A 1998 poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) revealed that 78% of women experienced increased sleep disturbances when pregnant. This totals only one percent of the childbearing population of women who are affected by sleep apnea. However, it does answer the question of whether or not pregnancy is the cause of sleep apnea. There are many physical changes and developments which occur when a woman is pregnant.
Here are a few changes or symptoms which increase sleep deprivation (which can lead to or be the cause of sleep apnea):
- Frequent Urination at night – this is common for pregnant women which has a direct connection to sleep loss.
- Hormonal and emotional changes – cause drowsiness during the day and affects how muscles contract and/or relax. When these changes occur in the laryngeal area, snoring can occur. Snoring is a key indicator of sleep apnea.
- Insomnia – difficulty falling or staying asleep, waking up extremely early, waking up and still feeling drowsy or unrested. Insomnia related to stress or anxiety concerning workload, relationships, and of course pregnancy will cause sleep loss. Additional symptoms of pregnancy such as back pain, fetal movements, nausea, sporadic cravings for food at weird hours, and headaches can cause sleep loss as well.
- GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease) – This is widely known as acid reflux or heartburn. It is quite normal during pregnancy. When this occurs at night, not only will the esophagus and tissue in the larynx become damaged, but loss of sleep will occur.
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS) – Tingly, achy, creepy, sporadic and interruptive sensations in the legs at night. These sensations are often unpleasant and cause individuals to wake up from REM sleep.
In 2009, the Mayo Clinic’s Division of Critical Care Medicine stated that even though the “exact prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in pregnant women is unknown,” they do demonstrate an increased risk “for the development of sleep-disordered breathing or worsening of preexisting sleep apnea” (Venkata & Venkateshiah, 2009). For ways to treat symptoms associated with pregnancy related sleep loss, contact your primary care physician. You do not want to take medications to increase the risk of damaging the developing baby.
It is important to pay close attention to your sleep patterns and sleep quality in general but especially if you are pregnant. Doing so will help support optimal health of you and your unborn child. CPAP therapy may be a good way to treat many of the symptoms such as snoring, insomnia, sleepiness, etc. Treatment of these symptoms with CPAP therapy is a safe alternative to preventing other symptoms associated with sleep apnea. For more information concerning treatment of sleep apnea, contact us here at Aeroflow Healthcare. We’ll be glad to help!