Did you know that heartburn during pregnancy can be a major reason for impaired sleep patterns among women? While the symptoms of heartburn are usually mild, it can deeply impact your sleep. Here is everything you should know about the relationship between heartburn and sleep during pregnancy, and what can you do about it.
Reasons for heartburn during pregnancy
Heartburn or acid reflux is common in pregnancy. It is triggered by rapid hormonal changes, and is compounded by the growing baby pressing against the mother’s stomach. Many pregnant women experience heartburn for the first time during their pregnancy. However, if the mother-to-be has experienced heartburn before pregnancy, the symptoms could re-occur. While the exact reason is still unclear, studies highlight that progesterone plays a vital role. The Esophageal Sphincter (a tight band of muscle at the top of the stomach) is relaxed by hormones, allowing digested food and stomach acids to flow back into the Oesophagus. Additionally, progesterone slows the digestive process, keeping the food in the stomach for a longer time.
Difference between acidity, heartburn, and its impact on sleep patterns
People often confuse acidity and heartburn, but they are actually different medical conditions. Acidity occurs when your stomach creates more than the necessary amount of acid to digest your food. Whereas, heartburn is a burning sensation that extends from the bottom of your breastbone up to your lower throat. It happens when acid from your stomach rises up to your food pipe. For pregnant women, it is important to understand the difference, to be able to deal with it better.
Symptoms of heartburn
Some of the common symptoms of heartburn are – burning sensation or pain in the chest, feeling of fullness or bloating, belching, or a bitter or sour taste in the mouth. These symptoms can appear anytime during pregnancy, but are common after 27 weeks. As a result of heartburn, the sleep cycle is disturbed, and it creates an overall impact on pregnant women’s health.
Lack of sleep and related disorders can be triggered or be worsened by pregnancy. Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), Gastric Acid Reflux (GERD), Sleep Apnoea (interrupted breathing during sleep) are some commonly known problems. Inadequate sleep can also have a bearing on labour during delivery.
Coping with heartburn
Here are some measures that pregnant women can take to cope with heartburn symptoms:
- Plan, schedule and prioritise sleep
- Exercise for some time during the day
- Drink plenty of water during the day, but cut down liquid intake before bedtime
- Avoid large spicy meals, fried, and acidic foods
- Eat frequently and in small portions
- If you snore, get yourself checked for high blood pressure
- Have daytime naps only if necessary
If you are unable to manage your heartburn with lifestyle changes, you should visit your doctor for a treatment option that is generally considered safe during pregnancy. While this problem can be quite difficult to manage during pregnancy and could disturb your sleep cycle, don’t force yourself to sleep, instead read, write, or practice other mindful activities till you actually feel sleepy.
The author is a gynaecologist & obstetrician at Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi – A Fortis Network Hospital.
Dr. Manjiri Mehta
Obstetrics And Gynaecology
Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi A Fortis network Hospital
She has trained in advanced Gynecological & Obstetric ultrasonography. She has experience of more than 15 years and known for handling complicated pregnancies.
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