For most women, pregnancy is a time of great joy, excitement, and anticipation. However, for many, it can also be a time of disturbed sleep – even for women who have never had problems sleeping. When you’re pregnant, you need as much sleep as possible, but women can experience sleep disorders while pregnant. The good news is that they’re treatable, and symptoms tend to disappear when your body gets back to normal post-partum – at least, until your baby causes new sleep deprivation! Below, you’ll find the most common sleep disorders that can be experienced while pregnant.

Sleep Apnoea

It’s common to feel unusually sleepy during the day when you’re pregnant. However, if you or your partner have also noticed that you’ve started snoring noisily, or that you’re gasping or pausing while asleep, you may have developed Sleep Apnoea. This is a breathing-related sleep disorder, as there is resistance in the upper airway which requires extra effort to breathe. You could also have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), in which the walls of the throat narrow while you’re asleep. This can temporarily obstruct normal breathing repeatedly through the night.

As many as one in three women start snoring in pregnancy, and one in ten may develop symptoms of OSA.1 Read more about Sleep Apnoea here.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a strong urge to move your legs while you’re resting, and it can be accompanied by unpleasant feelings. Some people can experience itchiness in their legs, as well as a burning or jittery sensation. The need to move your legs can get worse at night and the feeling is only relieved by movement. Many people also experience jerky movements of the legs, known as periodic limb movements.

Up to 30% of pregnant women experience symptoms of RLS, especially in the third trimester.2 The good news is that symptoms that arise during pregnancy usually disappear after the baby is born.

Read more about RLS here.

Insomnia

Symptoms of insomnia can include difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep, waking too early, and non-restful sleep. Insomnia usually interferes with normal everyday living. In pregnancy, aches, pains, leg cramps, hormonal changes, and emotional stress can increase the risk of insomnia. Short term consequences include fatigue, feeling low and irritable, and memory and concentration problems. You can read more about insomnia, and how to ease its symptoms, here.

Tips for A Good Sleep

  • Establish a regular routine
  • Relax before you go to bed – meditate, read a book, or practise mindfulness
  • Make your bedroom comfortable – dark, quiet, and cool environments make it easier to sleep
  • Avoid laptops, TVs, phones, and tablets before bedtime

If you find that you are experiencing any of the above while you’re pregnant, visit your doctor. They will discuss your symptoms to find if there’s an underlying cause to your sleeping problems, and they’ll choose the right treatments for you.

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Footnotes

  1. https://www.sleepio.com/articles/pregnancy/recognizing-sleep-disorders-in-pregnancy/
  2. https://www.sleepio.com/articles/pregnancy/recognizing-sleep-disorders-in-pregnancy/
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