Pregnancy and Sleep

by Sam Malone


During pregnancy, the expectant mother’s sleep is not as sound as she would like it to be. In the first trimester, a woman sleeps more than usual as her body works doubly hard to form the placenta and to protect and nourish the fetus. As pregnancy progresses, it becomes more and more difficult for the expectant mother to get a good night’s sleep because of various reasons like frequent urination, shortness of breath, backaches, and leg cramps. The growing uterus increases the pressure on the bladder, and the kidneys work harder to filter more volume of blood resulting in more urination. Shortness of breath is caused in the initial stages by an increase in the pregnancy hormones and later because the growing uterus puts pressure on the diaphragm. Another factor is an increase in the heart rate because of more blood being pumped into the body. Since more blood flows towards the uterus, the heart beats faster to regulate the supply of blood to the rest of the expectant mother’s body. Because of weight gain and a hormone called relaxin, there are frequent bouts of leg cramps and backaches that give the woman sleepless nights. Heartburn and constipation are also reasons that cause sleeplessness. The digestive system slows down causing heartburn and constipation and the growing uterus also puts pressure on the stomach and the large intestine.

Women who are used to sleeping on their backs or stomachs face a bigger problem during pregnancy because they are required to sleep on the left side as it prevents the baby’s weight from falling on the veins in the lower body that return the blood to the heart. To prevent these problems, a woman must drink lots of water through the day and restrict the intake before going to bed to avoid frequent urination at night. Exercising also helps in getting sleep as it improves blood circulation and prevents leg cramps. The expectant mother must keep stress and anxiety at bay and get into a habit of getting a shoulder massage, having her hair brushed gently, bathing with aroma gels, and drinking hot milk before going to bed. The expectant mother must avoid spicy and acidic foods, and not lie down for two hours after meals to prevent indigestion and subsequent constipation and heartburn. It’s also important to avoid alcohol and caffeine as they cause sleeplessness. She must also maintain a well-balanced diet to keep night time hunger at bay, which is another cause of sleeplessness.


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