Pregnancy certainly comes with its fair share of side effects, but the stories you’ve heard might not be painting the full picture. Did you know about the “morning” sickness that can last morning, noon, and night? The nighttime indigestion? And that your pregnancy dreams may start getting, well, wild? It should come as no surprise then that your sleep habits might change too. The sh*t no one tells you…
You might’ve assumed you’d get nine good months before you have to part ways with a full night’s rest. But the truth is, most women experience sleep disturbances throughout pregnancy thanks to bathroom breaks, babe’s movements, and you guessed it: pregnancy dreams.
Those dreams might be on the nose and super obvious for your life right now (e.g., meeting babe for the first time). Or, you might dream in more abstract ways that leave you feeling downright confused, like giving birth to your mother-in-law. Don’t judge.
Understanding why these dreams occur could help prevent more of them from happening, or at least prevent them from keeping you up at night when they do. Keep reading to learn what’s *really* going on in that mom brain of yours while you’re sleeping. You might want to cozy up in some loungewear before proceeding…
Hormones Run Amock
During the first trimester, a hormone called progesterone starts to take flight, and it’ll continue to increase for months before leveling off closer to your due date, according to a BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth study. This hormone is responsible for sustaining your pregnancy; so it’s pretty darn important! However, progesterone also makes you more fatigued during the day while robbing you of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep like a thief in the night.
Most people get around 4-5 cycles of REM sleep on a regular evening. That’s when dreaming is the most likely to occur, but we tend to forget those dreams hours later when we wake up. Since pregnancy symptoms can wake us up unexpectedly, often in the middle of a dream cycle, we’re more likely to remember those freshly dreamed dreams. Because, science.
But, It Feels So Real
The first thing you might notice about your dreams during pregnancy is how real they feel. While pregnancy is a deeply spiritual experience for many women, it’s also a seriously chemical experience. Those hormones just might do a number on your senses. So, when you wake up in a cold sweat after birthing a walking and talking toddler (fun fact: it’s a common dream for preggo women), don’t be surprised if you can’t shake it off right away.
All that progesterone floating around can have the same effect in pregnancy as it does for many women each month before they menstruate, producing wild dreams that leave you shook. Typically, pregnancy dreams feel more realistic because they trigger strong emotions in us. We might dream about things that upset us, confuse us, or delight us so much that we cling tightly to them all day long.
Am I Dreaming More?
You may also notice the frequency of these nighttime escapades picks up when you’re expecting. Logically, you could be falling asleep earlier or even sleeping in later each morning. Plus, factor in those cat naps while Dad is making dinner and you doze off to Friends reruns (but not The One With the Birth; you wouldn’t miss that). By default, extra sleep can equal more opportunities for dreaming.
Pregnancy dreams may not be more frequent than dreams when we aren’t expecting. We might just remember them more when we wake up mid-dream cycle or because they pack such a punch. Either way, buckle up and plan for these tricks of the trade to help you get more restful sleep.
While it’s normal to have a higher progesterone-to-estrogen ratio during pregnancy, it doesn’t come without side effects. Feel that hot flash coming on like you’re channeling your inner Samantha Jones? Having night sweats that make you think your water broke? An increase in body temperature is known to bring with it more powerful dreams. Cooling sleepwear helps a lottt.
Speaking of Hot In Here
Things may be heating up in your bedroom in more ways than one. That’s because all those hormones flooding your body—coupled with the increase in circulation to your lady bits—makes for a big boost in your sex drive. That is if the morning (ahem, all day long) sickness hasn’t managed to snuff it out. Whether it’s nausea at 10 weeks or the fact that you’re feeling less than flexible at 37 weeks, a decline in your real-life sexy time may also lead your mind to seek out some of that fulfillment on its own. Sex-related dreams are all the rage when you’re throwing up and combating acid reflux. Didn’t ya know?
Even if you’re exhausted and logically can’t make sense of it, REM sleep has some powerful effects. It may even spur some dreams about ex-boyfriends, your boss, or the neighbor. Don’t stress! None of this means you’re into anyone but your partner, but it can certainly rattle you enough to stick with you throughout the day as you try to forget what you think you just saw with your eyes closed.
Stress Makes a Mess
In a perfect world, your pregnancy will resemble Beyonce’s epic photoshoot. In reality, it might be hemorrhoids (say hello to Motherlove’s Rhoid Balm) and nightmares, too. Many expectant mamas find that whatever they’re worried about throughout the day tends to make it into their dreams at some point during pregnancy. Thus, if you’re terrified of tearing during birth, dreams about it probably won’t make you feel less scared. During your waking hours, it’s wise to try to combat those deep-seated fears with meditation or therapy, and fight insomnia with goodies like 8 Sheep Organic’s Sleepy Balm or Rae’s Root’s Rest Easy Tea.
Premonition or Anxiety?
Perhaps one of the most intriguing things about pregnancy dreams is how we process them when we’re awake. Dreaming of holding a baby boy or a girl? Are your maternal instincts screaming at you, or is it just wishful thinking? It’s only natural that as you are preparing to bring new life into the world, you would be overcome with thoughts about the process. Your subconscious is full of worries, wonders, and anticipation for the stages of pregnancy that lie ahead, as well as childbirth and motherhood. Still, it can be hard to discern whether the universe is speaking to us when we have these anticipatory dreams, or if it’s just our minds playing tricks on us.
Back To School
Somehow, knowing that millions of women have done it before since the beginning of time doesn’t help us wrap our minds around how we, ourselves are going to do this thing. A quality childbirth education program and support groups full of women who’ve been there are the ideal solutions here. You don’t need to wait until the third trimester to take those classes either. The earlier you start educating yourself on the very natural process of childbirth and the parenting practices you want to take on board when babe arrives, the sooner you can start to feel at ease about going through the process yourself, mama. Often, this will tame the midnight matinees of a birth plan gone awry when you close your eyes.
The moral of the story is that upticks in, let’s just call them memorable dreams, are normal during pregnancy. Of course, knowing this doesn’t make finding your partner in a compromising position with his co-worker or forgetting your newborn baby in a dream any easier to deal with. Fortunately, there are a few good ways to try to mitigate bothersome pregnancy dreams to have in your mama toolkit.
First, start talking. Tell your partner why you’re tossing and turning (and why you almost smothered them with that pillow last night). They don’t need to understand where the dreams are coming from any more than you do. They only need to understand that in the moment, it feels real, and you may need some extra TLC (cue the under 100°F bath). The same rings true for other pregnancy dreams that leave you unsettled. Open up about your feelings. For example, try to work through the logical side of your anxieties around your pregnancy, birth, or motherhood in general, instead of letting the fictitious side in your brain dominate how the story plays out in your mind.
Practice mindfulness and other relaxation techniques before bedtime to get your mind in the right place for shutting down instead of stirring things up. Make the bedroom your safe space. Fall asleep to music you love. Explore sleep positions in pregnancy that will help you stay in a restful, deep sleep instead of having choppy periods of downtime. And remember, soon you’ll have a baby in your arms that’ll make all of this worthwhile—though you still won’t be sleeping!