Why do pregnant women have such wacky dreams?

Pregnant women report having more vivid dreams [Photo: Getty]
Pregnant women report having more vivid dreams [Photo: Getty]

There are many pregnancy side effects you’ll likely have heard about, hello morning sickness, heartburn and haemorrhoids.

But why did no one tell you about the crazy dreams?

Earlier this year, singer Cardi B, who had her first baby in July, told her Twitter followers about the bonkers she’d been experiencing during pregnancy.

“Ok soooo one thing i don’t like about pregnancy is these weird, crazy, spooky dreams i be having [sic],” she wrote.

“I hate them. I be waking up in the middle of the night out my naps. Is the weirdest thing [sic].”

In a second tweet she revealed that all her dreams were too vivid.

“Everything is too vivid. Sex dreams, nightmares, good dreams,” she wrote.

Dreams that are extra weird and dark aren’t unusual during pregnancy, so Cardi B is certainly not alone.

But what’s causing the bonkers dreams after light’s out?

According to Dr Sue Peacock, consultant health psychologist at BMI The Saxon Clinic, during pregnancy dreams increase for a number of reasons, but mainly due to alterations to our sleep patterns.

“We all usually cycle through different levels of sleep during the night. Most nights, you’ll go from drowsiness to light sleep, then into deep sleep and onto rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Dreams usually happen during REM sleep, but we usually cycle back through light sleep and drowsiness before waking up, which means we don’t always remember our dreams,” she explains.

“During pregnancy hormones change so our dreams increase in frequency. During pregnancy women need more sleep, more sleep more opportunity to dream! Often we remember our dreams when there something that brings you to the surface and wakes you up, disturbing your sleep cycle. Whether it’s indigestion, leg cramps, feeling the baby move, needing the toilet or just trying to get comfortable, these things will prevent you from sleeping soundly,” she continues.

And having your sleep interrupted, waking straight out of a dream, makes it more likely you’ll remember your dreams.

“That’s why it seems as if you’re having more dreams, and because you’re remembering them so clearly, they seem particularly vivid,” she adds.

Sue says that a woman’s dreams can actually change during different stages of her pregnancy.

“Their dreams often reflect their thoughts and feelings about being pregnant. The hormones change in the body, the body changes and this can lead to a variety of emotions such as excitement one minute and anxiety the next. Dreaming can help you to deal with these emotions. It’s your brain’s way of filing all the stimulating experiences and thoughts from your day,” she explains.

“Most pregnant women I see initially request to see me regarding insomnia, however as we chat about their sleep patterns etc, it is usually related to anxiety and often their dreams reflect their anxiety,” she adds.

“Dreams can express our subconscious worries, so your dreams may represent your deepest concerns, fears, insecurities about pregnancy, the birth, your baby, motherhood etc. These are common, but worth discussing with your midwife.”

What causes pregnant women to have such funky dreams? [Photo: Getty]
What causes pregnant women to have such funky dreams? [Photo: Getty]

And your dreams aren’t just funky during pregnancy, sometimes they’re darned frightening.

According to a study of 406 pregnant women, published in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth those who were expecting a baby reported nightmares more than twice as often as women who were not pregnant, and those nightmares were often baby-related.

“Again, people remember these dreams because they have recently woken from, so often it seems as if pregnant women are having more nightmares,” explains Sue.

“Even if a woman is happy, pregnancy can stir a sense of uncertainty. Nightmares often reflect anxiety about impending motherhood, labour, delivery etc…”

So what can pregnant women do so that they stop spending their nights chasing a giant caterpillar round the maternity ward dressed in a babygro?

Hope Bastine, sleep expert for high-tech mattress maker, Simba has some suggestions.

Keep it Cool

“Sleep experts agree that sleeping with a room temperature of 16 degrees centigrade or less significantly regulates temperature related sleep disturbances experienced by pregnant women,” explains Hope.

“In addition, research shows that wearing natural fabrics, like cotton, bamboo, silk, satin, absorb excess moisture thus regulating body temperature – whereas, synthetic fabrics trap moisture and therefore doesn’t regulate body temperature during the night.

If our temperature spikes during the night we are innately programmed to wake up so doing all you can to avoid this is a must to stop bonkers dreams.

Cuddle yourself sleepy

Ditching the PJs might help you get a more restful night’s sleep. “There’s a lot to be said for sleeping in the nude when the pregnancy furnaces are firing for two reasons: temperature regulation and getting your sleepy-happy hormone fix!” says Hope.

“Research reveals that touch from your loved ones sees a spike in the luscious love hormone, oxytocin, which is not only nature’s antidote to insomnia but wonderfully natural analgesic. So bumping bodies in the night might not be a bad thing!”

Meditate your way to ZZZs

According to Hope in 2008, and 2012 UCLA found that pregnant women who took part in the eight-week mindfulness course experienced significant reductions in stress levels, anxious thoughts, and mood modulation – all enemies of sleep.

“Meditation also has been found by the Wake Forest University and the John F Kennedy Institute significantly elevate our natural pain relief responses, endorphins and dopamine, by an attractive 65% giving us the ability to handle pain 27% better than control groups,” she continues.

“Participants also reported a feeling of greater connection with their unborn child during pregnancy and a calm child after birth.”

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