The Enemies of Sleep

Hannah Webb Photography

By Dr. Dawn Kingston

Up to 80% of pregnant women experience some kind of sleep disturbance in pregnancy. That means that almost every pregnant woman sleeps less – or less soundly. 

While causes of sleep problems can include difficulty breathing, restless legs syndrome (e.g. intense leg discomfort when laying down), and frequent going-to-the-bathroom. They can also be caused by – and lead to – a whole host of emotional challenges

Poor sleep and emotional health 

In the midst of just trying to cope with feeling continually exhausted, you may not realise the hit that your emotional health takes as a result of poor sleep

Recent studies show that when pregnant women experience poor sleep patterns, they: 

  1. Feel like the quality of their lives is significantly impacted. They don’t enjoy life like they used to, and they enjoy their pregnancy less and less. 
  2. Are more apt to feel “low,” and may struggle with a low-level sadness that they can’t shake or a more intense depression. 
  3. Feel stress more intensely and feel less able to cope with daily hassles. 
  4. Tend to socialise or spend time with friends and supports less, simply because they don’t have the energy. 
  5. Aren’t as productive. They can’t be as productive at home or work as when they are rested. 

The enemies of sleep 

The solutions seem simple: take naps and go to bed earlier. Excellent advice. 

Why don’t we follow that advice? 

  1. We feel too busy. We feel too crunched by work and family commitments to take time out to nap when we can or to get to bed earlier. 
  2. We feel guilty. We self-sacrifice for the sake of doing it all and meeting everyone’s needs – but our own. 
  3. We don’t realise the short- and long-term impact of sleep deprivation – on ourselves, our productivity, and our relationships. We believe that one day things will turn around and allow us to catch up on our sleep. But, it takes four hours of good sleep to repay the sleep debt from one hour of lost sleep. 

Click here for the 9 tips for getting better sleep in pregnancy guide.

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