After learning they are pregnant, mums-to-be start to think ahead. Choosing names, picking a nursery theme, and making career decisions are front of mind, but so is worrying about sleepless nights once the baby comes. However, many women don’t realise that getting enough sleep during pregnancy can be just as challenging.
Sleep is important to one’s health and wellbeing, and even more so when you’re “sleeping for two” (or more!). How well you sleep will depend on a number of factors, but most women can expect certain changes as their pregnancy progresses.
Many women feel fatigued during the first stage of pregnancy 1. It’s no wonder—this is a time of rapid growth and development for the foetus 2. Progesterone, a hormone essential to pregnancy, increases. Whilst progesterone is good for gestational health, it also induces sleep 3. It may feel impossible to stay awake during these early days, especially if you are caring for other children or working.
The second trimester is generally regarded as the most comfortable. If morning sickness disturbed your slumber during the first trimester, this will hopefully stop now. You may also have more energy and feel less inclined to take an afternoon nap. It’s important to maintain a sleep schedule during this time to ensure you get plenty of rest.
This is often the most challenging portion of any pregnancy. Babies gain most of their weight in the weeks just before birth, meaning mum will also gain extra weight during this time 4. Discomfort from back pain and leg cramps makes sleeping more difficult. You will likely feel the need to urinate frequently, meaning more night time bathroom trips.
Tips for getting sleep during pregnancy
So how can an expectant mother get a little rest? Here are a few tips that may help:
Sleep apnea and pregnancy
Along with the usual pregnancy aches and pains, some women may also develop obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in their third trimester. Weight gain and increased oestrogen levels contribute to OSA, as can general breathing difficulty caused by organs shifting to accommodate the growing baby.
If you are pregnant and suspect you may have sleep apnea, it’s important to speak with your GP or OB/GYN. Untreated sleep apnea could lead to negative health outcomes for mum and baby in some women 7, 8. Depending on the severity of OSA, a sleep specialist may recommend CPAP therapy or other measures, such as avoiding excess weight gain and elevating your head whilst sleeping.
Women diagnosed with OSA prior to pregnancy can continue their CPAP therapy unless advised otherwise by their doctor. It’s also important to meet with your sleep specialist or clinician during pregnancy and after birth to monitor your therapy. Therapy pressure needs can change over time due to weight gain and hormone changes, two factors that definitely apply to pregnancy! Your specialist or clinician can make changes as you progress and after birth, if needed.
Do you know someone who’s expecting?
The sleepvantage Team