Numerous physical and hormonal changes takes place during pregnancy and the way one nourish their body during this time will affect the health of both mother and the baby. Pregnancy can have dominant effects on sleep: hormonal changes may alter the nature of a pregnant woman’s sleep, preexisting sleep difficulties may worsen, and new ones may show up with each phase of pregnancy, introducing new challenges. It is normal to feel tired during the first trimester of your pregnancy and there are chances to sleep more than usual as your body works to protect and nurture the developing baby. Both the physical discomforts of pregnancy as well as the emotional stress of this major life change can cause sleep problems and keep a mother-to-be awake at night.
Two terms that gather importance during pregnancy period are “sleeping for two” and “eating for two”. Pregnancy can affect both the quantity of sleep a woman gets as well as the quality of it. Inadequate sleep may cause irritability, poor concentration and exhausted throughout the day. Studies reveal that the quantity of sleep can be directly proportional to surgery issues and it was found that first-time mothers who got less than six hours of sleep at night were 4 to 5 times more likely to have a C-section, and that their average length of labor was longer compared with first-time mothers who slept seven hours or more. It is necessary that mothers should spend at least eight hours in bed each night so they can get at least seven hours of sleep. Women need the extra rest and sleep as their body changes and pregnancy discomforts make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep.
Pregnancy and fatigue are related terms. Pregnancy related fatigue is considered to be a hormonal related change. In the early phases of pregnancy, progesterone levels start to increase. It plays a major role in relaxing smooth muscle and contribute to frequent urination, heartburn, and nasal congestion—all of which may be disruptive to sleep. It also decreases wakefulness during the night, and reduces the amount of rapid eye movement. The hormone changes also affect the pattern of sleep, or sleep architecture.
Besides the influence of hormones, some of the sleepiness can be physiological as the uterus gets bigger and the fetus grows, coupled with pregnancy-related weight gain and fluid accumulation in the body,. These changes mean the body is working harder, the blood supply increases and the heart beats faster. Emotional factors also do play a role. The excitement and anticipation of having a baby as well as the fears of impending motherhood and the anxiety about labor and delivery make a woman feel more tired than usual.
During the first trimester the total sleep time increases with a longer sleep period at night and frequent daytime naps. Sleep becomes less efficient with frequent awakenings, and the amount of deep or slow-wave sleep decreases. During the first trimester, the hormones leading to the bladder get sluggish, which increases a woman’s urine production. Also problems like nausea (morning sickness) and increased metabolic rate make sleep appropriate.
Sleep tends to improve during the second trimester with better sleep efficiency and less time spent awake after going to sleep at night because everything levels out and things aren’t changing quite as fast. There are chances of leg cramps at night during the second trimester especially for anemic and those with low iron levels. Sleeping on the left side with the knees bent may be a better position for women who are experiencing heartburn during the second trimester. By the end of the second trimester, however, the number of awakenings during the night again increases.
The hormonal changes, which are steep during the first trimester, level off during the second trimester, and then are steep again in the third trimester. As a woman’s belly increases and the fetus is getting bigger, women in their final trimester of pregnancy experience more nighttime awakenings and spend more time awake at night. They nap more frequently during the day and therefore sleep efficiency is again reduced. In addition, sleep is lighter with more frequent stage 1 or 2 sleep.
Pregnant women need to sleep on their left side, which tends to improve the flow of blood and nutrients to the developing fetus and to a woman’s heart, uterus and kidneys.
Try to use pillows to be more comfortable, placing one between the knees, the next under the belly and a third behind the back so that to support and relieve pain
An interesting study reveals that women who snore when pregnant may be at greater risk of pregnancy related high blood pressure and preeclampsia , when compared with mothers-to-be who did not snore. Preeclampsia is a condition of high blood pressure during pregnancy.