Pregnancy and Sleep

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For most women, pregnancy is a time of great joy, excitement and anticipation. Unfortunately, for many it can also be a time of serious sleep disturbance, even for women who have never had problems sleeping. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation's 1998 Women and Sleep poll, 78% of women report more disturbed sleep during pregnancy than at other times. Many women also report feeling extremely fatigued during pregnancy, especially during the first and third trimesters. Considering the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy and the prevalence of sleep disorders among pregnant women, it’s no wonder that expectant mothers become so tired.

One of the reasons for fatigue and sleep problems during pregnancy are changing hormone levels. For example, rising progesterone levels may partly explain excessive daytime sleepiness, especially in the first trimester. Hormonal changes may also have an inhibitory effect on muscles, which may result in snoring and in obese women increase the risk of developing sleep apnea and may be partly responsible for the frequent trips to the bathroom during the night. These interruptions as well as those caused by nausea and other pregnancy-related discomforts can result in significant loss of sleep. Many women experience insomnia due to emotions and anxiety about labor and delivery, balancing motherhood and work, or their changing relationship with their partner. This is especially true of first time mothers. For most women, getting a full night's sleep becomes even harder once the baby is born. It is very important for pregnant women to prioritize sleep and to find effective strategies for managing their sleep problems as early as possible in their pregnancy.

Several sleep disorders can be caused or made worse by pregnancy. In a study of over 600 pregnant women, 26% reported symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS), a condition characterized by unpleasant feelings in the legs that worsen at night and that are relieved by movement. Another common problem during pregnancy is heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). One recent study found that 30-50% of pregnant women experience GERD almost constantly during pregnancy. Pregnant women are also at