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), 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 realize 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:
- 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.
- Are more apt to feel “low,” and may struggle with a low-level sadness that they can’t shake or a more intense depression.
- Feel stress more intensely and feel less able to cope with daily hassles.
- Tend to socialize or spend time with friends and supports less, simply because they don’t have the energy.
- 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?
- 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.
- We feel guilty. We self-sacrifice for the sake of doing it all and meeting everyone’s needs – but our own.
- We don’t realize 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.
Put Your Mask on First
Have you ever questioned the advice given by flight attendants at the start of every single flight: Put your oxygen on first, before you help others?
Of course not! It makes perfect sense!
Yet, mothers begin their self-sacrificing journey in pregnancy in subtle ways like forfeiting sleep for the sake of work and family. Somehow, we equate loss of sleep and well-being with dedication and being a good mother.
But, when we hear women talk about being a good mother, we hear things like:
- I want to be there for my child
- I want to give them what I didn’t have
- I want to teach them
- I want the best for them
- I want to love and nurture them
None of these fine things can be accomplished when we’re in a dragged out, low energy state. Each of these wonderful desires takes ENERGY and INVESTMENT.
Today, listen to the ancient wisdom that has served many generations before: Love yourself as you love others.
Take time to sleep. It’s a habit that will serve you well as a new parent.
Dr. Dawn Kingston