Sleep. The most important thing each of us needs after food. In this modern world, all of us lack sleep due to irregular or prolonged working schedules, lack of physical activity, stress, and various other factors. The sleeping pattern is extremely affected during pregnancy. What could be the reason behind it and how to get an adequate amount of sleep. Let’s explore this in this article.

Reasons why sleep is affected during pregnancy:

1. Increase in levels of progesterone
        During Pregnancy there will be a sudden spike in the levels of progesterone which disrupts our sleep cycle. This is why on the initial days of pregnancy you will notice sleeplessness at night, unwanted napping in the afternoon, and feeling tired all the time. After 32 weeks, the progesterone hormone abruptly increases which causes a relaxing effect and induces more sleep. This is why you will sleep more frequently in your late trimester.

2. Visiting the bathroom often
        As your gestation progresses the growth of your baby puts further pressure on your bladder causing you to make frequent passages to the restroom. This is increased more at night which in turn disrupts your sleep.

3. Heartburn
        During pregnancy, you might experience a burning sensation in your chest and throat after lying down, straight after your meal, especially dinner. So you will try to keep yourself up by elevating your head with pillows. But this will put you up at improper angles leading you to have insomnia.

4. Restless leg syndrome
        During pregnancy, your calcium levels get down and this is why your doctor will provide you with calcium supplements. The calcium is not only depleted from your bones but also in your muscle, especially in your legs. Calcium is required for proper contraction of the muscles for movement. An inadequate amount of these causes irregular contraction of muscles resulting in a twitching sensation in your legs which is felt more during the night. This also disturbs your sleep.

5. Fear and worry about labor
        At some point in their pregnancy, women start worrying about the pain and fear of labor and postpartum. This is very common in women who conceive for the first time, leading them to be anxious and worried most of the time. This keeps them up at night and disturbs sleep.

6. Baby Movements
        After 24-26 weeks you will feel your baby move more actively, especially at night. This will make you uncomfortable and keep you awake.

7. Musculoskeletal pain
        Sleeping in poor posture, using cushions that are too hard or too soft, and improper positioning of pillows will result in unwanted musculoskeletal problems ranging from neck pain to back pain to leg cramps. All these factors result in an  inadequate amount of sleep.

Other common factors that affect sleep:
(1) Intake of caffeine
(2) Excessive screen time
(3) Excessive napping in the afternoon
(4) Certain types of medication
(5) Having a large meal before bed

Ways to get good sleep:

1. Sleep early and wake up early
         Hit the bed before 8 pm and wake up early before 6 am. Initial days you will find this to be hard. But once it is practiced at least for a week or two your body gets adapted and brings itself in line with normal circadian rhythm.

2. Dietary Changes:
         Avoiding caffeine and carbonated drinks is necessary. Take smaller portions of meals before going to bed. Avoid food that aggravates your nausea or heartburn or the one which results in bloating of your tummy. The following foods contain tryptophan and melatonin in small quantities and help you to have a good night’s sleep: Oats, Almonds, Milk, Bananas, Grapes, Yogurt, Kiwi, Cherries, Eggs, and Cheese.

3. Change the vibe of your bedroom:
         Sleep in a dark and cold room. A room temperature between 24-28 degrees would be ideal to get optimal sleep. Avoid keeping TV, mobiles, or any electronic gadgets in the room. Use the bedroom only to sleep, not to have food, or to do any other activities. Use a comfortable mattress and pillow and make sure that it is neither too soft nor too hard. Make sure the room is soundproof and quiet.

4. Staying active and getting into an ideal posture
         Involve in prenatal yoga or exercise every day. Walk post-dinner at least for 20 minutes. Practice meditation regularly. Do get massage therapy at least once or twice a week. Avoid sleeping on your back and sleep on the sides. Make sure your head is elevated less than 45 degrees, above which there is a risk of sleeplessness.

5. Exposure to sunlight
         Exposure to early morning daylight helps in the production of melatonin which helps in the proper functioning of the sleep cycle.

6. Managing Restless leg syndrome
         40 percent of insomnia cases during pregnancy are associated with restless leg syndrome. In such cases staying well hydrated, taking calcium supplements as prescribed at night, and stretching your muscles regularly are the key to preventing its occurrence.

Why is sleep important during pregnancy?
         Inadequate sleep puts you at a higher risk of having gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and numerous other complications. A study conducted at John Hopkins Institute revealed that women who experienced insomnia during pregnancy had longer labors and a higher rate of C section compared to those women who had a good sleep. Sleeplessness not only affects the mother but also the growing fetus, resulting in adverse outcomes such as low birth weight and a higher chance of preterm birth. Mothers who sleep less than six hours a day are more prone to experience postpartum depression. 7-10 hours of sleep is necessary during pregnancy. And it is impossible to change sleeping patterns and make modifications overnight. Yes, it takes months to change and talking to your healthcare provider and seeking treatment is the most important thing to do.