Pregnancy can be a wonderful thing for women and families, but can also come with a lot of changes to your sleep. You may have heard that pregnant women sleep all the time or can't sleep at all. Both of these are true and have several different causes. Keep reading to find out how pregnancy can impact your sleep.
Pregnancy comes with major changes in hormones, all of which can affect the sleep that women get. Progesterone is a hormone that relaxes smooth muscle. The increase in this hormone can lead to frequent urination, heartburn, nasal congestion, all of which can interrupt sleep. Progesterone also decreases the amount of wakefulness throughout the night and reduces that time that women spend in rapid eye movements.
Estrogen is another hormone that can affect sleep because it causes vasodilation, or enlarging of the blood vessels. Estrogen may also cause fluid retention and swelling in the feet and legs, as well as disrupted breathing during sleep. Similar to progesterone, estrogen can also decrease the amount of REM sleep.
Prolactin and oxytocin are two other hormones that change during pregnancy. Increased prolactin can lead to more stage three, or slow-wave sleep. At night, higher levels of oxytocin can lead to contractions that disrupt sleep, which can also cause increased labor and delivery throughout the night.
Changes During Trimesters
Women's pregnancies are split up into trimesters, and there are common changes in sleep patterns throughout the trimesters.
First Trimester (First 12 Weeks)
Pregnancy increases the amount of sleep around week 10. The total amount of sleep time increases with longer sleep during the night and frequent daytime naps. However, sleep is less efficient with frequent awakenings as the amount of slow-wave sleep decreases, leading to many complaints of poor sleep quality.
Second Trimester (Weeks 13 to 28)
Sleep improves with more efficient sleep and less time spent awake after falling asleep. However, by the end of the second trimester, the number of awakenings increases throughout the night.
Third Trimester (Weeks 29 to Term0
Women in their final trimesters normally experience more nighttime awakenings and spend more of the night awake. They also nap more frequently during the day so sleep efficiency is reduced. Also, there is more stage 1 and 2 sleep which means sleep is much lighter.
Insomnia during pregnancy is also another sleep change that pregnant women can experience. Insomnia means difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. It's very common in first and third trimesters because of the frequent urination, fluctuating hormones, and issues with congestion and heartburn.
Near the end of pregnancy, women may just have a lot of problems getting comfortable enough to get good sleep. Other problems include nausea or vomiting, back pain, breast tenderness, leg cramps, and shortness of breath, to name a few.
Stress may also be another source of insomnia. If you're concerned about labor and delivery, or with the stresses of being a new mother. Learning stress coping techniques may help to subdue some of these stressors.