How Pregnancy Affects Dreams

Pregnancy can change your body in many ways, but it also can change how you dream. During pregnancy, you may find your dreams to be detailed, vibrant, and bewildering. You may remember your dreams more clearly than you did before you were pregnant, have more dreams each night, and regularly experience vivid or strange dreams.

These changes in dreaming are a common and normal part of pregnancy. It is natural to be curious about vivid dreams or concerned about bad dreams and nightmares. Understanding more about how pregnancy affects dreams, and why dreams are different during this time, can help calm any potential worry.  

Pregnancy and Vivid Dreams

Whether or not they remember their dreams, everyone spends approximately two hours dreaming each night. Dreaming can happen during any stage of sleep, but dreams are most common and most vivid during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This is the cycle of sleep in which brain activity, breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure increase.

Research shows that pregnant people report many more vivid dreams than those who are not pregnant. While estimates vary, one study indicated that 80% of new mothers-to-be experience dreams that are vivid, strange, and full of detail. Many of these dreams can be distressing to the dreamer.

Vivid dreams are especially common in later pregnancy, specifically the third trimester. While dreams during this time can be about any topic, they are often centered around the pregnancy, baby, and significant relationships such as a spouse or partner.

Dreaming is speculated to be a tool that helps a person process their emotions. Increased emotions related to having a baby, or increased stress about becoming a parent, can lead to more vivid and memorable dreams. 

Types of Pregnancy Dreams

Unsurprisingly, pregnant people frequently dream about their pregnancies and their babies.

Babies may appear in dreams to be in the womb or already born. A pregnant dreamer may have strikingly realistic dreams about their baby. Their dreams may even predict specific features of their unborn baby, such as the baby’s sex.

Pregnant people also dream about their roles as parents and the evolving relationships with their partners. As their pregnancies progress, they tend to have more dreams about childbirth as well. These dreams may help them feel more prepared to give birth and more ready to accept their new roles in life.

Nightmares become more common during the third trimester of pregnancy. They can involve similar topics as vivid dreams, and may be related to the amount of stress during the day. The third trimester can be particularly challenging, leading to added stress and an increase in this type of agitated dreaming.  

Why Does Pregnancy Affect Dreams?

While the purpose of dreaming is not fully understood, researchers believe it may help people process the emotions they experience during the day.

Pregnancy is a time of change, and emotions and stress can be heightened for many reasons. This is especially true for a first pregnancy, when pregnancy dreams can be even more frequent than in later pregnancies.

Pregnancy can be full of many unknowns about the baby, relationships with others, and a person’s own changing identity. Dreaming may help the brain process and understand these uncertainties. This constant unconscious processing may also lead to an increase in pregnancy-related dreams.

Interrupted sleep during pregnancy may additionally affect dreams. Sleep during pregnancy can be disturbed by increased night time trips to the bathroom, aches and pains, heartburn, and the movements of the baby. Even the dreams themselves, especially vivid dreams and nightmares, can wake someone up.

Sleep interruptions, particularly during REM sleep, increase the chance of remembering dreams more clearly. Sleep deprivation during pregnancy may also increase the number of dreams. A lack of REM sleep one night can lead to longer REM sleep and more dreams the following night.

Should I Be Worried About Pregnancy Dreams?

Dreaming is a normal part of pregnancy and can be a healthy way to process emotions. However, if you are not getting enough sleep or your sleep is frequently interrupted, you may consider taking measures to help you sleep better. Better sleep may minimize vivid dreams or nightmares.

For instance, limiting fluids before going to sleep may reduce the nightly number of bathroom trips. Cutting back on caffeine, taking time to relax, and avoiding exercise right before bed may improve the quality of your sleep. It can also be helpful to find the best sleep position for your stage of pregnancy.

If you are having troubling nightmares, or if you are experiencing a great deal of stress and anxiety, you may wish to discuss your concerns with a doctor or therapist. Your health care provider can help you find the right steps to take for your health and the health of your baby. 

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