Pregnancy and Sleep: A Contradiction in Terms?
Pregnancy is an exciting and physically demanding time. There are so many changes happening in your body all at once. But while many mothers-to-be anticipate the sleepless nights that will come once the baby is born, many are unprepared for the sleeplessness they experience during the pregnancy itself. One reason for this is that changing levels of hormones (primarily estrogen and progesterone) can affect your sleep patterns. Hormonal swings during pregnancy aren’t the only culprits. Physical symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, leg cramps, fetal movements, and heartburn, as well as emotional changes, like depression, anxiety, and worry can interfere with sleep. And unfortunately, these sleep–related problems may become more prevalent as your pregnancy progresses.
First Trimester (Months 1-3)During the first trimester, your body is working hard to protect and nurture your developing baby. The placenta (the organ that nourishes the fetus until birth) is forming, your body is making more blood, and your heart is beating faster. High levels of progesterone are also produced, increasing feelings of sleepiness. Indeed, many women sleep more than usual during their first trimester of pregnancy. Unfortunately, more doesn’t necessarily mean well. There are 3 common sleep stealers during your first trimester:
- Frequent urination—This is because your body produces 30%-50% more blood while you are pregnant, and your kidneys need to work harder to filter the additional volume. Also, as your baby grows, there is increased pressure on your bladder, causing you to need to go more frequently.
- Progesterone—While progesterone makes you sleepy, it can also disrupt your sleep, leaving you feeling more fatigued during the day. So, indulge your busy body and take catnaps whenever you feel the need.
- Getting comfortable—Always been a stomach sleeper? Tender breasts during your first trimester may make you reconsider. If possible, try learning to sleep on your left side.Many doctors recommend you begin learning to sleep on your left side early in your pregnancy, so that by the time you are in your third trimester, the position feels more normal for you. This allows maximum blood flow to the fetus, improves kidney flow, helps reduce swelling, and reduces the amount of pressure on your liver. Another reason to avoid sleeping on your stomach is to avoid putting pressure on the fetus.