“I’ve been sleeping all my life,” you think, “So why do I have to learn how to sleep while pregnant?” But sleeping during pregnancy is a brand new skill. Your body transforms during pregnancy, functioning differently inside and out. First, let’s have a look at the common pregnancy problems that can make sleep difficult:
- Back pain/leg pain: The body’s changing shape during pregnancy not only adds weigh but loosens ligaments and changes weight distribution, making muscle pain and fatigue in the back and legs common in the later months of pregnancy. Back pain can be severe enough to keep you awake, or cause just enough discomfort to wake you in the middle of the night.
- Heartburn: During pregnancy, a woman’s digestive system slows down. Food spends more time in the intestines so the body has more time to process nutrients and pass them on to the fetus, but the more lax intestinal muscular structure during pregnancy can also make reflux and heartburn a fact of life for pregnant women. Heartburn can be miserable and make it impossible to sleep.
- Shortness of breath: In the late stages of pregnancy, the growing uterus can actually press against the lungs, making it more difficult to breathe. This condition is often exacerbated when you lie down. In addition, added weight combined with less muscle elasticity during pregnancy can lead to sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that can literally stop your breathing during sleep
- Urge to urinate and constipation: Problems with elimination can cause nighttime troubles during pregnancy. The pregnant body has less room for the bladder, resulting in more frequent needs to urinate. On the other end of the spectrum, slower digestion can lead to uncomfortable constipation and bloating. Both conditions make it hard to get uninterrupted sleep.
- Increased heart rate: During pregnancy, heart rate and blood volume both increase. As more of your blood supply goes to support the uterus, your heart works harder to keep up. Certain sleep positions can cause blood pressure to drop or to rise, causing dizziness or waking you with a feeling of being “wired.”
Pregnancy problems and fears about the future can leave you with insomnia, even if you’re lucky enough to float through your pregnancy without these common issues. In my next blog, we’ll look at the best ways to improve your sleep during pregnancy.