Pregnancy Sleeping Tips
Were you a sound sleeper before you got pregnant but now find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep?
With frequent midnight bathroom runs, cramps in legs, racing mind, heartburn, changes in your metabolism that are turning up your internal thermostat, and a growing baby in your belly that makes finding a comfortable position increasingly difficult, getting enough sleep can be really challenging.
Although you can consider this a sort of preparation for the sleepless nights that will come later, still you should try to get as much sleep as possible because right now, this is what you need the most.
Here are some basic things you should know about sleep and pregnancy. Read on and learn everything from the best positions and solutions for some common problems to tips for getting a better night’s sleep.
Why Is Sleep So Important During Pregnancy?
During sleep, your body rejuvenates and repairs itself, you brain makes memories and your blood vessels repair themselves, which is really important now when they are under a constant pressure from the extra blood flow that supports your baby.
Quality sleep also protects your immune system which is usually suppressed during pregnancy to support the growing child and controls your hormones and how your body reacts to insulin.
Pregnancy and Sleep Problems
Like we have already mentioned, getting enough of a quality sleep during pregnancy can be really challenging and various sleep problems may appear as the result of the many changes that occur in your body.
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders that can appear during pregnancy. It’s symptoms include difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep and waking up too early without being able to fall asleep again.
Pregnant women often experience the symptoms of insomnia due to all the stress and anxiety about motherhood and labor, being parents and balancing this with work or school.
Other problems related to pregnancy such as back pain and discomfort, moving of the fetus, etc. can also contribute to the loss of sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep caused by obstructed airways is another sleep disorder that can appear during pregnancy.
It occurs when the soft tissues in your throat and your tongue relax and collapse back during sleep thus closing your airways and interrupting your breathing.
This results in snoring, pauses in breathing and gasping sounds when your brain partially wakes from sleep to make your body increase breathing efforts.
These partial awakenings can reduce the quality of your sleep and cause excessive sleepiness during the day. Morning headaches can also occur as the result of the lower levels of oxygen in your blood.
Women who are overweight are particularly at risk of developing sleep apnea due to gaining weight during pregnancy and the excess build up of fatty tissues in the throat.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is characterized by cramps and itching in legs and burning, creeping, or pulling sensation that occur during the night when the legs are at rest.
Although the symptoms can be temporarily relieved by moving the legs, sensations usually come back shortly after the movements and they can make sleeping extremely difficult.
Most women experience these symptoms during the 7th and 8th month of pregnancy and they usually disappear within one month after delivery.
Acid Reflux or Heartburn
Acid reflux or heartburn is another frequent complaint among pregnant women. This problem occurs due to the hormonal changes that cause digestive system and those muscles that keep food down to slow down.
Also, a growing baby puts a pressure on the stomach and sometimes push stomach acids up into the esophagus. The symptoms of acid reflux can worsen during sleep as the acids to move up into the esophagus more easily when you lay down.
The growing baby in your uterus also puts a lot of pressure on your bladder and thus disrupts sleep by causing the need to use the bathroom frequently at night. As these frequent night trips to the bathroom disrupt sleep patterns, they can also cause the symptoms of daytime fatigue.
Tips on Getting a Good Night’s Sleep While Pregnant
If you’re an expectant mother and you are scared by all sleep disorders that can appear during pregnancy, you should know that for many pregnant women, these sleep troubles can be easily solved by following a few simple practices that can minimize the risk of developing sleep disorders and maximize the amount of quality night sleep.
Here are some tips that can help you get enough sleep and make your nights more comfortable:
Maintain Regular Sleep/Wake Cycles
Try to maintain regular sleep/wake cycles by prioritizing your sleep. Make sure that you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. This may help you fall asleep easier and feel more awake during the day.
Sleep on Your Left Side
During the third trimester of pregnancy, it is recommended that you sleep on your left side, although sleeping on your right side is also good for you.
This position will be more comfortable than sleeping on your back or stomach now when your belly is growing. To further take pressure off your back, you can sleep with bent knees.
Sleeping on your side will improve your circulation and allow the necessary nutrients and oxygen to get easier to your baby. It also reduces swelling and improves the functioning of your kidneys.
Put a few more soft and fluffy pillows in bed with you and use them to increase your comfort while in bed. Place one under your belly and between your legs to raise your abdomen and support your hips and back better.
You can also use specially designed pregnancy pillows. (Read our pillow reviews to see which would be the best for you.)
To increase your comfort further, you can use blocks to prop up the head of your bed for a few inches or place your mattress on an adjustable base and adjust the position of your bed to your liking. This will help you breathe easier and prevent any back-flow of stomach acid from reflux.
You should try to exercise regularly unless your doctor advises you not to do that. Try to take 30-minute walks every day or enroll special pregnancy exercise classes.
Relax before Bed
Try to relax before going to bed by taking deep breathing and light meditation exercises. Do a few leg stretches to prevent night cramps in your legs.
A warm bath, gentle massage, light reading, soothing music or relaxing scents can also help you relax and fall asleep easier.
Limit Drinks and Food Right before Bedtime
Although you need extra fluids during pregnancy, avoid getting too much of them late in the day or right before bedtime. You should stop drinking at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime so you won’t have to get up and go to the bathroom at the middle of the night.
Avoid coffee and any caffeinated drinks before bedtime too as caffeine is known to be a diuretic and it will make you have to go to the bathroom more.
Avoid spicy foods and heavy meals before bedtime too. Eating spicy meals right before bedtime can cause heartburn at night, while heavy meals can make your body work more during sleep to digest food and use less energy on repairs that your body needs for the next day.
Pee before Going to Bed
Make sure to go to bathroom right before you go to bed.
Get More Comfortable by Turning Down the Thermostat
In addition to using a few extra pillows to prop yourself up, you should also make sure that the temperature in your room is comfortable for sleeping.
You feel a lot warmer during pregnancy because of the extra blood rushing to your skin and that’s why you may feel too hot and sweat a lot during the night.
Avoid Using Electronic Devices Right before Bedtime
Avoid using your phone, tablet and computer right before bedtime. Blue light that these devices produce can make you more alert and suppress the levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin which can make falling asleep really difficult.
Use Your Bed for Sleep, Cuddling and Sex Only
Keep your work, online shopping and paying bills out of your bed. Do these things somewhere else and use your bed for sleep, cuddling and sex only. In this way your brain will associate bed with relaxation and sleep and you will be able to fall asleep faster.
If you are following these tips and you are still having troubles with falling asleep and staying asleep, you should talk with your doctor about other methods that could possibly help you.