sleep disturbances during pregnancySleep disturbances can turn a dream pregnancy into a nightmare. Restless leg syndrome (RLS), incessant trips to the bathroom, trouble falling and staying asleep, snoring, acid reflux, and apnea add up to overall poor sleep quality for many women. Sleepless nights turn into grogginess and fatigue during the day.

Incidence of Symptoms
In a 1998 National Sleep Foundation poll, 78 percent of women report more trouble sleeping while pregnant than at other times. A more recent 2010 study breaks down the incidence and timing of symptoms even further. This study polled 189 first-time mothers twice, once when the women were 6 to 20 weeks pregnant and again when the participants were in the third trimester.

Researchers compared the two sets of survey answers to learn how sleep disturbances develop or disappear throughout pregnancy. The scientists found that, on average, women tend to sleep fewer hours in the third trimester. In this study, the average number of hours slept each night dropped from 7.4 in the baseline survey to 7.0 hours in the follow-up. Snoring also rose from 11 percent to 16.4 percent. The percentage of restless leg syndrome reports jumped from a baseline assessment 17.5 to 31.2 percent. Overall poor sleep quality, as measured by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, became measurably more common as the participants’ pregnancies progressed.

Nausea is common during pregnancy, affecting between 50 and 90 percent of women. Nighttime nausea can disturb sleep. Medical scientists have not yet determined the underlying cause of nausea during pregnancy.

Causes of Symptoms
A variety of factors cause these sleep disturbances during pregnancy. Insomnia is often the result of stress or anxiety about the pregnancy or labor; jitters about motherhood can keep first-time mothers awake at night. Some worry about their parenting skills while others are anxious how having a baby will affect their relationship with their partners.

Pregnancy can cause general physical discomforts that interfere with sleep, including nausea and back pain. Fetal movement can keep a woman awake, especially late in pregnancy if the baby moves into a position that puts pressure on her bladder. Hormones can cause sleepiness during the day and disrupt sleep cycles at night.

A woman experiencing severe sleep disturbances during pregnancy should consult with her doctor.

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