All new moms know that having a newborn will affect their sleep — but you may be surprised to experience sleep deprivation while you're pregnant. Pregnancy and sleep don't go together well. Your sleep problems can stem from the changes in your hormones — not to mention the shape of your body — and stress can also be a factor.
If you're dealing with sleep issues while pregnant, you're not alone. Up to 50% of pregnant women experience sleep problems. You should take them seriously since sleep issues may affect your health and that of your unborn baby, impacting everything from your immune system, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. Take a look at the factors that cause sleep issues during pregnancy, and discover some tips for dealing with sleep problems.
The hormonal changes that affect your mood and metabolism while you're pregnant can also affect your sleep. Check out these essential pregnancy hormones and their effect on sleep:
Hormones aren't the only thing keeping you awake when you're pregnant, of course. For many women, just the stress of not knowing what to expect with this new baby can affect their sleep. Physical causes of sleep disturbance start with the shape of your body — the baby in front causes a lot of stress on your back, and all those daytime aches don't always go away when you go to bed. Pressure on your bladder means you're likely to have to get up to urinate often during the night.
Acid reflux or heartburn also increases during pregnancy, largely because as the fetus grows, it starts to push upward against your diaphragm and stomach. About one-third of women experience restless leg syndrome during pregnancy, often feeling as if their legs are itching uncontrollably. The weight gain of pregnancy and the nasal congestion produced by pregnancy hormones can combine to produce sleep apnea. Once the baby starts moving, you're likely to be awakened by an active baby on the inside while you're trying to sleep.
Pregnancy and sleep have an ever-changing relationship throughout the nine months of your pregnancy, shifting every trimester. You may find yourself sleeping longer at night during your first trimester and needing naps during the day. However, you'll start to wake up during your nighttime sleep, and you'll get less deep sleep. If your body is low on iron, you're more likely to feel fatigued, day and night.
The second trimester is when many pregnant women feel at their best, filled with energy and typically past the nausea of the first trimester. You're likely to fall asleep faster and sleep better. However, as you start to experience Braxton-Hicks contractions, an increased need to urinate at night, and the baby kicking, that restful sleep is likely to be interrupted.
The third trimester brings the greatest amount of sleep disturbance. This is when you're most likely to experience restless leg syndrome, heartburn, back pain, and shortness of breath. You may also find it difficult to find a comfortable position for sleeping.
While your body isn't always going to cooperate with your attempts to get a good night's sleep while pregnant, you can take steps to encourage sleep.
Because you're pregnant, stay away from any supplements or herbs touted to induce sleep. If sleep becomes a real problem during pregnancy, talk to your obstetrician to get the safe help you need.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.