Pregnancy and Sleep

June 3, 2019

Pregnant women lacking sleep are more likely to have complications and sleep disorders may worsen during pregnancy. As part of our Woman and Sleep Series, we discuss how pregnancy interacts with your sleep cycle. Check out our YouTube videos and follow us on Facebook.

Pregnancy and Sleep

Changes brought about while pregnant both physical and physiologically are known to impact sleep. In fact one report suggests that on average 78% of women report worse sleep during pregnancy increasing up to 90% of women in their third trimester.

Weight gain, rising maternal and fetal oxygen demands as well as laying down on your side (recumbent) increases the work of breathing which leads to increased dyspnea (shortness of breath), which disrupts sleep making it fragmented and unrefreshing.

Don’t forget this does not include the body aches, acid reflux, fetus movement and frequent awakens needing to pee.

1st trimester

 Women report increase in daytime sleepiness
 Yet report 30 minutes more sleep time
 Sleep efficiency is decreased (constant awakenings)
 Slow wave sleep is decreased (deep sleep – where hormones are released and cells regenerate)

2nd Trimester

 Total sleep time is decreased
 Normal slow wave sleep is returned

3rd Trimester

 Total sleep time back to pre-pregnant length
 Decrease in slow wave sleep
 Decrease in REM (dreaming and brain cleaning stage of sleep)
 Increase in daytime napping may be the reason for increased sleep time over 24 hours


Whether woman decide to nurse or not actually effects a mothers sleep stage distribution.

 Studies have shown that lactating women have nearly three times more slow wave sleep compared with women who bottle feed their babies , this is thought to be due to the high levels of prolactin in nursing women.

 70-80% of mothers of newborns experience postnatal blues usually temporary and can be treated by family doctor.

 Lack of uninterrupted sleep leads to daytime sleepiness.

Other sleep disorders can manifest during pregnancy, with obstructive sleep apnea it can be the opposite as the increase in progesterone and lack of sleeping supine ( on your back ) can actually lower a women’s event index. If snoring starts or is only present during pregnancy and an increase in blood pressure is observed, coupled with daytime sleepiness a consultation with a physician is recommended as some women do require CPAP therapy during pregnancy to keep oxygen desaturations normalized and prevent fragmented sleep and stress to the fetus. 15% of pregnant women develop restless legs syndrome (RLS), this may be due to iron and or folate deficiencies, it makes falling to sleep difficult as a creepy feeling in the legs creates an urge to move. Medications to treat this disorder or not recommended for pregnant women as they could cause harm to the fetus. In most cases this disorder disappears with the birth.

Sleep tips for pregnant women:

1) Reduce caffeine intake: Recommended no more than 200 milligrams per day (on average this is equal to 2 cups of coffee (8oz)).

2) Cut back on fluids at night: Remaining hydrated in important, but less liquid prior to bed can help lessen washroom breaks.

3) Pillows: Women’s hips widen thru pregnancy, placing a pillow between the legs can help ease the strain that takes place on the hips.

4) Relaxation: Creating another human being can cause anxiety and stress, Yoga, mindfulness and relaxation breathing techniques can be helpful in managing or lessening theses.

5) Lessen Heart Burn: Help lessen heart burn by avoiding spicy acid and fried food, elevating your head on a pillow can help as well.

6) Create a Sleep Routine: Waking and going to bed at the same time helps instill good sleep habits.

If you are having any of these issues please consult with your family physician or your Obstetrician

Sweet Dreams,
The Team at SleepTech

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Posted in Blog