The Importance of Sleep During Pregnancy
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Most people know that sleep (or lack of it) is likely to be one of the biggest changes to get to grips with once your baby arrives. However, it often comes as quite a shock that sleep can present so many challenges during pregnancy. If you're not careful, you could enter the world of motherhood exhausted before you have even started!
Why is sleep so important during pregnancy?
Sleep is important for everybody, pregnant or otherwise. The first and most obvious effect is on your mood. When we are tired we tend to lack motivation, be more irritable, less productive at work and generally less happy in ourselves. Lack of sleep can also be dangerous. A significant number of accidents on the road are attributed to drivers falling asleep at the wheel, and a far greater number are due to lack of attention, which goes hand in hand with being tired. Other accidents are also more likely when you are tired as your attention span is shorter and you can become clumsier, resulting in trips and falls, or dropping heavy or dangerous objects.
When you are pregnant, sleep is more important than ever. Pregnant women are more prone to accidents anyway due to their changing size and centre of gravity, so adding tiredness to the mix is even more dangerous. Lack of sleep is also thought to increase your risk of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, which can be dangerous. It is also important that pregnant women are as well rested as possible in order to help them through the ordeals of labour, childbirth and early motherhood.
Labour is likely to be a very draining physical experience, so to start it well rested is important. It is thought that women who regularly get too little sleep at night towards the end of their pregnancy (less than six hours) are more likely to have a longer labour and/or a caesarean section. Consider the domino effect of poor sleep in pregnancy: a longer labour or caesarean section and then the recovery - on top of having a newborn baby to contend with!
Being home with your newborn is more than likely to be exhausting, and you will give yourself a head start if you have managed to get regular and good quality sleep through your final trimester. Once your baby arrives, there is no telling what your sleep pattern will be, but generally babies need feeding between 8-12 times each day during the first month. Unfortunately this is often spread quite evenly across the 24 hour period. Add to that the nappy changes and the time spent settling your baby and you can see where the stereotypical image of the new mother (permanently in a dressing gown with bags under her eyes) comes from! Of course all babies are different and you may have a lot of help so this isn't going to be the case for everybody, but you should be prepared for it nonetheless.