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