to mom’s heart, which also reduces blood supply to the baby. Many women in fact find it very painful to lie on their backs during the later months of pregnancy. For many moms-to-be, the only way to sleep is on their sides.”

Dr. Johanna suggests using pillows to support the pregnant tummy and also placing a pillow between the knees to help support the pelvis. “In my experience in caring for hundreds of pregnant women, a long, body-type pillow seems to be the support pillow of choice,” says Dr. Johanna. In fact, a whole line of pregnancy pillows exists, from tummy wedges to beanbag balls.

  1. During the day I’m fine, but at night I sometimes experience annoying back pain that keeps me from getting to sleep easily. What can be done to help?

“If the complaint is related to problems in the spine and pelvis, then a chiropractor can effectively help,” says Dr. Johanna. “Taking drugs never fixes the problem and is downright dangerous when pregnant.”

Dr. Johanna explains that a typical first visit to her office would include a special pregnancy edition of a health history questionnaire, a detailed conversation about the main concerns that the new mom is having and then a detailed exam focused on chiropractic evaluations of the spine and pelvis. “We look at posture and do a few orthopedic and neurological tests if warranted,” she says. “We never do X-rays on a pregnant woman. We do a spinal ‘scan’ using a surface ’emg’ type unit. This is a safe and non-invasive way to get a clearer idea regarding the magnitude of mom’s condition.” A care plan is then formulated based on the study of the case and the exam findings, but a chiropractic adjustment is not typically done at the initial visit.

  1. I never snored before I was pregnant, but now my husband says that I snore rather loudly. Is this normal?

Snoring can be a symptom of two potentially dangerous conditions, so you should speak with your care provider right away. The first condition, pre-eclampsia, a type of high blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy, is associated with snoring. “Studies have found that pregnant women who snore are twice as likely to develop pre-eclampsia compared to those who do not snore,” says Dr. Kryger. Pre-eclamspsia can result in low birth weight, kidney damage and seizures.

Sleep apnea, the second condition, is one of the sleep problems during pregnancy in which the person affected actually stops breathing numerous times throughout the night. The disorder can be present and worsen during pregnancy or begin with pregnancy. Snoring and daytime sleepiness are the main symptoms. Because oxygen levels drop dramatically low when sleep apnea occurs, women with the disorder are at a higher risk for miscarriage. Therefore it is best to seek help immediately. A simple device worn over the nose, which increases pressure on breathing passages, is generally the treatment. “Another important reason to treat women who have sleep apnea is that after the baby’s birth, the mother will have an increased amount of responsibilities,” says Dr. Kryger. “This is not easy for any woman but is extremely difficult for a woman with untreated sleep apnea.”

  1. Now that I’m pregnant, I find myself having the strangest, most vivid dreams. Is this type of dreaming common for pregnant women?

Many women comment about the unique nature of their dreams while they’re pregnant. Pregnancy hormones play a role, but the psychological changes related to pregnancy also contribute to these vivid dreams. Many new responsibilities, pressures and duties are being placed on you now, and it is sometimes overwhelming. Many of these anxious emotions come out in the form of dreams.

If you want to learn about mood changes during pregnancy : Mood Swing in Pregnancy

Try to have your mind in a relaxed mode when going to sleep. Don’t do any major projects or have serious discussions about things like money right before bed. If you are awakened at night by a dream and have difficulty getting back to sleep, try reading a calming book for a short time or drinking a warm, non-caffeinated beverage.

  1. With all the added pressures and responsibilities, I am having a tough time relaxing my mind and getting to sleep. What can I do to help myself get to sleep?

In his book, Dr. Kryger lists numerous ways to help anyone create a more sleep-friendly lifestyle. Here are a few of his suggestions:

  • Use the bed only for sleep and sex, not television viewing, working, reading or anything else.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime ritual. Make it a calming routine you follow every night.
  • Take a warm (but not hot) bath.

“It is extremely important that women who are pregnant never take any type of sleep medications that they find over the counter or even in a health or natural foods store,” says Dr. Kryger. “These products are not safe for pregnant women. If you are having a sleep problem … don’t hesitate to talk to your practitioner about it. Sleep problems during pregnancy can be symptoms of more serious conditions, or they can be common complaints. It is always best to let your doctor make this diagnosis.”

Our articles are prepared to give advice. Always consult your doctor first for any problems and exact information.

The names of the people mentioned in the article have been changed for security reasons and to protect privacy.