Even women who have never had sleep problems before may have trouble falling asleep, a lack of restful sleep, periodic wake-ups in the night or difficulty returning to sleep during pregnancy. In fact, a National Sleep Foundation poll found that 78 percent of women had more sleep difficulties during pregnancy than at any other time.
During early pregnancy, hormonal changes are often responsible for sleep disturbances. Increased progesterone levels have been linked today time sleepiness and higher levels of estrogen and progesterone can also cause fluid retention. The excess fluid usually pools in the feet and ankles when standing, but can redistribute to the neck when sleeping, causing swelling and congestion of the nasal passages.
Fluctuating hormones are also responsible for an alteration in muscle tone, placing pregnant women at a higher risk for snoring and sleep apnea.
Other reasons for sleep problems during pregnancy include the following:
- Frequent nighttime urination
- Discomfort due to leg cramps, restless leg syndrome, heartburn or back pain
- Gastric reflux – GERD
- Fetal movement
- Anxiety as due date approaches
If you are experiencing problems with sleep during pregnancy, talk with your OBGYN about some steps your can take to manage them. Start with maintaining a regular sleep schedule and limiting or shortening daytime naps.
Position yourself on your left side to promote blood flow to your baby and avoid sleeping on your back. Use pillows to reduce back and hip pressure. Hydrate during the day, but limit fluid intake after 6 p.m. and reduce the risk of heartburn by eating small, frequent meals and avoiding spicy or fried foods.
Aim for 30 minutes of exercise each day, but avoid exercising immediately before bedtime. Think of your bed as a sanctuary to be used for sleep only – don’t read or watch TV in bed.
Never take any sleep medication – even non-prescription, OTC remedies – without first talking with your OBGYN, since they may be harmful to your unborn baby.