Pregnancy is one of those things that with the good (a beautiful new child) comes the bad.
And the bad can range from a lot of things such as heartburn, “morning” sickness, gestational diabetes, back pain, etc. And then they always tell you to rest, to take a break and get some sleep.
Or the best one, sleep now before the baby comes because then you will never get any more sleep. Well, I can tell you from experience that this is not true for everyone. Some of us now have toddlers and older children that sleep through the night, but again, every child is different, and so are their sleep patterns.
During the first trimester, pregnant women are extremely exhausted and tend to go to bed early, but for specific factors, they experience a reduction in the quality of their sleep.
It is normal to experience a change in the secretions of hormones while pregnant; some of these hormones are responsible for a change in sleep cycles and difficulty in sleeping. For example, a rise in the levels of progesterone can cause respiratory changes that can disrupt your sleep and leave you awake at night.
A pregnancy can be a wonderful and life-changing experience, but for a woman who is experiencing it for the first time, it isn’t surprising to find her being anxious all the time. Anxiety makes falling and staying asleep difficult.
Pregnancy and urinating come hand in hand because your bladder capacity has shrunk as a result of your growing uterus, this causes it to get full quickly thus, leading to frequent urination.
Most pregnant women have sleepless nights over leg cramps; this, however, can be avoided by stretching your calf, getting a foot massage or simply walking around.
Pain and General Discomforts
It is expected for a pregnant woman to experience pain in her lower back and other discomforts like nausea, indigestion, and heartburn. This could easily keep anyone awake at night.
These are the main factors responsible for keeping pregnant women awake at night; other factors would be stress related, like over-thinking and depression. Insomnia during pregnancy can be a challenge, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be managed and improved.
In an effort to help you get through some of the issues that come with something so great we wanted to give you some basic sleeping tips that help with a range of ailments (including just getting comfortable) so that you can get some rest.
A rested mamma, especially one that has other children in the home, is a better one. So read on and prepare to hopefully count some more sheep and get some more sleep in your near future.
Buy All The Pillows
Really though, having a great pillow when pregnant might be one of the most essential purchases that one could make.
It might seem silly however a body pillow comes highly recommended when it comes to those advanced weeks and months when the belly is getting bigger and heavier.
The best place for the pillow is between your legs (when side sleeping) and under your belly. It helps with support while lying in this position and takes the pressure off your backs and hips .
This can be essential if you suffer from pain to helping reduce this and get you some sound sleep. And sleeping on your left side is recommended to allow the blood flow to the fetus, uterus, and kidneys to be at their peak .
Lift Yourself Up
This could be beneficial for a few different reasons. Two of those reasons could be heartburn and also breathing difficulties.
Now if you have severe issues with breathing, speak with your doctor ASAP, however, if there is nothing wrong and it’s just because the baby is taking up more room and your lungs are taking a hit, it might help to lift up the bed.
While pillows do a great job of lifting you up, they have a tendency to move. Using a wedge under the mattress can lift the whole bed and your whole body making it easier to breathe  (thank you gravity) and also helping with heartburn by reducing the amount that is coming up thanks to the incline.
Tell Your Family to put on Sweaters
I know, that’s selfish, however, in the best interest of your precious sleep, make it cooler. Especially in the summer. During pregnancy, the extra blood flow makes you inherently warmer than others (plus you are carrying and growing another human).
This means that in order to sleep better, you either have to turn the thermostat down in the summer to make it cooler at night (and turn it down at least an hour before bed so that it’s already cool) and in the winter keep the heat lower as well.
Being too warm can make sleep nearly impossible, so the cooler you are (but not freezing) the better you can relax and sleep.
Avoid Drinking too Late
While you should stay hydrated, it’s also important to get your fluids in at the right times.
Instead of having a huge glass of water before bed, just take a sip, and start decreasing your fluids the closer you get to bedtime. You already have enough pressure on your bladder and you don’t need anymore.
Also, instead of just heading to bed, do like we make the children do, and go to the bathroom right before, even if you don’t think you have to.
Going to bed not as full of fluids and with an empty bladder can make sleep more peaceful (and give you the ability to go longer without having to get up).
During the first trimester of pregnancy, the woman tends to get tired quickly which causes daytime sleepiness; it is normal to fall asleep easily during the day as a result of this. However, sleeping during the day can reduce the sleep pressure that builds up over the day; this could make it difficult to sleep at night.
To avoid napping, try going to bed earlier than usual for instance if you usually go to bed by 11 pm, then try going to bed by 10 pm, this would make you wake up earlier and still have enough time before going to bed at night.
Ignore the Dreams
According to studies, it is normal for pregnant women to have dreams about their baby being in danger, this could awaken the woman and give her sleepless nights. When you wake up from such dreams, ignore and go back to bed because it is not a premonition.
Deal With Nausea
Nausea and vomiting are very normal while pregnant but the intensity varies in different women, while some women can carry on with their lives feeling nauseous others can’t, it makes them feel ill and uncomfortable.
You can reduce nausea by munching on bland crackers during the day; this helps avert nighttime nausea.
Stop Eating Spicy Foods
Heartburn is one of the factors that contribute greatly to insomnia in pregnant women. They are caused mainly by spicy food or anything acidic; you should reduce or stop eating spicy food to reduce heartburns.
Reduce the Amount of Food You Eat
Eating several lighter meals during the day instead of a heavier one at night can help you sleep better and deeper.
Avoid Kick Butts
Reduce the amount of time you spend with people who smoke. Studies from the Nihon University in Tokyo have shown that pregnant women who are exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to have trouble falling and staying asleep. They also had breathing difficulties and were likely to awake at the crack of dawn.
Strip the Bedroom
A lot of sleep specialist go by the saying “The bedroom is meant for sleep and sex,” this couldn’t be any more right. Having anything else that is unrelated to this two pleasurable activities can have you awake at odd hours of the day. Strip the room of the TV, computer, Parenting books and cellphone to help you sleep properly.
Talk About Your Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and stress have a physiological effect on sleep and could keep you up at night. It is essential to talk to family and friends about whatever is keeping you up at night or schedule a quick visit to a therapist who can help address your anxiety.
Several relaxation techniques could also help pregnant women sleep better at night;
Getting a massage helps relaxes tense and tired muscles, visiting a massage therapist can help you relax your muscles and ease into sleep at night.
It is important to make sure the massage therapist has worked with pregnant women and utilizes a table and pillow designed specifically for pregnant women. You can also opt for a foot, neck or hand massage from your partner.
Deep breathing can help relax your muscles while reducing heart rate and helps you sleep faster and better. The technique is used by most pregnant women.
Lay down on your bed or carpet with legs extended.
Lie on your left side or stuff a pillow on your right side, so you’re tilted slightly to the left.
Slowly breathe in through your nose while you close your mouth, hold for a few seconds then exhale after the count of four.
Prenatal yoga and stretching help you relax while keeping you fit and toned during pregnancy.
Exercise can help you sleep better while making you healthier physically and mentally. However, it is advisable not to exercise four hours before bed to avoid revving up and robbing you of your natural sleep. Try to do some exercises in the morning, afternoon or early in the evening.
Imagining yourself in a relaxed and serene environment like walking in an unending path of flowers, watching clouds float or just lying on the beach can go a long way in helping you relax.
Every detail of the scene like the smell, tastes, and textures around you matter, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an imagination it could be a memory of a fun time you had with friends and family.
Create a Routine
Many people thrive on routine, and our bodies and minds are no different. Just like children do better with a set routine at night to help them wind down mentally, an adult can use them as well.
This can be especially great for the expecting parent too. Taking the time to relax and do a set routine can help to clear the mind and get to sleep quicker .
Here is a perfect example of a bedtime routine for those that are pregnant:
- Do some bedtime prenatal yoga, and you can find some great ones on YouTube. Just be sure to check with your doctor to make sure that it’s safe for you to workout.
- Take a nice warm shower or bath (not too hot) and use a great lotion (one with lavender could be great because lavender is known to promote sleep. Dr. Teals  does have an amazing lavender lotion and soak, but you can also make your own if you are so inclined).
- Make a cup of warm (caffeine free) tea along with a small light snack such as cereal with milk.
- Sit with said cup of tea and read a little bit or listen to a podcast, some music, write in a journal, whatever you like to zone out too.
- Go into your bed and relax, maybe with some meditation (guided or unguided) and relish in the ease in which you can get to sleep.
This is just a sample routine, do what works for you but it can be a great starting point.
Get Moving During the Day
While you might not feel like getting up and getting moving during the day, it could be extremely beneficial to help you get some sleep at night.
The more you work your body, the more it needs rest, and then the easier you should be able to fall asleep at night. A tired body that is tired from exercise and exertion tends to be one that will more readily relax at night.
Though you may be thinking there is nothing you can do pregnant (YouTube videos can offer proof that pregnancy doesn’t have to hold you back) there are plenty of pregnancy approved things (just check with your doctor) to do such as walking, yoga, swimming , and for some depending on their physical levels prior to pregnancy, can continue what they were doing for the most part.
These are some basic tips for helping you to sleep when you really need it the most, and the first-trimester exhaustion tends to come back in the third (if you were lucky enough for it to go away during the second trimester).
Getting sleep will be essential to getting through pregnancy feeling more refreshed on a regular basis. Take the time to relax and figure out what works best for you in getting that much-needed rest.
- WebMD. Comfort Tips for Sleeping. [Link]
- Parents. Top 10 Pregnancy Sleep Tips. [Link]
- Dawn Kingston Ph.D. via Psychology Today. 9 Tips for Getting Better Sleep While Pregnant. [Link]
- same as #2
- Dr. Teal’s Products. [Link]
- Mustela. 10 Ways To Sleep Better While Pregnant. [Link]