“Sleep now, because you won’t sleep anymore after baby comes!” So goes the common delivery of advice/teasing from seemingly well-meaning old ladies when you complain of not being able to sleep during pregnancy. Unfortunately, the National Sleep Foundation found that nearly 75% of women have trouble sleeping during pregnancy. No wonder now pregnancy is considered a disability in most states. Back pain, sciatica, poor positioning, and myriad other factors can often combine to make sleep during pregnancy difficult. So how to sleep when pregnant, one might wonder. Here is an ultimate guide to pregnancy sleep, to hopefully help you get the rest you need during this time.
“I didn’t expect to be so tired!” Many pregnant women have found themselves uttering just these words when they are hit with a case of the First Trimester Fatigues. One of the most common side effects of the first twelve weeks of pregnancy is extreme fatigue, and there is no other way to describe it that ready-to-drop exhausted, all the time. You may find yourself getting almost too much sleep, or sleeping during the day, making night sleep difficult. Also, the hormone progesterone goes in to high production in early pregnancy. While this hormone is a soporiphic, meaning sleep-inducing, and may make you drowsy, it also leads to things such as breast and general body tenderness, which can interfere with falling and staying asleep long enough to be well-rested.
Progesterone is also one of the reasons for the frequent urge to urinate, even in the first trimester. During the first twelve weeks, you may find yourself getting up to use the bathroom quite frequently, or, worse, getting up due to morning sickness, which, despite its name, can strike at any time of the day or night.
The first trimester can also be a time of emotional turbulence, partly from hormones, but also from the fact that this is truly a life-altering stage of life. With that comes excitement and worry in equal parts, especially if this is your first pregnancy or if you have experienced infertility or pregnancy loss.
How to sleep well in the first trimester
- Make sleep a priority. You may find that you are tired even after a full night’s sleep, and that you are almost always ready for a nap. If you don’t find that it interferes with getting to sleep at night, naps during the day can help you feel more rested. Try to take fewer late nights in your first trimester, and get to bed early. Now is a good time to start getting into a sleep routine and sticking to it.
- Food and Drink. Fluids are so important during pregnancy.It is recommended to consume 10 cups (80 ounces) of fluid daily. Make sure you are getting your fluids, but cut back in the two hours preceding bedtime, and try to drink nothing an hour prior to going to bed. If nausea is interrupting your sleep, eating small meals throughout the day and eating a few bland crackers before bed can help keep the sick feeling at bay while you sleep.
- Shut down the brain. Pregnancy is an exciting time! It’s also a worrisome time, a contemplative time, an anxious time, and a time to look up prenatal waterobics classes at three in the morning. Because of all the changes this time brings to a woman’s life, often it can be hard to push the “off” switch at night. To help with this, PsychCentral.com recommends journaling your thoughts for a few minutes each day, a few hours prior to bedtime. This can help you deal with any anxiety in a healthy, productive way, rather than obsessing over them at night, when there is nothing to be done. It’s important to do this several hours before going to bed, rather than right before, because you want to give your brain time to process whatever is bothering you, freeing your brain up for rest at night. Yoga or another gentle exercise a few hours prior to bedtime can also help to wind you down and center your thoughts.
- Practice good sleep posture. Now is the time to invest in a good pregnancy pillow and practice proper sleep positioning. While back and stomach sleeping may be possible for a few weeks yet, getting your body into the routine of sleeping on your side and sleeping with a pregnancy pillow will help you get more restful sleep later in your pregnancy. This is especially important if you are a back or stomach sleeper, because getting into a new routine and sleep position will be much less fun when you are eight months pregnant and highly uncomfortable.
You may find that as you arrive at the 13th week of pregnancy and beyond, you find some of your energy returning, but don’t start letting your sleep suffer. You still need a lot of rest, even if you feel less exhausted than you did in your first trimester. The second trimester is famous for being the easiest trimester. Your hormones are becoming less overwhelming, which means that your emotions should begin to level, giving you less anxiety-related insomnia and fewer trips to the bathroom. Morning sickness is abating, so you have fewer restrictions on when and what you can eat, and you simply aren’t as all-the-time, ready-to-drop exhausted. Even so, the second trimester comes with its own set of difficulties. This is when heartburn and nasal congestion typically rear their ugly heads, making it difficult to sleep lying down. Second trimester may also be the beginning of a stage of incredibly vivid dreaming and nightmares, leading to waking during the night and difficulty falling back asleep.
How to sleep well in your second trimester
- Target the heartburn. Because your growing uterus is misplacing your diaphragm and esophagus, heartburn can become a major issue around the fourth month of pregnancy. Heartburn often worsens at night, especially in a horizontal position. The good news is, most chewable antacids are safe for use during pregnancy, and you can take them as recommended on the package. You can also use lemon essential oil in water throughout the day. Lemon oil is made from the rind of the lemon, and is alkaline, counteracting the acid in your stomach. If you are going to follow this tip, it is a good idea to buy a high-quality oil, such as doTERRA Lemon 15 ml or Young Living Essential Oil, Lemon. A glass of milk before bed can be helpful, and it is very important to find what your trigger foods are and avoid them before bedtime, if not completely. Often, women react poorly to spicy and acidic foods, as well as chocolate (cue pregnant tears). For especially persistent heartburn, prop yourself up with a firm maternity pillow to sleep in a semi-reclined position, helping to keep the acid out of your esophagus.
- Unstuff that nose. If you can’t breathe, you can’t sleep, and pregnancy is a prime time for pregnancy rhinitis, or stuffy nose. You may begin to feel as though you have a constant cold or sinus infection. Unfortunately, most over-the-counter sinus medications are off-limits for pregnancy, but don’t worry! There are other solutions for this sleep-killer. Elevating your head at night can help. A good pregnancy pillow can assist with this. If you are not in need of back or belly support just yet, a Comfort U Total Body Support Pillow can be folded in half and placed under your head to help elevate it. Saline sprays are safe during pregnancy and can help relieve swollen nasal passages. In addition, light exercise can be helpful in relieving sinus pressure. Prenatal yoga and walking are both safe, low-impact options.
- Banish bad dreams. Many pregnant women report experiencing vivid, frightening dreams during pregnancy, often beginning in the second trimester. There isn’t a quick fix for this, unfortunately. However, keeping a dream journal can sometimes prove helpful, as it may help you deal with the emotions that are manifesting in your dreams, especially if you are finding that your nightmares involve your baby. Also, ensuring that your waking times are as stress-free as possible can help your dreams be calmer. Incidentally, this is also the time when intense, pleasurable dreams can occur in pregnancy. These are less frequent than nightmares, but just as likely to wake you up! If you are awoken by a dream, it can be helpful to wake your partner for reassurance. The moments after a nightmare are often still frightening, as your brain is still somewhere between asleep and fully awake. Remind yourself that dreams have no basis in reality, and take comfort in the fact that this will pass
The third trimester of pregnancy is simultaneously the best and the worst twelve weeks of the entire endeavor. On the one hand, you are getting o close to meeting the little person you have been carrying for nine months. On the other, your body is changing, your belly feels enormous, you are running into things constantly, and once again, you cannot sleep! Third trimester sleep issues most commonly stem from discomfort, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Your belly is growing, and that extra weight and shifting center of gravity put a lot of strain on your hips, shoulder, and back. Your body is also releasing large amounts of the hormone relaxin, which loosens the ligaments surrounding your pelvis in preparation for delivery. Restless leg syndrome can be a problem during this time as well, and you are probably finding yourself out of bed to pee multiple times a night. Sleep loss is hard to combat in the third trimester, but you may be able to make it a little more bearable with a few of these techniques.
- Aches and Pains. This is where a good maternity pillow comes in handy. Support your back, belly, and hips with a good, firm pregnancy pillow to aid in good sleep positioning. A good sleeping position means fewer aches during the night and less trouble getting comfortable. Note that the word is “less”, not “none”. The third trimester is a sore time, and you may not be able to alleviate the pain entirely, but you should be able to get comfortable enough to sleep. Make sure you are sleeping on your left side to ensure good blood flow to baby, and, if you just can’ get comfortable lying down, try sleeping propped up by a pillow or in a recliner.
- So Many Bathroom Trips! This time, it isn’t progesterone making you pee constantly the way it was in your first trimester. Now, it’s your growing uterus expanding and putting pressure on your bladder. While you should still be drinking lots of fluids, cut back on your intake in the late afternoon and evening, and try to lean forward when you use the bathroom, to help empty your bladder completely.
- Relax. All that anxiety from your first trimester may be making a comeback as you approach delivery. To help you relax, perhaps add a warm bath into your nighttime routine to help you transition into sleep. Deep breathing exercises can help to calm you for sleep as well, and they are good practice for labor!
- Restless legs. Many women experience Restless Lego Syndrome (RLS) during the later months of pregnancy. RLS can be described as an unbearable urge to move your legs (or arms, hands, or feet), and is incredibly uncomfortable and annoying. No one is quite sure why this happens, but it has been blamed upon a surge in estrogen late in pregnancy, changes in circulation, and deficiencies in certain vitamins, such as iron and folate. Talk to your health acre provider if you are worried about vitamin deficiency. If you are having symptoms of RLS, make sure that you are staying active during the day and not lying down to go to bed unless you are ready to go to sleep. Long periods of inactivity can often trigger RLS symptoms. Avoid caffeine, as this can make symptoms worse, and enlist the help of a partner to rub your legs, as this can help alleviate symptoms.
Sleep during pregnancy can be a tricky thing, but hopefully with the above tips, you will find yourself sleeping better as you await your new arrival.