Sleep and Childbirth Preparation

Ever since we were little kids, we've been told over and over again that getting enough sleep is important. Of course, during our teen years we thought the concept was ridiculous, but once we grew out of our teens we longed for those days when we were able to just lounge around in bed and sleep until noon.

I Can't Sleep...

As adult women, we know about sleep's importance, especially when we're pregnant. But, the thing about being pregnant is that it brings with it a lot of sleep problems. Consider the following sleep wreckers - nausea and vomiting in the middle of the night or early morning, heartburn, the driving need to pee at all hours of the night, and the inability to get comfortable in bed - and that's just the first trimester.

...I Can't Stay Awake

On the flip side, for the first couple of months you can't keep your eyes open during the day and you find yourself sleeping with your head on your desk at work. What's going on? Well, high levels of progesterone, the hormone responsible for regulating your cycles, makes you drowsy. You have this constant feeling that you're getting too much sleep when the fact of the matter is that you're up half the night due to the same hormone. By the end of the first trimester your body has made an adjustment and the second trimester will bring with it more regular awake and sleep times. Enjoy them because the third trimester is pretty void of sleep at night and it remains that way through to delivery of your baby.

Dreaming in Technicolor

By the time you are about four months into your pregnancy you'll find yourself making fewer trips to the bathroom at night and the daytime tiredness fades away. Barring leg cramps, some congestion, and some really wild dreams, your sleep will get better at night. Talking about dreams - you'll probably notice that they're in technicolor and more bizarre than ever. Talking animals and things you'd rather not discuss take over your night life. It's progesterone again, only now it's coupled with the anticipation and excitement of becoming a mother. Another reason for the weirdness of the night hours is the likelihood that you're waking up during the REM (rapid eye movement) cycle of your sleep because you have to pee or you have a cramp in your leg. The only thing you can do about the dreaming is get into the groove and enjoy it.

The Cycles of Sleep

Sleeping people go through five stages of sleep: 1,2,3,4 and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It's a cycle so you progress from 1 through REM and then start again and all of this happens in about an hour and a half. The longer you are asleep, the longer the REM periods become but when you first go to sleep there are longer periods of deep sleep and shorter REM periods. Stage 1 is the falling asleep stage where you experience involuntary muscle movement which is preceded by a feeling of falling. In stage 2 the eye movement stops and brain waves slow down. By stage 3 there are very few fast waves in the brain, most of the waves are delta which are extremely slow. Stage 4 is exclusively delta waves. It is stages 3 and 4 that are called deep sleep and that's the place from where it is hard to wake up. Then, along comes REM and everything changes. Breathing speeds up and becomes irregular, eyes jerk rapidly and the muscles in the limbs are paralyzed temporarily. Brain waves increase to the level of being awake, heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up, and body temperature doesn't regulate. This is when you will dream - and you go through this about five times a night. Who knew? Little wonder your dreams are nutty.

Sleep Apnea

There is a down side to sleep for some people. It's called sleep apnea and it's characterized by loud snoring and points when breathing stops. For some pregnant women the combination of weight gain and hormone fluctuations cause the tissue in the nasal passages to swell, causing a blockage of air flow. During an episode of sleep apnea your breathing stops and you wake up gasping, snorting or with a sudden start. You may or may not remember the episode but you will definitely feel the effects of being tired the next day. Snoring doesn't mean you have apnea, but if you are concerned about it, speak with your health care provider.

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