Having Weird Dreams While Pregnant — Here’s Why!

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As if weird food cravings and aversions, mood swings, morning sickness, or weight gain were any less stress-inducing, strange dreams are another common concern affecting pregnant women. In a study conducted on pregnant and non-pregnant women, the former comparatively reported more bad dreams, nightmares, lower sleep quality, and repeated night awakenings (1).

If you were affected by the onset of dreams during pregnancy that is unnervingly intense and bad, you must have wondered why. While it is a general tradition to understand dreams as omens (often used to tell fortune or predict the future), psychologists associate bizarre dreaming patterns with your thought patterns and your overall mental makeup. They believe that while dreams could hint at our coping strategies to stress and uncertainties, violent nightmares may point at more troublesome issues that one may be grappling with.

Been prey to spine-chilling nightmares that left you breathless? Here is what you need to know about why the strangest pregnancy dreams occur and what you could do to minimize (if not wipe out) them:

Why Do We Dream During Pregnancy?

Why Do We Dream During Pregnancy

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Dreams are our mind’s responses to situations and experiences relevant to us and those around us. These may evoke strong emotions and range from sweet to downright bizarre, hostile, or upsetting (2).

There are five stages of the human sleep cycle, of which Rapid Eye Movement (REM) comprises about 25 percent of our sleep duration. After about 70 to 90 minutes of falling asleep, you enter the first stage of REM. This is the stage where most of the dreaming happens, as per the National Institute of Health. The REM sleep repeats itself several times as the sleep cycle begins. All your recent emotions and experiences are processed when you dream. This also plays a role in processing new pieces of information and memory consolidation (3).

When a person’s sleep cycle breaks and they wake up during the REM stage, they can vividly recall their dreams. As pregnant women are prone to disturbed or frequently interrupted sleep cycles at various stages of gestation, it increases the likelihood of clearly remembering and recalling the intense or bizarre dreams. It has been found that the frequency of dreams will increase as you advance in your gestational age, with the most common dream being a conflict with the father of the baby (4).

Pregnant women commonly experience higher progesterone levels at around 12 to 16 weeks of pregnancy. It is only during the third trimester of pregnancy (about 28 weeks and beyond) that an increasing sensation of discomfort disrupts your sleep routine. This is when the quality of sleep is the poorest, as you might experience a recurrent need to urinate, snore or have sleep apnea. A frequent sleep disturbance issue that pregnant women undergo is insomnia which may also trigger mood and anxiety disorders along with restless legs syndrome (5), (6).

What Are The Most Common Dreams During Pregnancy?

What Are The Most Common Dreams During Pregnancy

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Studies published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth show that dreams of pregnant women range from issues related to pregnancy, like being pregnant, the gender of the baby, to unexplainable fear of childbirth. Dreams may also depict dire situations like loss of the baby, birthing a deformed baby, or more serious ones (7).

How To Improve Sleep Quality During Pregnancy?

How To Improve Sleep Quality During Pregnancy

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If you are expecting and have a hard time getting good sleep, here are things that might help you manage sleep disturbances and foster restful sleep to minimize recall of bizarre and upsetting dreams (8):

  • Avoid fried and processed foods that cause heartburn.
  • Reduce the consumption of liquids close to bedtime.
  • Light exercises (on your doctor’s advice) can promote good blood circulation and aid in sound sleep.
  • Consider changing your mattress or pillows so that you feel most comfortable while sleeping.
  • Meditate daily to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • You can also compensate for your lost sleep with small naps throughout the day. This will ensure your body is well-rested and energetic.
  • To prevent the strain of your uterus on your spine and back muscles, avoid sleeping on your back.
  • Avoid using electronic devices in your bedroom. Keep out all light and set an ambiance conducive to sound sleep.

Odd nighttime dream occurrences can be fearsome and evoke anxiety which adds to the rapid body changes during pregnancy. These are annoying and sometimes totally nerve-wracking. As nightmares can trigger sleep disorders, it could be worthwhile to seek help. Nightmares aren’t childish — they can have a crippling effect on your daily conduct if ignored. Speak to a trusted friend or your partner about issues bothering you, or sign up for therapy. Did you have strange or bad dreams when you were pregnant? Do share your stories with us in the comments section below!

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