Sleep Soundly During Pregnancy
When you're pregnant, a host of discomforts conspire to rob you of sleep. From heartburn to leg cramps to endless bathroom trips, catching those much-needed ZZZs can be a big challenge. Here's help.
A bulging tummy isn't the only thing that gets in the way of a
good night's sleep. Heartburn is a common problem during pregnancy. Henderson
says hormonal changes relax the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach,
allowing stomach acid to burble up, causing acid reflux or heartburn. "Treat it
as it occurs," he says. Take an over-the-counter antacid, and prop up your head
with pillows to keep the stomach acid down.
"In some instances, heartburn is simply heartburn,"
Santa-Donato says. But it can also be a sign of other, more serious health
problems, so you should mention it at your next checkup.
The need to urinate frequently -- because the uterus presses on
the bladder -- may also keep you up during the night. This may be less of a
problem if you simply limit what you drink before bed.
Some women say their dreams become more vivid and intense when
they are pregnant, which further disturbs sleep. Carolyn D'Ambrosio, MD,
director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Boston's Tufts University, says
she has heard of this, but she doesn't know of any scientific studies that have
shown why, or how common it is. "I'm not sure that's absolutely established,"
The most serious sleep disorder a pregnant woman can develop is
sleep apnea. In sleep apnea, the airway closes and breathing stops many times
during the night. The ensuing lack of oxygen can be harmful to the developing
fetus. It also causes sudden awakenings, which makes for fitful, restless sleep
and fatigue the next day. What's more, D'Ambrosio says there is some evidence
that sleep apnea is linked to another condition called preeclampsia, in which a
pregnant woman has abnormally high blood pressure, swelling, and protein in her
urine. Preeclampsia can lead to low birth weight, premature delivery, and in
some cases, death.
Loud snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea. Women who didn't
snore before becoming pregnant and who have trouble breathing at night may have
the condition. "They should get that evaluated," D'Ambrosio says. Those who
suffer from sleep apnea usually don't notice the symptoms. It's their bedmates
-- awakened by their ripping snores and gasping for air -- who bring the
problem to their attention.