According to a National Sleep Foundation study, over three-quarters of women experience greater sleep disruption during pregnancy. Sleep problems arise from both physical changes, such as changing hormone levels, as well as emotional anxiety about what is to come.
Treatment of sleep problems during pregnancy is complicated by the fact that the use of drug therapies may harm a developing fetus. However, by following healthy sleep practices, pregnant women can alleviate some of these problems. Here are some of the most common contributors to sleep disruption during pregnancy, as well as tips for coping:
Insomnia -This disorder is characterized by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. It is related to anxiety, and may affect women who are stressed about labour, finances, or balancing work and motherhood. Physical discomforts such as back pain or nausea also contribute to insomnia.
Coping Strategies: The same tips apply to anyone who suffers from insomnia. If you can’t sleep, get up and do a light and relaxing activity like reading, writing a journal, or knitting. If back pain is ailing you, place pillows between your knees, under your abdomen, and behind your back to help remove some of the pressure.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) – This disorder causes unpleasant, tingly or achy feelings in the legs that are temporarily relieved by movement or stretching.
Coping Strategies: RLS is often associated with iron or folate deficiencies. If you develop RLS, speak to your doctor about evaluating your condition. They may suggest taking prenatal vitamins, or making dietary changes that will help you absorb more of these nutrients.
Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD) – Heartburn is a common side effect of pregnancy which can cause discomfort and sleep disruption when it occurs at nighttime.
Coping Strategies: Try to avoid eating spicy, acidic or fried food, especially in the few hours preceding bedtime. Over-the-counter antacids can also help to relieve heartburn.
Frequent Urination – Waking up regularly throughout the night to urinate is a very common problem during pregnancy that results in sleep loss.
Coping Strategies: Drink plenty of fluids during the day, however try to cut down close to bedtime. If you do need to go, use a nightlight in the bathroom, rather than turning on over-head lights – this will help you return to sleep more easily.
It is important that women plan and prioritize sleep and follow healthy sleep habits during pregnancy. Researchers have found that poor sleep during pregnancy may have a negative effect on labour and delivery. Pregnant women are encouraged to discuss sleep practices with their doctors to find our more information about sleeping for two!