A woman’s body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy physical, mental and psychological. Common changes include increased appetite, drowsiness and irritation. One of the rarely discussed changes the body goes through is extreme changes in sleeping patterns by; difficulty falling asleep, general discomfort, the need to sleep for longer periods of time. This is because of various reasons some of which include; the baby is developing and their needs impose on those of the mother, which leads to a desire to sleep more and general tiredness while another is the additional strain caused on the body by the baby’s weight.
The hormonal changes during this time contribute greatly to sleep disorders and increased fatigue making disturbed sleep the most common disorder developed during pregnancy. Some of the common sleep issues caused by interrupted sleep in pregnancy include:
- Sleep Apnea
Overweight women are at a significantly high risk of developing sleep apnea during pregnancy, and the condition and its effects may persist well after birth and infancy. It causes heavy snoring and suffocated breathing which results in fragmented sleep and insufficient oxygen in the blood, which is unhealthy not just for the mother, but for the developing baby.
A remedy to this would be maintaining a healthy weight, based on your BMI, getting a humidifier or by alternating sleeping positions between sleeping on your back and on your sides. In fact, the most recommended sleeping position in pregnancy is on your sides, specifically the left since it increases the amount of nutrients and blood to reach the baby through the placenta. It would also be helpful to put a pillow between your legs and bend your knees slightly when sleeping in this position.
- Gastro esophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD)
This is commonly referred to as heartburn and is a normal part of pregnancy. It also worsens during the night and with progression in pregnancy. It is caused by the hormonal changes which slow down the digestive process, which is because the uterus grows pushing on the abdomen. This goes ahead to cause interrupted sleep patterns. A few home remedies to GERD may include:
1. Chewing on sugarless gum for about half an hour after meals. This increases saliva production which should neutralizes excess acid in the esophagus.
2. Eating a few almonds after each meal should help neutralize the juices in the stomach which should prevent or at least relieve heartburn.
3. Taking a glass of almond milk, or warm milk mixed with honey after meals or when experiencing heartburn relieves heartburn as well as giving a calcium boost.
4. Popping papaya, whether it is fresh or dried should help relieve heartburn as well as being a rich source of vitamin A and C
The reason for this could be less about interrupted sleep than anxiety regarding the expectancy experience, though it is a cycle. The mother to be is increasingly anxious about the future, which leads to periodic waking up at night which is interrupted sleep, eventually leading to development of insomnia. Another common cause of insomnia during this time is physical discomforts like fetal movements, nausea and back pain and also an increased frequency in the need to use the bathroom which are all out of regular pattern which causes the body to constantly fall in and out of sleep at night.
This condition is easily carried along to motherhood due to the additional time and effort that is required in taking care of a baby. An easy remedy to this is creating a sleep schedule and religiously sticking to it both before and after birth. Although with the baby this may be more difficult, it would help to also have a schedule for the baby which compliments the mother’s pre-set one.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
This is experienced by over 30 percent of expectant mothers, making it fairly common. Its symptoms include aching or tingling feelings on the legs, of which kicking the legs provide temporary relief. The symptoms get worse at night and moving the legs around in bed provides temporary relief, leading to interrupted sleep patterns. Scientists theorize that RLS is caused due to lack of iron or folic acid or in association to high estrogen levels
Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help reduce persistency of symptoms of RLS such as:
- Soaking in a warm bath and oil massages on your legs which relaxes the leg muscles
- Use of warm or cool packs in alternation should lessen limb sensations
- Using a foot wrap. There are such wraps which are specially designed for people with RLS to put pressure under the foot which should reduce symptoms.
- Having good sleep hygiene since fatigue worsens RLS symptoms
- Cutting back on caffeine should help restless legs.
- Getting moderate and regular exercise. Although if exercise is overdone or done too late in the day, it may intensify the symptoms.
These sleep disorders negatively affect the sleep patterns of the expectant woman, which is neither healthy for her nor the unborn baby. Change in sleeping conditions and positions would be extremely helpful in ensuring increased comfort and alleviating some symptoms of the disorders discussed above. Some points of action to consider would be:
Getting a more comfortable and soothing bedroom set up.
This is essential in conditioning the mind and body to relax and sleep as well as increasing sleep comfort. It is important to note that there is no set manual on achieving this which makes it important to visit a furniture outlet with direct from manufacturer values, such as value city furniture. This allows you to get comprehensive information on the specification on certain items, as well as affordable prices compared to average retail stores.
Changing sleeping position and other sleeping habits
Sleeping on the left side is the most recommended as discussed above and propping the head up on pillows is an effective remedy to breathlessness. It would also be helpful to create a healthy sleeping pattern by fostering good sleeping habits. It is important to visit a physician for advice on the best sleep pattern and positions for both mother and baby.