Get­ting a de­cent sleep when you’re preg­nant can be a night­mare – but it doesn’t have to be

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

How to sleep well dur­ing preg­nancy

Sleep is a pre­cious com­mod­ity dur­ing preg­nancy, of­fer­ing a respite from phys­i­cal and emo­tional chal­lenges. But when your dreams are hy­per-vivid, some­times it doesn’t seem like a rest at all.

Sleep ex­pert Dr Neil Stan­ley says while it may feel as though you are hav­ing more un­usual, in­tense dreams more of­ten, this is not nec­es­sar­ily the case.

“Ev­ery­one dreams – we have four or five a night – but you can only re­mem­ber a dream if you wake up dur­ing it. And be­cause sleep is more likely to be dis­turbed through­out preg­nancy, you will prob­a­bly wake more of­ten mid-dream,” he says.

“Think of your dream life as a mul­ti­plex cin­ema. Imag­ine go­ing to watch ev­ery sin­gle movie in one day. Some would make you happy, some would make you sad and oth­ers would be ter­ri­fy­ing – but by the time you got home you prob­a­bly wouldn’t re­mem­ber ev­ery plot. By wak­ing re­peat­edly dur­ing the night, you ex­pe­ri­ence many dreams, but they’ll quickly be for­got­ten.”

When the bed­side light goes off, it’s nor­mal to fall into a pe­riod of deep sleep. This will last for about an hour, be­fore the first dream takes place in a short phase of rapid eye move­ment (REM). Much of the lat­ter part of the night is spent dream­ing, dur­ing longer REM sleep.

Dur­ing preg­nancy, hor­monal changes, phys­i­cal dis­com­fort and ap­pre­hen­sion about the months ahead can contribute to

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber dreams do not sig­nal what will hap­pen.

wak­ing up more of­ten dur­ing the REM dream phases, leav­ing you more likely to re­mem­ber your dreams.

So the quan­tity of your dreams may not change, but what about the con­tent? Why do so many preg­nant women re­port strange or scary dreams, fre­quently in­volv­ing their baby?

“One the­ory is that dreams pre­pare us for worst-case sce­nar­ios,” says Neil. “It could just be the brain deal­ing with the sit­u­a­tion, to be at the ready should the very worst hap­pen. You’re likely to be in a more emo­tional state while preg­nant, so it’s common to at­tach more mean­ing than usual to your dreams – es­pe­cially those about your baby.

“Your dreams can feel very real. Dur­ing a bad dream your body can re­act as though what you’re imag­in­ing is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing. Your heart will race and you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence gen­uine fear, but you can’t act out the event be­cause you are tem­po­rar­ily paral­ysed due to sleep.”

While this can be un­set­tling, the good news is there’s noth­ing to worry about.

“It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber dreams do not sig­nal what will hap­pen,” says Neil. “It’s the brain mak­ing sense of what’s in your mind. Dreams are as mean­ing­ful as you make them.”

So how­ever bizarre they may be, it seems preg­nancy dreams are noth­ing more than a sign that your body is sort­ing out the in­evitable stresses of this ex­cit­ing phase of your life while you’re asleep. All the more rea­son to lay back and let na­ture do the hard work.

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