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Pregnancy

18 Weeks Pregnant: Lighter Sleep and Vivid Dreams

18 weeks pregnant fetus

By now your baby is developing more established sleep-wake cycles. Your sleep, on the other hand, is likely interrupted by additional pregnancy symptoms, your baby’s movements, and vivid dreams.

Your baby

Believe it or not, your placenta hasn’t been fully formed until now. Until birth, the placenta will provide nutrients and oxygen to your baby and remove waste products from her blood. If your baby is a she, her uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries are fully developed by now.

Her retinas are becoming more sensitive to light, which is allowing sleep-wake periods to become more established. Her skin is developing vernix caseosa, typically called vernix, which is a thick, white substance (some call it cheese-like) that helps to protect and moisturize her skin.

Her rate of growth has slowed compared to the last several weeks, but her reflexes are becoming more active. Between week 18 and week 26, most women feel those reflexes in the form of kicks and jabs which are very light at first but grow stronger over time. All babies have different patterns but many women are more able to feel their baby move at night or after they’ve eaten.

Your body

You might begin to notice edema: the swelling of your feet, ankles, and hands. This swelling is caused by the additional blood and fluids created during pregnancy.

You may also experience drier eyes, especially if you wear contacts. Again, hormones are to blame; particularly a drop in male hormones can cause red, dry eyes that get worse as the day progresses. You can use lubricating drops to help with the dryness.

Vivid and strange dreams may also start to occur in the second trimester because you spend less time in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This part of the sleep cycle is when most dreams occur and you’re probably interrupting your dream-cycles with the frequent wake-ups (to use the bathroom, because of heartburn, due to discomfort, etc.). When you wake up during the REM part of your sleep cycle, you’re more likely to remember your dreams.

Your mind

Your mind might be swimming with everything you need to do before your baby arrives. This is a great time to get organized with to-do lists and shopping lists; this can help provide a sense of control at a time when your body is changing faster than you can keep track of. You’re likely feeling a sense of anticipation as you get closer to your anatomy scan which happens around week 20.

What to do this week

  • Sleep on your side; if you sleep on your back, you can compress a major vein (due to the weight of your uterus) which can reduce blood flow to the fetus and increase the risk of stillbirth.
  • Begin to think about creating a budget and saving for the items that you’ll need for your baby.
  • Research infant first aid/CPR classes so that you’re confident about how to handle emergencies when your baby arrives.
  • Start a list of your must-have baby gear or start a gift registry if you’re having a baby shower.
  • Plan an outing with your girlfriends, maybe a night out, to feel like your pre-baby self.


View sources

Association between maternal sleep practices and late stillbirth – findings from a stillbirth case‐control study

Lindsay Meisel

Lindsay Meisel is the Head of Content at Ava. She has over a decade of experience writing about science, technology, and health, with a focus on women's health and the menstrual cycle. Her work has been featured on The Fertility Hour, The Birth Hour, The Breakthrough Journal, and The Rumpus.

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