Being pregnant is no walk in the park. Women’s bodies go through an amazing slew of changes in a relatively quick period of time. The ever-changing hormones, weight gain, back issues, exhaustion, and a fetus sitting right on top of the bladder can make the whole process very difficult.
Add to that list of burdens the lack of quality sleep during pregnancy. This is often due to the rapidly changing physical characteristics of a woman’s body. Some common sleep disorders that can develop during pregnancy include:
- Expectant mothers often have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and may wake up frequently during the night. Fetal movements, coupled with any other symptoms like back pain, indigestion, acid reflux, and stress all add up to night after night of poor sleep. This can result in daytime sleepiness and, when daytime naps become a habit, it can make sleeping at night all the more difficult.
- Restless Leg Syndrome. This is exactly what it sounds like: when your legs become restless and cannot remain still when at rest. Relief may be obtained by moving the legs, which temporarily curtails the urge for movement, but only very briefly and often leg twitching and restlessness resumes right after movement. Having restless leg syndrome can make falling asleep quite difficult and the symptoms can wake you as the urge to move the legs takes over and makes falling asleep again difficult.
- Sleep Apnea. The weight gain that occurs during pregnancy is the usual culprit when obstructive sleep apnea develops in pregnant women. Sleep apnea occurs when tissue around the throat relax and collapses back into the airway, temporarily halting your breathing during sleep for 10-30 seconds per episode. You then gasp or take a big inhale of breath and resume breathing. These stops and starts can occur hundreds of times a night and disrupt your sleep even if you are not aware of the episodes. Daytime sleepiness and headaches are common among people with sleep apnea.
- Nocturnal Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Changes in certain hormone levels during pregnancy result in a slowing of the digestive system including the muscles that push food down the esophagus. The presence of a growing baby in the womb also pushes on the stomach forcing acids back up the esophagus and causing heartburn –especially at night when lying down so the body is horizontal.
Lifestyle Solutions to Combat Sleep Disorders
There are many tricks available to help pregnant women fight these types of sleep disorders. For example, avoid chocolate and caffeine in all forms can help prevent GERD and insomnia, as can avoiding sugary snacks in evenings and nights or large meals before bedtime. Daily exercise, drinking plenty of water, and trying to keep stress levels low can also help.
Soaking in a warm bath prior to bed may also help make going to sleep and staying asleep easier. Some women find relief using holistic approaches such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga.
If sleep problems are disrupting your life, and you want to make sure you and your baby have quality rest time during the critical period in both of your lives, make an appointment to see the sleep specialists at Gingras Sleep Medicine in Concord and Charlotte, North Carolina. Just call (704) 944-0562 or request an appointment now.