There are several known and defined medical sleep disorders that plague pregnant women during their nine months. “Some of the most common sleep disorders pregnant women experience are insomnia, GERD, sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome,” says Mary Oscategui, CBP, CGP, FSC, founder and director of education for the International Maternity Institute, who adds that frequent urination and overstimulation before bedtime can also play into the body’s ability to fight sleep.
These disorders can have a real effect on the mama-to-be. According to Oscategui, “When mom is well rested, she is also more physically and mentally prepared for labor, greatly diminishing the risk of any complications during and after labor.” Moms who aren’t getting enough sleep can fall victim to a host of issues including clumsiness, forgetfulness and exhaustion.
By understanding the reasons you’re not sleeping, you can take action toward remedying the situation. Let’s take a look at the most common culprits to see which is responsible for disrupting your sleep pattern and what you can do to conquer it.
Reason 1: Insomnia
A sleep disorder where a person is unable to fall asleep or stay asleep for the desired amount of time.
Oscategui says: Make sure you have down- time on a daily basis where you can spend some time relaxing and letting go of stresses. (Think nature walks and yoga!) For nighttime stirrings, keep a notebook and pen handy by your bedside. If you have trouble falling asleep because your mind is racing, or if you wake up and are unable to go back to sleep, consider doing some journaling before crawling into bed.
Reason 2: GERD
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid, and sometimes bile, refluxes back up into the esophagus. The signs include acid reflux and heartburn. These symptoms can start at anytime during pregnancy but may become worse as the belly grows.
Oscategui says: Eliminate all stimulants from your diet—including caffeine, chocolate and spices.
Reason 3: Sleep apnea
A sleep disorder caused by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing during sleep that’s usually caused by a blocked airway.
Oscategui says: If you have pauses in your breathing related to snoring, you’ll also want to have your blood pressure and urine protein checked—especially if you have swollen ankles or headaches. Try also elevating your head slightly and sleeping on your left side to improve the flow of blood and nutrients to your fetus and to your uterus and kidneys. Additionally, avoid gaining more than the recommended weight for your body type during pregnancy.
Reason 4: Restless legs syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common pregnancy complaint. RLS is described as uncomfortable sensations in the legs (or sometimes other parts of the body, even the arms) that resemble an itchy “pins and needles” sensation. Those experiencing RLS will feel the need to change positions to help relieve the pain.
Oscategui says: If you develop RLS, get evaluated for an iron or folate deficiency.
Reason 5: Frequent urination
As your baby grows so will your belly, mean- ing your bladder will be handling a lot more pressure causing that gotta-go feeling.
Oscategui says: Drink lots of fluids— especially water—throughout the day, but limit the amount you consume one to two hours before bedtime.
Reason 6: Overstimulation
It may be tempting to check your work email or scroll through your Instagram feed right before bed, but doing so could be the very thing that’s causing you to wake in the wee hours. Television time and even the glow from your alarm clock can also disrupt the circadian rhythm of sleep.
Oscategui says: Pregnancy is a perfect time to establish new habits for healthy sleep to continue long after the baby arrives. Try these smart steps to enjoying quality Zs:
• Maintain a consistent daily routine and sleep schedule. Make sleep a priority and include naps.
• Establish firm boundaries for bedtime.
• Make your room a sanctuary for sleep—try not to work, watch television, or participate in any activity outside of sleep or sex.
• Exercise for at least 30 minutes per day (with your care provider’s approval).
• Keep the temperature between 68 and 72 degrees.
• Use aids like sleep pillows for comfort and support. (See sidebar for options.)
• When you have to go to the bathroom at night, use only a small night-light to avoid stimulating the eye and disrupting the sleep cycle.
If you’ve tried all of the above and still can’t find your sleep zone, talk to your healthcare provider about safe treatments for your specific case. Remember, your body needs ample rest during pregnancy, and it’s important to ensure you’re getting it. Speak up, get help, and enjoy the gift of a great night’s sleep.