Why Dreams Get So Weird During Pregnancy
Pregnancy can upend your daily life while you’re awake—and you may find that it affects your dreams while you sleep.
Liz Lomasney of Wakefield, Massachusetts, says she’ll never forget a strange and funny dream she had during pregnancy. “I dreamed that I was taking my husband on a tour of my childhood. I was narrating all of these memories and people from my childhood in a baby voice,” Liz says. “I woke up laughing!”
Weird or memorable dreams like Liz’s don’t happen to everyone who’s pregnant, but they’re common.
“I only have incredibly vivid dreams while pregnant,” says Aryn Hinton of Natchez, Mississippi. “That is how I knew I was pregnant before even taking a test the second and third times!”
Pregnancy dreams may be more intense or you may have them more often. You might remember your dreams more vividly. You might have more nightmares or dreams that suggest you’re anxious, says Sarah Baroud, a licensed therapist with a focus on perinatal mental health in Holliston, Massachusetts.
“One common theme is certainly anxiety in dreams. I've heard a few about forgetting things for delivery,” says Baroud. “Like forgetting the car seat, or phone numbers to call friends or family with the big news. It’s perhaps similar to a dream where a teenager forgets to study for a test in high school!”
Why Pregnancy Dreams Can Be Vivid or Intense
Vivid, strange, or bad dreams in pregnancy don’t mean anything is wrong. And there are a few things that could explain why you’re having them.
Your body is working around the clock to grow your baby, and that requires a huge shift in your hormones. High levels of pregnancy hormones tend to make emotions more intense, and that can include the emotions you have while you dream.
“This naturally can happen even during menstrual cycles too, but when you're in a constant state of hormonal shift, you'll start to notice how these hormones may affect dreams,” says Andrea Matsumura, M.D., a sleep medicine specialist at the Oregon Clinic in Portland.
Sleep Pattern Shifts
Also, your sleep patterns can change when you’re pregnant. You may have symptoms that affect your sleep. You may be getting up more often to use the bathroom or just find it hard to get comfortable now that you’re pregnant.
Dreams happen during the deepest state of sleep, called rapid eye movement (REM). If your sleep is disturbed, that means REM and dreams can be affected too, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Thoughts of the Future
You’re probably thinking a lot about what life is going to be like in the coming weeks, months, and years. And those thoughts of the future can affect how you dream.
“Our minds are very powerful, and when we have anticipation in the subconscious, we certainly will dream about what's to come,” says Matsumura. “The anticipation of seeing your child, wondering what's going to happen during the delivery—these are going to be on your mind constantly, which will transfer into your dreams.”
Dreams aren’t always easily explained, but they can be your mind’s way of sorting through the thoughts or emotions you’re having while you’re awake.
An example: “If I’m curious about the sex of my baby, I might have a dream about a bold outfit my baby is wearing or how the nursery is decorated,” says Baroud.
3 Ways to Stop Pregnancy Dreams from Ruining Your Sleep
If your pregnancy dreams are upsetting to you or disrupt your sleep, there are things you can do:
1. Explore Your Feelings
If you had a nightmare about your delivery, could this pregnancy dream mean you don’t feel fully prepared? Worry and anxiety can creep into your dreams.
Take steps to address any worries or concerns you have. Talk about your feelings with someone you trust, like a loved one or therapist. You might also write out what you need to get done tomorrow: A study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that people who took just five minutes to write down a to-do list for the next day before going to bed fell asleep significantly faster than those who didn't.
2. Make Extra Time for Sleep
Sleep is important during pregnancy. Getting a good night’s sleep can help you prevent fatigue, and fuel your body as it grows a new human.
But pregnancy can also make it harder to get the rest you need, so it may help to make extra time for sleep. Going to bed earlier can help make up for the disruptions you may experience during the night due to discomforts or trips to the bathroom.
“Give yourself an extra 30 minutes to an hour of sleep if you can get it,” suggests Matsumura. “Find one thing you can do that you know relaxes you an hour before bed and stop all screens [computer, phone, TV, and tablet] one hour before bedtime.”
3. Adjust for What Your Body Needs Right Now
Your body will change quickly during pregnancy. Along the way, you may have to adapt for better sleep.
“As pregnancy progresses, you might use different pajamas, pillows, or blankets due to your shifting body shape and temperature needs,” Baroud says. “The previously cozy blanket might feel too cumbersome as pregnancy progresses, so something lighter may work better.”
Pillows can help you position yourself comfortably. You might consider getting a body pillow as well. “They offer support for the legs and belly as side sleep becomes more the norm,” Baroud says. Many doctors recommend sleeping on your side starting around week 20, since sleeping on your back with your growing baby can restrict blood flow in your body.
If your dreams are consistently stressful, or if you’re still struggling to sleep after trying these tips, talk to your doctor. They may be able to help you figure out what’s causing issues, and ways to help, such as a prescription sleep aid that’s safe for pregnancy. Don’t take any sleep-inducing medicine or supplements, such as melatonin, without first talking to your doctor.
You May Also Like:
- Pregnancy Sleep Tips and Solutions
- How to Sleep Better During the Third Trimester
- How to Manage Anxiety During Pregnancy
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