A mother’s sleep during pregnancy is critical to the well-being of the fetus. Pregnant mothers are advised to sleep 7–8 hours a day. But what if you are constantly sleepy and you sleep more than 9 hours during pregnancy? Is oversleeping dangerous for expectant mothers? Here’s what you need to know about it.
Is it bad to sleep too long?
Hypersomnia is the scientific term for oversleeping, or excessive sleep. It is diagnosed if a person not only sleeps at night for more than 9 hours, but also continues to want to sleep during the day. Hypersomnia is psychophysical and pathological: one occurs in relatively healthy people, the other — under the influence of drugs, neurotic disorders, mental trauma, or due to sleep apnea syndrome.
Hypersomnia is dangerous in itself: according to a US study, adults who sleep more than 9 hours a day have a 50% higher risk of diabetes. And in women sleeping 9–11 hours a day, coronary heart disease develops more than 2 times.
In addition, excess sleep increases the likelihood of obesity (however, as well as lack of it) and a tendency to irritability and depression.
But this is all about those who sleep too much for a long time. But what about pregnancy — after all, it lasts for several months, and far from all the time, expectant mothers manage to sleep normally?
Oversleeping is a risk factor for stillbirth
According to a recent study, US scientists have found a link between oversleeping during the last month of pregnancy and stillbirth. The survey involved 153 women who had a premature birth (from the 28th week). It also included 480 mothers who were in the third trimester of pregnancy and had recently given birth.
According to the data obtained, the risk of stillbirth was higher in mothers who slept more than 9 hours without waking up during the last month. Prolonged sleep without disturbance affected the health of the fetus.
Dr. Louise O’Brien, lead author of the study, explains that long uninterrupted sleep can lead to low blood pressure in a pregnant woman. When a mother-to-be sleeps, her blood pressure drops. If she wakes up even once or twice a night, her blood pressure stays at its lowest level long enough to cause any harm.
Low blood pressure leads to fetal problems such as preterm labor and stillbirth. The results showed that waking up at night is a protective feature for pregnant moms in the third trimester — so this is a positive side of constant trips to the toilet at night.
The experts add that uninterrupted sleep over the past month may indicate a decrease in the number of movements of the fetus: it stops waking up the mother. Although the researchers do not elaborate on this issue, you should consult your doctor if a pregnant woman sleeps too much or the child begins to kick less.
While research links oversleeping in the last month to stillbirth, much is still unknown about how the autonomic nervous system works during this time. More research is needed to answer how oversleeping affects bodily functions during pregnancy.
Should I set an alarm at night?
Short answer from experts: no. Dr. O’Brien warns mothers against forced awakenings: this can lead not only to fetal growth retardation, but also to premature birth.
The hormone progesterone plays a role in making women feel too tired and sleepy in the third trimester. It is responsible for maintaining a healthy pregnancy, but also causes excessive fatigue and drowsiness. This is the most common cause of drowsiness in the later stages. However, if something seems to be going wrong, you should consult your doctor.
Other sleep disorders in the third trimester
In addition to excessive sleepiness, there are other sleep disorders that pregnant women should pay attention to in the last trimester.
Insomnia is a sleep problem characterized by difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Physical, hormonal, metabolic, psychological and physiological factors can contribute to insomnia in pregnant women. Moms with insomnia are sleep deprived and are at risk for prenatal depression, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, prolonged labor and caesarean section. Relaxation, lifestyle changes, exercise, and therapy have been shown to help with insomnia. If the condition worsens, you should consult a doctor.
Obstructive sleep apnea
Some moms develop obstructive sleep disorder, or sleep apnea, in the last trimester. Symptoms of the disorder include snoring, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing. Partial obstruction of the upper airway disrupts maternal sleep and affects the fetus. Sleep apnea interferes with the flow of oxygen through the placenta. This increases the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and caesarean section.
restless leg syndrome
Restless legs syndrome affects one in three pregnant women. In this state, there are pulling, aching, pulsating, crawling, “electric”, tickling sensations. The syndrome also causes an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, especially at rest, which affects sleep.
Restless legs syndrome increases the risk of hypertension and preterm birth. Moms should seek medical attention if they suspect they have the condition.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
People with GERD experience a burning sensation in the esophagus. The condition worsens when a person goes to bed, especially in the last month of pregnancy: hormones slow down the digestive system and the muscles of the esophagus. The muscles then relax, and as a result, the acid moves up the esophagus, causing a burning sensation. Also, as the uterus grows to accommodate the fetus, it puts pressure on the stomach. Pressure from the stomach pushes acid up the esophagus.
GERD is the leading cause of insomnia among pregnant women. Fortunately, lifestyle choices can reduce the frequency and intensity of heartburn. About what to do in this case, read the article “Heartburn during pregnancy: how to get rid of it?”.