Pregnancy consists of those 9 months, when you’re put on a pedestal, especially when it is the first time around. Well, did anyone mention the physical and emotional upheavals associated with it? Of course it is an undeniable aspect that all of these are part of a game which you play as you work in tandem with nature to create life on this earth. Sigh!Honestly, a pregnant lady gets drained out during this phase; whether it is eating, peeing or sleeping. Now we as humans, treasure sleep as one of the most precious things in life; But sleep cycles go completely haywire for pregnant women. So, what causes it? Let’s delve deeper and get to know more.
Hormones – The usual culprits!
Science has researched extensively and given us answers on what all dramatic processes go on inside a woman’s body, when creation is taking its course inside her. Everything is hormone-driven and these changes affect her physical appearance, emotional well-being, metabolism and many other aspects of her regular day to day life. Among all of this, sleep gets affected in a big way.
Hormones like Progesterone, Estrogen, Melatonin, Prolactin and Oxytocin work vigorously during pregnancy in a positive way but the after-effect of their increased presence hinders an expectant mom’s sleep cycle.
Progesterone which aids in relaxing smooth muscle causes frequent urination, heart-burn, nasal congestion and these disrupt sleep. In addition, it reduces Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep or the state of sleep which leads to imagining dreams. It however reduces the time required to fall asleep and decreases the state of wakefulness during night time.Estrogen goes about with the process of enlarging the blood vessels or in medical terms called as vasodilation. This hormone causes nasal congestion, difficulty in breathing while asleep and also causes Edema or swelling of legs and feet. Similar to Progesterone, Estrogen also disrupts REM sleep.
Further the presence of higher levels of Melatonin or the sleep hormone and Prolactin, which aid in enlarging breasts and promoting lactation also disrupt sleep cycles. Oxytocin which aids in causing contractions also disrupts sleep.
Disrupted sleep cycles during the three trimesters:
During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy cycle, there is an increase in day-time naps and lengthy sleep periods at night. However the sleep is characteristically of poor quality due to frequent awakenings.
During the period of 13 – 28 weeks, women tend to sleep more and comfortably at night however this joy is short-lived since by the end of the second trimester, awakenings at nights tend to increase.
From 29 weeks onwards until full term, sleep runs helter-skelter again due to frequent wakefulness in the night and more napping during the day.
Further pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness in the first trimester coupled with breast tenderness, frequent urination, anxiety, increased appetite, and back pain can cause insomnia. Women with low levels of iron or younger women tend to experience more fatigue and sleep goes for a toss.
Second trimester is a small blessing in disguise since the quality of sleep is better during most of this period with all the potent sleep- disturbances like increased Braxton-Hicks contractions, nasal congestion leading to snoring, heart-burn, and stomach pain showing up only towards the end of it.
With the presence of all the disturbances like frequent urination, leg pain, back ache, itching, heart-burn, breathing difficulty, tenderness of breast, dreaming, forced body positions, joint pains etc, sleep in third trimester is a foregone conclusion!
Each pregnancy is unique and expectant women may have varied symptoms to deal with like the many mentioned above. I was one of the lucky few who didn’t have to deal with morning sickness in the initial phase but everyone will not be having a similar experience. Pregnant women can try and distract themselves to sleep with all of these prevailing conditions by making use of a support pillow which can help in providing the much needed comfort. In addition listening to comforting music, a short walk, uttering a prayer or a simply meditating, a fruit kept aside for a mid-night snack all help in a positive way. All of these worked really well for me!
Not to forget, the support of spouse and the immediate family plays a crucial role and helps the pregnant woman to stay calm and happy at all times during these crucial nine months. All you soon-to-be mommies out there, my advice to you will be smile a lot and stay happy always, for you are doing something phenomenal!