The Strange Way Pregnancy Affects Your Dreams

Pregnancy brings countless physical and psychological changes, many of which you may already know. From weird cravings and morning sickness to "pregnancy brain," it seems like there is no area of your life that pregnancy does not affect. With this in mind, it really is not surprising that pregnancy not only impacts your sleep but also your dreams.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, many pregnant women report intense and vivid dreams, nightmares and anxiety-based dreams, more frequent dreams, and an enhanced ability to recall dreams. A 2014 study published in Sleep Medicine found that pregnant women in their third trimester were more likely than nonpregnant women to report experiencing at least one nightmare per week. Another study published that year in Dreaming found that, rather predictably, many pregnant women had dreams about motherhood.

If you're one of the many women who has experienced strange dreams during pregnancy, you may have just one question on your mind: why?

This is why pregnancy affects your dreams

According to the American Pregnancy Association, changes in hormone levels may cause dreams to be more frequent and vivid. Sleep disruption from anxiety, discomfort, and needing to use the bathroom often may also have an impact. This is because sleep disturbance can interfere with your sleep cycle.

Another reason pregnancy affects your dreams is that, as exciting as it is, bringing a child into the world can be an anxiety-provoking and stressful time. Indeed, stress is correlated with nightmares during pregnancy, and many of these nightmares are about the baby being in danger (per BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth). For this reason, some researchers believe that many women's pregnancy nightmares are an extension of the anxiety they experience during the day (via Sleep).

As distressing as they are, these dreams may actually be a healthy way of dealing with emotions. In fact, a 2003 study published in Dreaming discovered that pregnant women who experienced nightmares were less likely than others to develop postpartum depression. That being said, if your dreams are causing you a lot of distress, the Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping on your left side and avoiding liquid before bed to prevent sleep disruption. You may also want to keep a journal to help you process your dreams and what fears may be causing them. You can also talk about these fears with someone you trust, such as a therapist.