Vivid dreams or even nightmares are very common during pregnancy and although they may be unsettling, there is no need to worry about having them.
When we are asleep, we travel through different levels of sleep, usually from drowsiness to light sleep, then onto REM sleep (rapid eye movement) and then into a deep sleep. We dream during the REM stage and will only remember those dreams if we are awoken before we travel back through the light sleep and drowsiness stage.
During pregnancy, there is a much greater chance that your sleep pattern will be disturbed whether it is because you need to use the toilet, you feel your baby move, leg cramps or just because you are struggling to get comfortable. Therefore, you are much more likely to remember your dreams because your sleep pattern has been disturbed.
Dreaming is a natural technique that your body uses to deal with a large mixture of emotions and allows your brain to ‘file away’ and order your experiences and thoughts from the day. During pregnancy, you may experience many more emotions and feelings than before and these can cause your dreams to be more vivid. The extra hormones that your body is producing can also cause your dreams to be clearer and more vivid. Some women find that they experience dreams of a sexual nature as a result of these extra hormones and this is completely normal.
Can I stop myself getting these dreams?
Although there is no harm from experiencing dreams, they can be very distressing and worrying. Telling someone about your dream immediately or writing down your dreams straight away can help you return to sleep. Talking about your dreams the next day with another person can also help clear your mind and make you less anxious.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to stop yourself from dreaming but changing your sleeping position may allow you to experience a deeper sleep and mean that you wake less and therefore remember dreams less. You should check the temperature of your bedroom and make sure that you are not cold or over-heating whilst sleeping as this can also cause you to wake and have a disturbed night. Making sure you get some exercise during the day can help with getting a good night’s sleep and remembering dreams less, however, it is important to only exercise as much as you feel is right and it does not matter if all you can manage is a gentle walk. A bedtime routine that can be repeated each night can also help you to settle. No caffeine at night-time and avoiding screens in the evening are just two ways of improving your night-time routine. You may find it relaxing to have to have a warm bath before bed or to place lavender in your bedroom. Some pregnant women find taking part in yoga or learning meditation techniques help with their sleeping.
It is not recommended to use any over the counter sleep remedies to aid sleep whilst you are pregnant unless prescribed to you by your doctor.
If you are really struggling to sleep or you find your dreams stressful and worrying, you should speak to your midwife or doctor who will be able to reassure you. In very rare cases, your doctor may want to examine the problem further in case of an underlying sleep related problem.