Sleep During Pregnancy

Sleep During Pregnancy
Most pregnant women will sleep more than normal during the first trimester of their pregnancies. But don't be fooled, this period of getting extra hours of sleep won't last forever for expectant moms. As the baby grows, a pregnant woman's body will undergo a number of changes, many of which make sleeping & finding a comfortable position in order to sleep, very difficult.
 
 
Causes of Sleep Problems During Pregnancy
 
In the later stages of pregnancy, especially during the third trimester, many women find it hard to find a comfortable sleeping position. This is mostly due to the fact that the fetus has grown large enough to significantly increase the size of the mother's uterus and, therefore, her abdomen.

In addition to having a hard time finding a comfortable sleeping position, pregnant women often find it hard to shift positions in bed.

Here's a list of some other common reasons why pregnant women may experience sleep disorders:
  • An Active Baby: If a pregnant woman's baby is very active at night, the movement may keep her awake.
  • Backaches: The extra weight a woman carries during her pregnancy can cause backaches.
  • Constipation: A pregnant woman's digestive system slows. This can cause constipation, which can contribute to sleep problems.
  • Frequent Need to Urinate: During pregnancy, the amount of blood in a woman's body increases by 30 percent to 50 percent. As a result, a woman's kidneys are working overtime to filter this blood. Urine is produced by this filtering process. Also, the pressure placed on a woman's bladder increases as the fetus and uterus grows.
  • Heartburn: A number of pregnant women suffer from heartburn, which can make sleeping extremely difficult.
  • Increased Heart Rate: During pregnancy, a larger amount of a woman's blood will be supplied to the uterus. Thus, the heart must beat faster in order to get blood to other areas of a woman's body.
  • Leg Cramps: Many pregnant women experience leg cramps do to their increased body weight.
  • Nervousness: A number of moms-to-be experience anxiety about the delivery, which can cause sleeping problems. Also, many moms worry about the health of the baby.
  • Shortness of Breath: During pregnancy, the uterus expands, causing it to press on the diaphragm. This can make breathing difficult. In addition, a pregnant woman's body will require extra oxygen, causing her to breathe deeper and faster than normal.

Treatment of Sleep Disorders During Pregnancy

There are a number of things pregnant women can do to achieve a better night's sleep. For instance, if leg cramps are keeping you awake at night, you can increase your calcium intake, as a calcium deficiency can contribute to cramping.

Pregnant women may also need to try new sleeping positions during their pregnancies. Most doctors recommend sleeping on your side with your knees bent. This sleeping position makes it easier for the heart to supply blood to the body, as it reduces the pressure placed on the vein that carries blood from your feet and legs back to your heart.

Many doctors also suggest that pregnant women sleep on their left sides. This reduces the pressure placed on your liver, which is on the right side of your body.

To make sleeping on your side more comfortable and to reduce the chance that you might roll onto your back, you might want to place a pillow behind your back. Some women also find it helpful to place a pillow under their bellies or between their knees. Experiment to see what works best for you.

Tips to Reduce Sleep Disorders During Pregnancy

In addition to trying different sleeping positions, pregnant women might find the following tips helpful:

  • Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages or eating foods that contain food, especially in the afternoon and evening.
  • Avoid exercise right before bedtime.
  • Establish a routine for waking up and going to bed.
  • If anxiety about labor or becoming a parent is keeping you awake, consider enrolling in a childbirth or parenting class.
  • Practice yoga or learn a relaxation technique.
  • Restrict your fluid and food intake a few hours before going to bed.
  • Soak in a warm bath or drink a small warm cup of decaffeinated tea 15 minutes before bed.

Resources

Macones, George (updated July 2004). Sleep During Pregnancy. Retrieved on October 16, 2007, from the KidsHealth Web site: http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_newborn/pregnancy/
sleep_during_pregnancy.html.
 
Manniche, Vibeke (updated February 2, 2005). Sleep problems during pregnancy. Retrieved October 16, 2007, from the netdoctor.co.uk Web site: http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/health_advice/facts/pregnantsleep
.htm.