We talk to sleep specialist, Dr Kenny Pang, and SmartParents Ob-Gyn Dr Christopher Chong, about pregnancy sleep problems.


Fluid retention. That’s the likely culprit robbing you of precious shuteye every night when you are pregnant. Later, of course, it will be your darling bub.
“In general, pregnant women feel tired more easily. They might be in discomfort and might have back pain or leg swelling or feel a bit more sore than usual, all because of fluid retention,” said Dr Kenny Pang, ear nose & throat (ENT) specialist and sleep specialist at Asia Sleep Centre.
The pain doesn’t just affect your lower limbs says Dr Christopher Chong, obstetrician-gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital, “Some may experience pain in the hands or numbness due to the pressure on the nerves from fluid retention. The pain can more severe during sleep because you are less likely to be moving your hands.”
Your fluid retention could also be causing the hubby to experience sleepless nights too. Excessive retention in the soft tissues in the mouth and the palate may just turn you into a snoring beauty in the bedroom. Dr Pang advises for expectant mothers to try sleeping on their sides to ease up airway obstruction. On the plus side, sleeping on your left side has been proven to be better for the baby as well (it lessens the pressure of your uterus on the liver).

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs as a result of the added weight during pregnancy, causing you to stop breathing during sleep!

Dr Chong adds that pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy, foetal movements and frequent trips to the toilet can disrupt your peaceful slumber.
Your pregnancy weight gain also brings with it a whole host of other health conditions that could make falling asleep, a thing of the past (for now at least).
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a serious condition where the person is likely to experience repeated breathing problems while being asleep. Some signs that a person might be suffering from this condition include choking or they stop breathing for a period while asleep. The increased weight gain during pregnancy can lead to increased fat and soft tissue around the neck — physical changes that can predispose one to OSA.
While congestion of the nasal passages, palate and tongue are common in most pregnant women, some might experience more severe complications due to hormonal changes. Rhinitis is another condition that can result from the increased level of oestrogen in your body. This condition can manifest as a runny nose or even blocked nasal passageways. Nose bleeds may also be more common during pregnancy due to nasal congestion.
The higher progesterone levels in pregnant women can lead to notable impacts on a pregnant women’s ENT functions, notes Dr Pang. Progesterone is responsible for greater pressures on the upper airway, thus it takes more effort than normal to breathe and could also lead to the issue of OSA. Dr Chong adds that raised progesterone levels are also responsible for tiredness and sleepiness during the course of your pregnancy.

So what can you do to relieve these sleep issues? Click next to find out…

Dr Pang shares that Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), is a non-surgical treatment procedure — which involves a CPAP mask and machine — prescribed by a sleep physician if you suffer from moderate to severe OSA. The CPAP machine acts to increase air pressure in your airway (especially around your throat) so that it does not collapse when you breathe in.
To deal with the fluid retention, try elevating your feet on a couple of pillows when you sleep. This is just a coping strategy, warns Dr Pang, adding that it would be best to seek medical advice in case of more severe health issues like high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia!

Stick to the recommended amount of caffeine daily — no more than 200mg (about 2 cups of coffee)!

Some mothers might also experience heart burn or acid reflux issues due to the enlarged abdomen. Dr Chong shares that these issues can be resolved by taking anti-acid medication and sleeping with your head raised on several pillows.
Before you reach for your daily java to help you keep awake in the day, Dr Chong advises, “Stick to the allowable limits, no more than 200mg of caffeine daily. One cup of coffee is about 100mg.” And stick to the typical health advisories like incorporating exercise that’s not too strenuous into your routines — you will reap rewards like better blood circulation and exhaustion, top ingredients for better sleep!

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