Pregnancy is a time of rapid and constant changes in your body. The baby brewing inside you affects your diet, body shape, physical limitations, and how you sleep. Just as you might experience heartburn for the first time while pregnant, you might also find yourself an instant insomniac even though you’ve always been a sound sleeper.
Sleep is critical to a healthy pregnancy and can even affect labor and delivery. One sleep study found that expectant moms that slept less than six hours a night had a 4.5 times greater chance of needing a C-section. Pregnant women with severe sleep deprivation were found to be “5.2 times more likely to have cesarean deliveries” and they also experienced longer labor.
Here are some sleep changes you might experience when pregnant and how to combat them for a more restful pregnancy.
You need more sleepIf you’ve always been a seven-hour-a-night sleeper, but suddenly need eight or nine to function, don’t fight it. Your intensifying sleep demands can be hormonal, emotional, stress-related, or physiological as your body works overtime to grow a little human. Rampant estrogen production in early pregnancy means the first trimester will likely be your sleepiest.
You wake during the night
During the second trimester, your hormones level out, and you should feel less tired and wake with less morning sickness. However, other conditions may crop up that worsen your sleep. You might wake with leg cramps in the second or third trimester due to nerve impingement or weight gain. Heartburn is another source of wakefulness as your expanding uterus pushes on your stomach.
You snore like a bear
One of the unwelcome sleep side effects of pregnancy is snoring. Enhanced blood circulation and spiking hormones can cause swelling in nasal capillaries leading to congestion and snoring in the second trimester. Weight gain in late pregnancy also encourages snoring. One in three women will snore during pregnancy, and it can wake you or your partner making quality sleep harder to achieve.
You can’t get comfortable
If you’ve always been a back sleeper, you’ll likely find as your pregnancy progresses, the less likely it is that you can stick with your preferred sleep posture. Back sleeping puts pressure on your spine as your growing uterus and baby press down. Avoid nighttime and waking back pain by side-sleeping with a pillow between your knees, preferably on a supportive firm mattress.
You can’t fall asleep
Even the best sleepers may struggle with insomnia or wakefulness during pregnancy, particularly in later stages. Insomnia is most common in the first and third trimesters when hormones surge, and your body becomes ungainly. Late night bathroom trips can disrupt your sleep three to five times a night (or more), and it can be hard to fall back asleep after that.
Once you deliver, you can expect more sleepless nights for late-night feedings and diaper changes, so you really need your rest now. Excessive sleep problems can be unhealthy for you as an expectant mom and your growing baby. Be sure to consult your OB-GYN if your sleep issues have you nodding off during the day or the fatigue is unmanageable.
Guest blog post written by Sarah Johnson, Community Relations at Tuck. Tuck is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NBC News, NPR, Lifehacker, and Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.