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Sleep and Pregnancy: Does it affect dreams?

Sleep and Pregnancy

Sleep and Pregnancy: Does it affect dreams?

Sleep and Pregnancy. It is common for women's sleep to be disrupted during pregnancy by bathroom breaks, fetal movements, or other events. However, for some women, one of the most unexpected side effects of pregnancy can be changes in the way you dream.

Strange pregnancy dreams are not uncommon, but some may find them disturbing. It can help you understand why they change your dreams and know that it is completely normal to experience detailed and sometimes frightening dreams during pregnancy. Sleep and Pregnancy

How does pregnancy affect dreams?

Vivid dreams and nightmares1 are common during pregnancy. Many women also report greater dream recall during pregnancy, even for those who were not normally used to recalling dreams. These dreams can be very realistic.

Researchers believe that dreams may be a way for our subconscious2 to process issues that are currently on our minds. Not surprisingly, many pregnant women report pregnancy-related dreams3. You may dream that you are pregnant or dream that you are meeting your baby for the first time. Many mothers even dream about the gender of the baby.

Other times, pregnancy dreams take a terrifying turn. Expectant mothers may have nightmares about labor and delivery or dream that something bad has happened to the baby. A common theme for dreams during pregnancy involves conflict with the father.

While pregnancy-themed dreams may be partly due to hormones, similar dreams are also known to occur postpartum4 and in expectant fathers. Talking about dreams with your partner can help you assimilate the changing roles.

Why does pregnancy affect dreams?

Related reading. Pregnant woman sleeping in bed. Sleep tips for pregnant women who sleep in bed? Do women need more sleep than men? old woman sleeping in bed
Menopause and sleep? Vivid dreams are likely the body's way of sorting through the many feelings and emotions that arise during pregnancy, both positive and negative5.

Pregnancy can be a time of great joy and anticipation as you prepare to welcome your new baby. However, it's also natural to feel anxious during this time, along with anxiety about labor and delivery. The content of your dreams can help you identify areas that you are particularly preoccupied with.

Expectant mothers who report feeling more anxious or depressed during the day are more likely to experience bad dreams. Likewise, research consistently finds that first-time mothers tend to have more pregnancy-related dreams than those who already have children. Some studies have found that pregnant women with complications such as preeclampsia6 also report a higher frequency of disturbed dreams. Sleep and Pregnancy

One study7 found that pregnant women experienced more dreams about the safety of the baby in the early third trimester, when the baby was at higher risk of dangerous premature birth. Towards the end of the third trimester, these dreams subsided and were replaced by dreams about the birth itself.

All of these findings support the idea that dreams parallel real-life fears that arise as your pregnancy progresses.

Pregnancy and the sleep cycle

Daytime fatigue is a commonly cited reason for an increase in dreaming during pregnancy. It seems logical that women who are tired sleep more, leading to more opportunities for dreaming. However, pregnancy also causes profound changes in our nighttime sleep.

As we sleep, we progress through different stages of sleep. Dreaming tends to occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, at the end of each sleep cycle. During a normal night, we may experience four or five episodes of REM sleep, but we often forget our dreams until we wake up several hours later.

Conversely, for many women, pregnancy-related discomfort causes fragmented sleep with multiple nighttime awakenings.

Interestingly, these disturbances may actually cause pregnant women to have less REM sleep overall8. However, people are usually more likely to remember their dreams if they wake up in the middle of a dream cycle, so it appears that pregnant women have more dreams.

Changing hormones may also be to thank for altered sleep patterns during pregnancy. Not only do hormones cause a rollercoaster of emotions during the day, but some researchers also believe that an increase in vivid, detailed dreams may be linked to higher levels of progesterone9 that occur in late pregnancy.

Should I be worried about vivid dreams during pregnancy?

In most cases, vivid dreams during pregnancy are a normal and healthy way of processing emotions. In fact, several studies have found that mothers who had more masochistic dreams during pregnancy experience higher levels of depressive symptoms during pregnancy, but still have smaller births10 and a lower risk of postpartum depression11.

Improving the quality of your sleep and reducing night wakings can help reduce vivid dreams. Try to follow pregnancy sleep tips such as sleeping on your left side and avoiding liquids before bed to reduce disruption to your sleep.

Keeping a dream journal can help you decipher your thought patterns and prevent nightly worries from keeping you awake. You can also reach out to your support system or try meditation, yoga, or other prenatal classes. Feeling more secure and confident about your pregnancy can help you relax at night so you can sleep better.

That being said, in some cases, your dreams may be trying to tell you something. If pregnancy nightmares make it difficult to sleep or cause you anxiety, or if you have a recurring nightmare, you should report this to your doctor or therapist.Sleep and Pregnancy

While dreams should not necessarily be taken literally, they may reflect underlying stressors or problems. Your doctor may order tests to rule out an underlying sleep disorder and ensure there is nothing to worry about for you or your baby.

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