Even if you have never snored before in your life, you could find that during pregnancy you just can’t get a decent night’s sleep – and neither can anyone else in the house! Snoring is one of the common side-effects of pregnancy and affects about 1 in 3 pregnant women. So, if your sleep is being constantly disrupted by night time noises, here are the facts.
What causes snoring?
Snoring occurs when the upper part of your airway starts to relax and partially close, making it harder for air to pass through the nose and mouth. Snoring is much more common during pregnancy for several reasons, not least of which being the pressure from the baby in your womb on your diaphragm which makes breathing much more difficult whatever you do, whether that be sleeping, relaxing or exercising. Surging hormone levels, and particularly high levels of estrogen, can result in the nasal passages and mucus membranes swelling up. As the volume of your blood increases by half during pregnancy, the blood vessels expand, causing swelling of the nasal membranes which results in increased snoring. Over the past three decades, the numbers of women suffering from snoring during pregnancy has risen higher than ever, often because lots of women begin their pregnancy overweight or because they put on too much weight over the course of the 9 months. Research has shown that over half of pregnant women are classified as obese or overweight, and the increased amount of fatty tissue around their neck areas leads to snoring. Stress is another serious factor which leads to snoring during pregnancy. Stress had a major effect upon breathing, and when the rate of breathing is elevated due to any kind of stress upon the body, this can lead to snoring, especially when combined with the relaxation of the muscles in the throat while sleeping.
Risks to Mother and the Baby
Although snoring may not seem to be a serious problem, for a pregnant woman it can have major consequences. Women who develop a snoring problem during their pregnancy are actually at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, preeclampsia, fatigue and even of giving birth to a smaller baby. Women who already have hypertension and who snore while pregnant are at a higher risk of obstructive sleep apnea, a problem which affects around a third of women in their last trimester. A cesarean section is also a more likely outcome for pregnant women who snore, and gestational diabetes is another concern, affecting almost 10% of pregnant women due to the alterations that take place in their glucose metabolism when they are unable to get adequate amounts of oxygen. Snoring during pregnancy has even been linked to depression, both during the pregnancy ad after the birth itself.
What To Do?
There are several things that you can try if you discover that you are snoring during your pregnancy. While tiredness is common during pregnancy, sleepiness during the day and excessive fatigue are likely to be major indicators of snoring. Knowing the signs is very important, so talk to your partner and find out whether you are gasping for air, snoring, or stopping breathing for short periods while you sleep. If snoring is taking place on three nights or more per week and you also suffer from hypertension, you may have obstructive sleep apnea.
Change Your Breathing
Snoring is high volume, heavy breathing which occurs at night because of excessively heavy breathing during the daytime. Breathing through your mouth is also a factor as it causes heavier breathing and faster air intake. The same brain receptor processes breathing by day and by night, so improving the way you breathe during the day will carry on into the night too. Switch to breathing through your nose, and if you feel you have to breathe through your mouth, do so gently and slowly to reduce the chances of snoring.
It is a fact that over 30% of women who weigh the right amount before they become pregnant put on more than the recommended amount of weight during their pregnancy. Ensure you are eating sensibly by working closely with your doctor or nutritionist.
Optimal blood flow can be obtained by sleeping on your left hand side, and this also helps to make breathing more gentle. To help you, you can use pillows or a pregnancy wedge pillow to raise your head.
Eat A Snack
Eating large meals just before bed can alter your sleep patterns, so try to have dinner several hours before. Feel free to eat a snack, but avoid anything sugary as this can boost the breathing rate while it metabolizes and this can cause snoring.
Try A Humidifier
Using a cold mist or warm air humidifier while sleeping helps to moisten the nasal passages.
Over The Counter Products
You can buy nasal strips over the drug store counter which can help by lifting up the tissues of your nose, allowing increased amounts of oxygen to enter the larger nasal passages.
Anxiety and worry is common during pregnancy, but it is still important to meditate, take regular exercise and enjoy yourself to assist in de-stressing and reducing snoring.
Visit A Specialist
If you think that you may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, you should see a sleep specialist who can carry out a sleep study to determine how severe your condition is. You may even be able to carry this study out at home in some cases to improve your comfort. If it is found that you do suffer from the condition, you may be prescribed a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to open your airways while you sleep. A CPAP machine is not for everyone however, as it causes you to take in less air and can be cumbersome and awkward to sleep with. If you find that this is the case, you should discuss what other steps you can take with your physician.
Sleeping pills, tobacco and alcohol can all cause your throat to close up and result in snoring, so staying away from all of these while you are pregnant doesn’t just make sense in terms of your health but also to reduce your snoring too.