Pregnancy Timeline

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Sleep in Pregnancy


Perhaps this should be entitled 'lack of sleep in pregnancy', as most mums to-be will no doubt suffer from lack of sleep at one time or another during their pregnancy There are various causes for lack of and interrupted sleep during pregnancy and it is commonly believed that this is mother nature's way of preparing you for the time ahead after the birth of your baby, when you will almost certainly need to get used to broken sleep.

Throughout the first trimester, regardless of the amount of actual sleep you get at night, you may also feel fatigued and generally weary throughout the day. This is caused by the enormous changes your body is physically going through, including increased levels of the hormone progesterone which is believed to increase feelings of drowsiness. The first trimester is a good time to try to get used to sleeping on your left hand side, the position which is recommended you use from the second trimester onwards.

So once you get to bed why then is sleep sometimes impossible?. Well, there are many causes of insomnia during pregnancy, the most common being:

  • Heartburn
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom
  • Anxiousness
  • Temperature
  • Leg cramps
  • Dreams
  • General discomfort


    Heartburn The most likely cause of heartburn during pregnancy is due to the slowing down of the digestive system, resulting in food remaining in the stomach and intestines longer which can cause the contents of the stomach to reflux back up into the oesophagus. This can come and go during pregnancy but is more common during the second trimester. See our article on recommended foods during pregnancy and what to avoid eating, as this will certainly help in avoiding the discomfort caused by heartburn at night. This is an easily treatable problem and it is worth seeing your midwife or G.P. for a prescription of antacids if you are suffering.

    Frequent trips to the bathroom are common during pregnancy and can be stressful when it occurs at night resulting in broken sleep. The most probable cause is due to pressure on the bladder from the increased size of the uterus, and all the extra hormones can make the bladder more sensitive. In addition the body has approximately 50% more blood moving through it during pregnancy, resulting in the kidneys having to work harder to filter and thus producing more urine.

    It is not surprising therefore that the average pregnant woman can make several trips to the bathroom per night, particularly both in the early days and the latter part of pregnancy. Some good tips are to avoid drinking tea ,coffee or fizzy drinks before going to bed as these all contain caffeine which stimulate the kidneys to produce more urine. and make sure the bladder is emptied immediately before going to bed - try tipping your pelvis forward when using the loo to ensure the bladder is completely emptied.

    Anxiety is common at night during pregnancy thus preventing sleep and can be caused by a whole host of things, but the most common would seem to be anxiety over the birth. If this is the case, why not join an antenatal class where you will be advised on processes and given help and tips - .this will also give you the opportunity to discuss any worries you may have and to ask questions - you'll get the chance to meet other mums to be, probably with the same worries and concerns you have, and realise that it's all perfectly normal after all. Remember too your doctor or midwife can also be consulted to discuss any concerns you may have.

    You could try a warm drink and a nice warm relaxing bath just before bed to completely relax you. Relaxation exercises might also help - there are relaxation CDs available which can be particularly useful. It's advisable to avoid strenuous exercise immediately before going to bed. and also to avoid drinking anything containing caffeine as the stimulant can make you more anxious If you really cannot relax and it's impossible to attain that all elusive sleep, far better to get up with a warm drink and a good book or magazine or even listen to the radio for a while - you may find once you go back to bed you'll quickly nod off!

    Temperature. The average pregnant woman has a higher temperature than normal. Bear this is mind when adjusting the temperature in the bedroom and maybe set it slightly lower than usual.

    Leg Cramps are common during pregnancy. Leg muscles which bear the increased weight of your pregnancy can seize up and result in cramps at night, particular during your second and third trimester. With the expansion of the uterus this adds pressure to the nerves leading down from your body to your legs. Another cause can be your diet, as too little potassium, sodium and calcium can also cause muscle spasms. It's advisable to avoid processed foods, and fizzy drinks containing soda as these provide phosphorus. An easy way to increase potassium levels is by eating a banana. Leg cramps can be particularly painful and some other hints for avoiding them are to avoid standing or sitting with your legs crossed for long periods during the day; try stretching your calf muscles before going to bed; simple ankle exercises like gently rotating your feet from the ankle when sitting and watching TV should also benefit. If you do get cramps in your legs try pressing your feet hard against the wall or standing on the cramped leg to alleviate it. You can try drinking a glass of tonic water in the evening as this contains quinine which can treat leg cramps.

    Dreams. Some women experience strange and vivid dreams during their pregnancy. This is perfectly normal and is believed to be caused by the combination of high levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. It is also thought to be due to the mind working overtime dealing with both the physical and emotional changes the body is going through.

    General Discomfort So you've followed all the advice on what and what not to eat and drink immediately prior to going to bed. You're fully relaxed and not anxious but you still can't get comfortable in order to nod off. There are wonderful pregnancy pillows available which aid comfort by supporting the tummy, back and knees. Some of these are also really useful after the birth for helping support you during feeding. By raising the feet, better circulation is attained and there are wedges available specifically designed for this too.

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    Related Articles

    Exercise During Pregnancy
    Food During Pregnancy
    Ante-natal Classes


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