I love to sleep.   I get really cranky if I desperately try to get enough sleep but can’t, for whatever reason.  That’s probably why sleep, or lack thereof, gets mentioned so frequently on this blog. 

Tonight, I finally got to sleep after dealing with restless legs and an overactive bladder and hot flashes- at 12;30 AM.  At 1:30, I woke myself up gasping for breath.  Let me rephrase that: I remember gasping for breath several times before I finally, crankily, actually woke up and gasped again.  Much like when you have stayed underwater *just a bit* too long, and you come to the surface, gasping, then panting, trying to appease your pained lungs and restore balance and a normal breathing rhythm.

After several nights of smaller episodes of this kind of behavior and feelings (remember Week 30’s post?  It’s been at least that long), I mentioned something to my friend about having these feelings despite sleeping propped up, using Breathe Right strips, trying to take guaifenesin (no sudaphedrine, because that makes the restless legs worse and wakes me up after a couple of hours), trying to not take Zyrtec (with disastrous effects during the day- achoo!), changing positions, using pillows this way and that, using sinus-cleansing neti pot treatments… every night, I wake up unable to breathe and feeling very dry and/or stopped up.  Callie will not stay out of our bed now- she comes in and curls up next to me, and sometimes she’s the one waking me up, with licks all over my face- and no apparent need for anything (to go potty, or water, or to alert to some sound).  It’s probably thanks to her that I’m bothering to wake up at all sometimes.  Scary.

My friend has sleep apnea, so her response was, “Do you think maybe you might have sleep apnea?”  Well… family vacations include at least 2-3 CPAP machines, so it is in the family.   I’ve never had it, though, so the next question, the one I researched tonight while I”m awake and not sleeping but definitely breathing, is whether pregnancy itself can cause sleep apnea.

The answers I have found say YES.  I admit that I was not a skinny girl when God decided Pud should start growing in my womb, so that is a definite risk factor for developing sleep apnea during pregnancy.  So is the fact that pregnancy equals weight gain, and weight gain is one of the major contributors to the development of sleep apnea.  I’m glad to have found out that I’m not going crazy and this really is something I need to discuss with my doctor (whose office opens at 8:30 tomorrow morning), because the risks of having untreated sleep apnea potentially include developing higher blood pressure, preeclampsia or even eclampsia (but research hasn’t definitely confirmed a connection), and less oxygen to the baby, which can cause stunted growth and potential for problems after birth.  Not getting enough sleep is also linked to problems during labor, and, which makes perfect sense to me, postpartum depression.  There may even be a connection between sleep apnea and the swelling that is now ever-present in my legs and feet.

I had no idea that this was actually possible, though I knew for sure that being pregnant can make sleep uncomfortable, with all the changes that a woman’s body goes through.  Sleep apnea is a sleep disturbance taken above and beyond the normal discomfort.  Wsh I had read in all those books about pregnancy something about when sleep disturbances are severe enough to talk with one’s doctor, and that not all of the sleep discomfort and insomnia is “normal territory” just because of pregnancy.   Ditto Restless Legs Syndrome, except that I already knew that I had it before I was pregnant; pregnancy just causes it to flare up more often.  The best thing I’ve found to combat RLS while pregnant is to be sure that I”m taking my folic acid supplements and eating enough iron-rich foods. 

When I find out what I can do about sleeping better at night (hopefully, there will be a fast-track to the CPAP machine- the only safe treatment during pregnancy), I will post an update.   Sleep is crucial  for good health, and I’m happy to share with other mamas-to-be whatever I learn, so that you can get the sleep you need so desperately, too.