Getting enough sleep can be rough when you’re pregnant. Your hormonal fluctuations, uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms (like having to constantly get out of bed to pee, restless leg syndrome, cramps, etc.), and other physical discomforts can make a good night’s sleep an impossible dream. Not to mention, you may struggle with stress and anxiety, too. Thoughts like, Will I make a good mother or How am I going to handle another baby with other kids in the house.
Sleep Problems Specific to Each Trimester
Each trimester of pregnancy brings its own unique set of sleep problems.
In the first trimester, you’re constantly waking up in the middle of the night to urinate. Not to mention, the first trimester (defined as the first 13 weeks of pregnancy) is fraught with emotional stress and physical changes. Perhaps, this pregnancy was unexpected. And you also have to cope with your growing breasts and ever-growing stomach. On top of that, fatigue can make you super sleepy during the day, and this can contribute to difficulty sleeping at night.
Most women find that they can sleep better in the second trimester. Frequent urination becomes less of a problem, and your energy levels are back up. Your quality of sleep is still not great, since you are experiencing more general physical discomfort. With your growing bump, finding a comfortable position to sleep is probably a struggle.
In the third trimester, sleep problems come back to annoy you. With your huge belly continuing to expand and expand, and you carrying all that weight around, it’s no wonder that you feel more uncomfortable. Sleeping on your back is out of the question and only worsens your pregnancy symptoms. Plus, leg cramps, heartburn, and frequent urination in the middle of the night makes a full night’s sleep nearly impossible.
How to Sleep When Pregnant: 7 Tips for a Sound Slumber
Sleeping when pregnant is tough – there is no denying that. So what can a pregnant woman do to get some much needed zzz’s? Check out the following 7 tips for better sleep during pregnancy.
1. Sleep on Your Left Side.
One of the most commonly asked questions about sleep in pregnancy is, How to sleep when pregnant? Experts recommend that pregnant women sleep on their left side for numerous reasons. Sleeping on your left side actually improves blood flow and circulation. The perk to your baby is that more nutrients are delivered to the placenta.
Side-sleeping in pregnancy also helps your kidneys function better, so they eliminate fluids and waste products more efficiently, and you are less likely to experience edema (or swelling) in your hands, feet, and ankles.
If you’re not a side sleeper, it can be rough for you to suddenly start sleeping on your left side in pregnancy. So, try to start training yourself from the get go. Whenever you can, sleep on your left side.
Do not sleep on your back in pregnancy. Although back sleeping might be more comfortable, it tends to exacerbate many of your pregnancy symptoms. When you lie on your back, the heavy weight of your uterus and baby rests on your back muscles, spine, intestines, and a major blood vessel called the inferior vena cava (which transports blood from your legs back to your heart).
Back sleeping can cause you to experience leg cramps, muscle aches and pain, hemorrhoids, and poor blood circulation. In some women, sleeping on their backs makes their blood pressure drop, which leads to dizziness and a sensation that you’re light-headed.
2. Use a Pregnancy Pillow.
For many women, using a pregnancy pillow at night helps them sleep better. Pregnancy pillows come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they are ideal for side sleeping. Their funky shapes (C-shaped, U-shaped) conform to the unique body shape of pregnant women, which is why they’re wonderful sleeping aids in pregnancy.
(If you’re interested in pregnancy pillows, you can find them online and in maternity stores nationwide.)
If you don’t want to spare the extra expense for a pregnancy pillow, you can always get extra sleep support by using a regular pillow and tucking it between your knees, and tucking another pillow behind your back. This may help you sleep in the left side position better.
3. Exercise During the Day.
Exercise in pregnancy has many benefits, but it can also help you sleep better at night. Studies have shown that regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster at night, and it gives you deeper sleep, too. However, you’ll want to avoid exercise within four hours of your bedtime, since this might make you feel too energized to settle down and sleep.
Safe exercises for pregnant women include walking, jogging, running, swimming, yoga, Pilates, weight training, dance, and low impact aerobics. Moderate exercise is recommended for low-risk pregnant women. (If you fall into the high-risk category, talk to your doctor or midwife about whether exercising is safe for you in your individual situation).
4. Get Rid of Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety often go together when you’re pregnant. From your crazy mood swings to your nervousness over your impending motherhood, it’s normal to feel a little stressed. Pregnant women tend to sleep better when they’re less stressed.
So what can you do to relieve stress and anxiety? Exercising helps (and it helps you sleep better, too). Some women can reduce stress by meditating, listening to soothing music, and resting more often. Staying away from people who stress you out can also reduce your stress levels.
If you are feeling super stressed, be sure to talk to your husband, friends, or a close family member. Sometimes just talking it out and getting emotional support can go a long way in helping you feel better.
5. Avoid Caffeine
When you’re pregnant, it can be difficult to resist the urge to drink just a little caffeine (or eating some chocolates). Moderate amounts of caffeine are considered relatively safe, but a lot of caffeine is bad for you and baby. (It’s recommended that pregnant women drink less than 200 mg of caffeine each day. This amounts to one 12-ounce cup of coffee.)
Drinking or eating caffeine (chocolate is loaded with sugar and caffeine) can really make it hard for you to fall and stay asleep. If you can completely eliminate it from your diet, it may help you sleep better when you’re pregnant.
See Related Post: Chocolate in Pregnancy is Safe
6. A Warm Glass of Milk before Bedtime
Believe it or not, but the age-old wisdom about drinking a warm glass of milk before bedtime actually works. There are few foods that cure insomnia quite like a delicious and warm glass of milk. (Plus, milk is chock full of vitamin D and calcium – which are essential to helping your baby grow strong teeth and bones).
It was once believed that milk helped you sleep because it contains the enzyme tryptophan (similar to what’s in turkey). But new studies actually say this isn’t true. Researchers isn’t clear on why milk helps you sleep better, but psychology may have something to do with it. Milk is as comforting as an old blankie.
Whatever the case, for some women, drinking a warmed glass of milk before bed helps them fall asleep more easily. Try it out and see if it works for you.
7. Don’t Drink Immediately Before You Go to Sleep
This may seem completely opposite of tip # 6 (about drinking a warm glass of milk before bed), but if you are constantly being awoken in the middle of the night to run to the bathroom to pee, you’ll probably want to cut back on how much you drink right before you go to bed.
Make sure that you keep well hydrated and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Hydration is important to relieving many uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms. Just make sure you slow down on the drinks prior to bed.
Another important tip – make sure you go to the bathroom and empty your bladder right before you hit the pillow. This can also help you sleep better, and it may reduce the number of times you’re waking up to pee.
How Did You Sleep When Pregnant?
If you’re already a mom, share with the other readers on how you slept when you were pregnant. What tips and tricks helped you sleep better? Did you struggle with any sleep problems during your pregnancy?