How pregnancy can affect your sleep

Sleep is very important to a pregnant woman, but can be hard to get. It's important to know the symptoms, causes and treatments for common sleep disorders in pregnancy.

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  • Pregnant women have a lot to worry about - so, it's no wonder that sleep eludes them. Insomnia is common particularly in the first trimester, when hormones are increasing, and in the third trimester, when baby's kicking, somersaults, and hiccups become so prevalent.

  • Sleep disorders are very common during pregnancy. Pregnant women suffer from many biological and emotional changes that may compromise sleep. Nausea, heartburn, uncomfortable position, backaches, and worry can steel sleep from exhausted pregnant women.

  • Some common sleep disorders pregnant women tend to suffer from are

  • Sleep apnea

  • This disorder is becoming more widespread. Although rare in younger women, sleep apnea, where breathing stops numerous times while sleeping, can occur during pregnancy due to increased nasal obstruction. This leads to decreased oxygen and increased blood pressure which can have consequences for both mother and fetus.

  • Restless Legs Syndrome

  • The name speaks for itself. RLS affects the legs mainly at night, when you're trying to sleep. RLS can signal the legs to move causing muscle contractions or twitches to occur when at rest, disrupting sleep. In fact, up to fifteen percent of pregnant women develop RLS, during the third trimester. One cause could be because of an iron deficiency. Luckily, your RLS will go away after pregnancy.

  • Insomnia

  • Up to 87 percent of pregnant women have insomnia sometime in their pregnancy according to Indications of Sleep Disorders._Insomnia is characterized as having problems getting to sleep and staying asleep. There are many causes of insomnia like worries, baby action or having to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

  • Vivid dreaming

  • Yes, dreaming can cause an array of problems, especially if they are affecting your sleep. Nightmares about the baby's well-being, your health, or questions about care for your newborn, especially if you're a first-time mother, can all disrupt sleep. What causes this? Progesterone is surging through your body, taking a toll on your emotional state.

  • Health complications that can arise if a sleeping disorder is left untreated

  • Longer labors

  • Studies suggest that women who sleep less than six hours a night, while pregnant, have longer labors.

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  • Cesarean Section Delivery

  • Pregnant women who don't get enough sleep are 4.5 times more likely to deliver their babies via c-section.

  • Hypertension

  • Not getting enough sleep can seriously disrupt sleep patterns causing hypertension which can lead to dangerous problems for both mother and fetus.

  • Gestational diabetes

  • Making sure your blood sugar is stable is very important in pregnancy, and when you don't get enough sleep, insulin levels can spike.

  • Preeclampsia

  • Again, if sleep apnea is a disorder that is left undiagnosed, it can cause this potentially deadly complication where high blood pressure and protein in the urine threatens the health of the mother and fetus. It can cause swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision.

  • Exhaustion

  • Not getting enough sleep can compromise your immune system and lead to exhaustion, which can lead to unexpected illnesses.

  • Safe treatment options for you and your baby

  • Don't self medicate

  • It is important to note that most of the over-the-counter or prescriptions drugs used for sleep disorders are not recommended for pregnant women.

  • Eat smart

  • Cut out caffeinated drinks, like soda, coffee and tea. Avoid eating a full meal or drinking a few hours before bedtime.

  • Relax

  • Avoid rigorous exercise right before you go to bed. Instead, take a 15-minute warm bath to relax you. Consider enrolling in a parenting or childbirth class if worries are keeping you up.

  • Change your sleeping position

  • In the first trimester, try sleeping on your side, with your knees bent. The article Women and Sleep from the National Sleep Foundation states that when your pregnancy progresses, lying on your left side is the best. It makes your heart's job easier because it prevents the baby's weight from putting pressure on the large vein that carries blood back to the heart from your feet and legs.

  • Do not attempt to sleep on your stomach, at any time in your pregnancy, as the pressure can cut off oxygen from the umbilical cord. Also, don't sleep on your right side, because it can put undue pressure on your liver. Try experimenting with pillows or talk to your doctor for more recommendations. Some women put pillows under their abdomen or between their legs.

  • Remember, get as much sleep as you can because once your little one is here, it will be much more difficult to sleep.

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Julia Nielsen is currently parenting three kids with pitfalls and pleasures. She co-authored two published books in "The Crystal Locket" series, and graduated from the Institute of Children's Literature in 2005. Check out her blog: http://jewelswrites.blogspot.com

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