As if pregnancy didn’t already make it hard enough to get a solid night sleep, research shows that new sleep disorders may be caused by pregnancy and existing sleep disorders may become worse. This is not great news for pregnant women who are already struggling to get the sleep they need to maintain their health and the health of their growing baby. Plagued by the need for frequent urination, the discomfort of a rapidly growing belly, and the other pregnancy-specific sleep challenges, the last thing expectant mothers need is another thing keeping them up at night. The good news is that this increased understanding makes it more likely that sleep disorders will be diagnosed which makes treatment possible. But for the poor expectant mother who just wants to get a good night sleep, the biggest challenge can be learning how to cope with a whole new condition.
Which Sleep Disorders are Common in Pregnancy
When it comes to affecting expectant moms, not all sleep disorders seem to be created equally. There are five sleep disorders that seem to be the most prevalent during pregnancy.
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Sleep Apnea
- Sleep disruption caused by frequent urination
According to the National Sleep Foundation, one study showed that about 26% of pregnant women experienced restless leg syndrome (RLS) and almost half dealt with heartburn that was serious enough that ir disrupted their sleep while they were pregnant. Both of these conditions can result in increased daytime sleepiness, decreased concentration, and less ability to handle stress.
Pregnancy also puts women at a higher risk for sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes the sleeper to stop breathing over and over during sleep. In addition to contributing to some long-term health problems, sleep apnea can cause complications during pregnancy. If left untreated, sleep apnea has been linked to gestational high blood pressure and the development of preeclampsia, a very serious pregnancy complication that can endanger the life of both mother and baby. Additionally, sleep apnea has been linked to low birth weight babies. As the impacts of sleep apnea during pregnancy can be so significant, it is very important that any pregnant woman who thinks she may have sleep apnea or who is experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness discusses these concerns with her doctor as soon as possible.
Insomnia and sleep disruption are common occurrences during pregnancy and can make it difficult to get the right amount of sleep. Stress, pregnancy-related discomfort, GERD, nausea, and the movement of the baby can all make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. Unfortunately, many of these symptoms continue to get worse as the pregnancy progresses. All sleep problems need to be discussed with a medical professional to ensure there are no underlying problems that need to be addressed.
How to Cope
Since pregnancy is a temporary condition and the majority of symptoms will likely resolve after the baby is born, the challenge for pregnant women is to learn to cope with these sleep issues as best they can. Making sleep a priority, planning for naps, and staying hydrated are some of the best things ways to combat lack of sleep during pregnancy.