by Dr. Silberstein
Most pregnant women report feeling fatigued at some point during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester and again in the final weeks leading to labor. This is understandable: your body works really hard to create a nourishing environment for your little one, while expending additional energy on the development and growth of your child’s organs. Other factors, such as dramatic hormonal changes, the rise in blood volume, and a drop in blood pressure are also contributing to fatigue. You probably feel even more tired if there is already a child in the home and you have other responsibilities, such as a physically demanding job.
With that in mind, it may seem ironic that sleep difficulties are a normal part of pregnancy. Many expectant mothers feel that just when they need sleep the most, it is not available to them, or is not as good as they are used to. In this article I will provide a brief overview of the common issues that impact sleep during pregnancy. In part II, I will offer suggestions to help improve your sleep, so you could get to your due date feeling a little more rested.
Factors that impact sleep during pregnancy
First, hormonal changes lead to changes in your typical sleep pattern, changes that impact your feeling in the morning and functioning during the day.
Second, mood swings, which are very common in pregnancy, can also cause difficulty sleeping while directly impacting your energy levels during the day. Anxiety is also common: some women feel anxious about being pregnant, the healthy development of their fetus, weight gain, and labor. This anxiety can easily keep you up at night. Further, ongoing stress and anxiety can be draining and directly contribute to daytime fatigue.
On a more positive note, many expectant mothers experience anticipation and excitement – but these positive feelings may also interfere with sleep. For example, you may think about baby names, plan the baby shower, or shop online for cute newborn outfits. Add to the mix the wealth of information available online on pregnancy and labor, including helpful and supportive message boards and Facebook groups, and you get a recipe for disaster: you can easily get sucked into this wealth of information, keeping you up much later than planned.
In addition to hormonal and psychological influences, there are a number of physiological factors that can impact your sleep during pregnancy, some more common than others. If you are especially lucky, you will not experience any of them. More likely, though, you will experience at least one or two, if not more.
In the first trimester, it is common to wake up at night due to the frequent need to urinate, and for some due to nausea. The former will become an issue in the third trimester as well.
While the second trimester is considered “the best” for sleep (and better than the other two in terms of overall feeling), it is also a time when women begin to struggle finding a comfortable sleeping position, resulting in more restless sleep. Some experience leg cramps that wake them up at night as well as heartburn.
The third trimester brings its own challenges, often related to the size of your growing uterus. Feeling shortness of breath is not uncommon. Another very common breathing-related concern, that may in fact occur at any point during pregnancy and negatively impact your sleep, is nasal congestion (also known as pregnancy rhinitis), which can be especially inconvenient at night. Other breathing-related phenomena that must not be ignored are snoring and sleep apnea, which is a condition characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep that can occur multiple times a night. If you or your bed-partner suspect you might have sleep apnea, consult with your healthcare provider. Other experiences likely to interfere with your ability to sleep well include your baby’s movements (which are typically welcomed, just not in the middle of the night when you are trying to get some rest), back and other aches, and restless leg syndrome, another condition you should bring up with your doctor. Restless leg syndrome, or RLS, is a sleep disorder that causes an urge to move your legs, usually in an attempt to relieve some discomfort, an itch, or a burning or tingling sensation.
To summarize, there are many factors that can impact your sleep during pregnancy, making sleep troubles during those nine months extremely common. Yet, there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of getting a good night sleep. To read more, click here.
Restless leg syndrome
by Dr. Silberstein
In Sleep During Pregnancy - Part I: Why Is It So Hard To Get A Good Night Sleep?! I reviewed some of the factors that get in the way of sleeping well during pregnancy. Part II focuses on simple strategies you can adopt to increase your chances of sleeping better. Please note you may need to consult with your health care provider prior to adopting some of these suggestions.
What if you have tried all of these suggestions, and still can’t sleep as well as you’d like? Don’t worry! Remember that having sleep problems during pregnancy is normal, albeit annoying. Also, keep in mind that the issues described above tend to resolve on their own (in most cases) shortly after delivering the baby. Then, your baby will keep you up at night, but you will already be used to it!
Omrit Silberstein, PsyD, DBSM