Many mums-to-be have trouble sleeping during pregnancy. Throughout pregnancy, hormones are raging like the fire of a thousand suns, which as any mum knows, messes with a whole range of bodily functions, including your sleep. But the importance of sleep during pregnancy cannot be understated – a healthy sleep schedule for mums is vital to foetal development.
Nationwide people aren’t getting enough visits from Mr Sandman, as responsibilities stack, sleep gets docked a few priority points. For a lot of women, this balancing act is made more difficult as they continue to add professional responsibilities to the home and family responsibilities many already have. And in some cases, women struggle with mental health or sleep disorders which are often exaggerated during pregnancy.
Creating a new life is hard work girl! And it doesn’t come without its consequences. In the early stages of pregnancy, hormones begin to change the physiological conditions of mums – from morning sickness and cravings to circadian rhythms and mental health. A pregnancy uproots the body’s usual machinery and re-prioritises its resources. These changes are unmistakable during the day, so it’s not surprising that these hormonal changes are messing around with our bodily processes and making it much harder to sleep at night.
Although it’s now harder to sleep, it’s even more important to get a good night’s sleep while pregnant. A healthy sleep schedule for mum has been linked to foetal development and smoother births. Good sleep habits are good for both you and your baby!
We know mums need all the shuteye they can get. And we know some of the consequences of sleep deprivation for healthy adults – inflammation, anxiety, depression, bloating. These all hold true for mums-to-be, with some fun little additions of postpartum depression, longer/more painful labour, a higher rate of c-section, and preeclampsia… No big deal.
The NIH published an article in 2010 studying the relationship between maternal sleep deprivation during pregnancy and foetal outcomes. The study found that sleep deprivation in mothers correlated with an increase in inflammation which has been linked previously to postpartum depression and adverse birth outcomes. The study also found that women who are sleep deprived during pregnancy might experience longer and more painful labour, with a higher rate of pre-term births and c-sections.
Don’t despair! While it’s definitely harder to get a good night’s sleep while pregnant – getting up to use the bathroom tends to wake you up – it’s all for a reason. Your baby thrives while you sleep. Sleeping is important for them and their development, we know that foetuses spend most of their time sleeping. At 32 weeks, your baby sleeps anywhere from 90 to 95% of the day.
A research group through the University of Auckland studied foetal behavioural states during maternal sleep by monitoring foetal brain states using an EKG. The study found a correlation between maternal sleep position and foetal development.
Sleeping on your back was found to correspond to low foetal activity. They think that this position restricts blood flow to the baby and so in essence, the baby goes into hibernation in this position. Not growing, not regressing. But the position with the highest foetal activity was side sleep. In this position, the baby is getting lots of blood and nutrients and spends a lot of time growing and developing into a little human, so make sure you do plenty of spooning action for ultimate baby growth. But, contrary to the common misconception, the study did not find a significant difference between sleeping on the right or left side during pregnancy.