Nightmares (Bad Dreams) during Pregnancy: Reasons & Tips to Overcome

Bad Dreams During Pregnancy – Reasons and How to Avoid?

Dreaming is a normal phenomenon, and most of us dream when we are fast asleep. Dreams can be varied and on various topics and ideas. However, sometimes these dreams may not be happy or positive ones. Instead of dreams, some of us even have nightmares. Just like pregnancy dreams, nightmares while pregnant are also common. If you have nightmares during pregnancy, it may become a cause for concern. This is because being in a peaceful and calm state of mind is essential for the to-be-mom and her unborn child. And the expecting mom experiences exactly the opposite of this while having a nightmare in early pregnancy. Let us find out what may cause nightmares in pregnancy and also learn various ways in which you may keep such experiences at bay in the following article.

What Are Nightmares and Are They Normal During Pregnancy?

The human mind is very complex, and it keeps storing memories in it. Many studies are going on to understand and interpret human dreams. However, no substantial proof has been found that clearly states why we have certain kinds of dreams. But it has been observed that these ethereal images that you see while sleeping may be a result of your thoughts, memories, anxieties etc., and may pop up in your mind in the form of a dream or nightmare. When it is a positive or happy experience, it is termed a ‘dream’, and when it is a negative or disturbing experience, it is termed a ‘nightmare’.

If you are pregnant, then you must be thinking if nightmares are common during pregnancy or not. Well, there is no doubt that your body goes through many physical and emotional changes during pregnancy, and sometimes these changes lead to various kinds of disturbances in your sleep. Hence, these disrupted sleeping schedules and sleep patterns may make you more prone to having bad dreams during pregnancy.

Reasons for Nightmares During Pregnancy

Following are some of the reasons which may lead to nightmares during pregnancy:

1. Changing Hormones

It may sound a bit strange, but your changing pregnancy hormones may make you have nightmares. This may happen because of the hormone called cortisol. The level of this hormone starts increasing as you become pregnant, and it may reach its peak during labour. This particular hormone may be responsible for triggering that part of your brain that may make you see weird or scary images during sleep. Hence, you may have nightmares.

2. Stress

It is extremely normal for a pregnant woman to feel stressed. There are so many reasons to be stressed about during pregnancy. For example, you will be concerned about your baby’s health and well-being, the birthing process, your health, etc. But stressing or being anxious won’t help. Anxiety issues may affect your sleep and result in disrupted sleep. This may lead to negative thoughts and emotions, which may culminate in nightmares.

A pregnant woman stressed

3. Sleep Issues

If you face sleep issues during pregnancy, you are likely to have nightmares. Sleep issues occur due to changing hormones, increasing weight, pressure on your abdominal region, etc. All these problems may increase your chances of waking up at night and thus may lead to sleep troubles. Therefore, you may have more chances of having nightmares in the second trimester of your pregnancy.

4. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep

During pregnancy, you are most likely to experience more REM than non-REM sleep. This is because your sleep is continuously interrupted by different things like discomfort or frequent urination. It is at this stage that an expecting mother dreams a lot and the dreams seem very real.

5. Anxiety About Birth and All That Follows

Most pregnant women fear the birthing process, labour pains and what will happen once the baby arrives. They also start thinking about their identity as a new mom and feel a lack of support. These negative emotions are major contributors to nightmares.

If you forget these nightmares after waking up, then it is not a problem. However, if you reminisce about them, it may lead to stress and anxiety. Any kind of stress or anxiety is not good for you or your unborn child. Therefore, you may have to look for ways and means to control your negative emotions and feelings that make you experience nightmares in the first place.

Tips to Avoid Bad Dreams While Pregnant

If you are looking for ways to prevent the occurrence of nightmares during pregnancy, here are some suggestions that may help you. Take a peek into the following tips and minimize the occurrence of bad dreams during pregnancy:

1. Try to Find Out the Reason

Believe it or not, knowing the reason that may have caused a bad dream may help you deal with it. You need to understand why you may be having such negative thoughts. It could be because of health issues, fear, worries, or other such issues that may bother you during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about the same and get over your fears and worries.

2. Take Charge of Your Health

If you suffer from any health ailment during pregnancy, it may make you tense and worried. You need to understand your condition and learn about various ways to cope effectively to have a healthy and hassle-free pregnancy. Eat good food, take enough rest, and have an active lifestyle. This will keep you upbeat during pregnancy and keep health problems at bay. If you exercise, eat well, and follow your daily schedule, you will fall asleep quickly and sleep peacefully. Thus, the chances of a nightmare would be reduced.

3. Think Positive and Be Happy

Your state of mind has a lot to do with the kind of dreams you may have. If you remain positive and happy, it will keep negative feelings and thoughts away from your mind, ultimately preventing bad dreams at night.

A happy pregnant woman with her husband

4. Sleep Well

The importance of ‘rest’ during pregnancy cannot be undermined. You should have at least 7 to 8 hours of interrupted sleep at night. A well-rested body means no stress or tension, which in turn makes you happy and keeps you away from any negative thoughts and emotions.

5. Do Not Snack Late at Night

You may have unusual food cravings in the wee hours during pregnancy, but don’t give into those weird cravings. If you like, you can find something healthy and light before going to bed. Anything that you eat just before dozing off may not get digested easily and may lead to heartburn, nausea, or other digestive problems. These problems may hamper your sleep and thus lead to negative emotions.

6. Be Realistic

Sometimes no matter how hard you and put sense into things, your mind fails to understand the logical aspects of it. The same may hold true in the case of nightmares, too. All said and done, nightmares during pregnancy- the first, second and third trimesters, are nothing but your interpretations, and they may not be true, so why worry? Don’t stress yourself by thinking about it. Let it go. However, if you have the same dream regularly, talk to your doctor about it.

7. Meditate

Meditation is one of the most effective ways to calm your mind. No matter how hard your day was or what negative thoughts crop in your head, all you have to do is, sneak out a few minutes from your schedule to meditate a couple of times a day. Plan one session right before you retire for the day so that your mind is calm and relaxed.

A pregnant woman meditating

8. Relax

Relaxing your mind and body during pregnancy is essential, as stress and anxiety are not good for your baby’s and your health. The best way to relax is exercises, yoga, meditation, listening to music, reading a good book or doing what you like. You can also spend some time with your friends or family members to unwind after a hectic day. Talking to your loved ones is also one of the best therapies that helps soothe your mind.

Some Tools to Stop Having Pregnancy Bad Dreams

Nowadays there are many tools which you can use to promote healthy sleep and prevent bad dreams. You can try the following:

  • Specially made soundwaves that tweak the way your brain functions, while you fall asleep. Make use of these to have peaceful dreams, and relax deeper.
  • Lucid dreaming. This is what happens when you’re aware that you’re dreaming and can control the narrative of your dream.
  • Meditation music apps register the kind of music that appeals to you and will present those sounds during sleep.

If you incorporate the tips mentioned above in your life, you can get a good sleep and relax at night. However, it is important to understand that dreams, whether good or bad are just the manifestations of your mind, and you may have no control over them. Therefore, if you struggle with sleeping because of recurrent nightmares, seek medical assistance at the earliest.

FAQ

1. Can Bad Dreams Affect an Unborn Baby?

Sleepless nights and vivid dreams could affect a pregnant woman’s sleep schedule. This could lead to stress and anxiety further creating problems like heart disease and high blood pressure. Too much stress especially during the final trimester increases the chances of delivering a premature baby.

References/Resources:

1. Schredl. M, Gilles. M, Wolf. I, Peus. V, Scharnholz. B, Sütterlin. M, Deuschle. M; Nightmare frequency in last trimester of pregnancy; BMC Pregnancy Childbirth.; PubMed Central; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5103377/; November 2016

2. Pregnancy stages and changes; BetterHealth Channel; https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/pregnancy-stages-and-changes

3. Won. C; Sleeping for Two: The Great Paradox of Sleep in Pregnancy; Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine; https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.4760; June 2015

4. Lara-Carrasco. J, Simard. V, Saint-Onge. K, et al.; Maternal representations in the dreams of pregnant women: a prospective comparative study; Front Psychol.; PubMed; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23986734/; August 2013

5. Lara-Carrasco. J, Simard. V, Saint-Onge. K, et al.; Disturbed dreaming during the third trimester of pregnancy. Sleep Med.; PubMed; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24780135/; June 2014

6. Priya. A, Chaturvedi. S, Bhasin. S, et al.; Depression, anxiety and stress among pregnant women; Indian Journal of Psychiatry; https://journals.lww.com/indianjpsychiatry/fulltext/2018/60010/depression,_anxiety_and_stress_among_pregnant.31.aspx

7. During Pregnancy; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/during.html

Also Read:

Anger during Pregnancy
Effective Pregnancy Sleep Tips
Mood Swings while Pregnant

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