As a mom-to-be, you’re already prepared for the sleepless nights that will come after your baby is born. But what you weren’t prepared for was the sleepless nights you’d get while you were pregnant.
It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when you’re little one is working the night shift, your belly makes it hard to sleep on your side, and that wretched acid reflux makes it hard to lay down.
Still, you need your sleep – now more than ever. We’re going to help you get a good night’s sleep during pregnancy, even when the going gets rough.
Read More: Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy
Table of Contents
- Why Sleep is Important During Pregnancy – And Why You Can’t Get Enough of It
- How to Get Good Sleep During Pregnancy
- How to Deal with Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy
Why Sleep is Important During Pregnancy – And Why You Can’t Get Enough of It
According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 78% of women reported having more sleep disturbances during pregnancy than any other time.
Many women feel overwhelmingly exhausted during the first and third trimesters of their pregnancies.
Growing a baby is hard work, both mentally and physically. It’s no wonder women are tired.
But hormones also play a role in your inability to sleep during pregnancy – and your overwhelming fatigue. Yes, those pesky hormones are making you extremely tired and keeping you from sleeping.
At night, you may battle:
- Frequent trips to the bathroom
- Sleep apnea
Many women also develop sleep disorders during pregnancy, including:
- Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Anxiety about labor, delivery and life changes can keep some moms up. Pregnancy discomforts (fetal movements, back pain, nausea, etc.) can also cause insomnia.
- Nighttime GERD: While considered a normal part of pregnancy, GERD, or heartburn, can keep you up at night.
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS): RLS can cause tingly, aching or creepy feelings in the legs that is only relieved when stretching or moving.
Sleep may be hard to come by, but it is absolutely essential during pregnancy. If you’re having trouble getting a good night of rest, you need to find effective strategies for managing your sleep troubles as early on in the pregnancy as possible.
Why is sleep so important?
Studies have found that women who slept fewer than six hours had longer labors and were 4.5-times more likely to need a C-section.
Lack of sleep can also cause:
- Poor concentration
It takes a lot of physical energy to grow a baby. Your heart works five times harder just to keep enough blood flowing to your body and your baby’s body. Your kidneys are working extra hard to expel waste from your body.
Your body needs rest to repair, recharge and help keep your little one growing strong.
How to Get Good Sleep During Pregnancy
How can you get a good night of sleep when you’re pregnant? For non-pregnant women, doctors may recommend insomnia medications. But these medications carry risk and side effects that make them unsafe for pregnant women.
It can be a challenge to get a good night of sleep. Here’s how you can cope:
Make Sure You Spend 8 Hours in Bed
Experts recommend that pregnant women spend at least eight hours in bed to get at least seven hours of sleep. The more time you can spend in bed at night, the better the chance you’ll get a more restful, longer night of sleep.
It may be easier for first-time moms to take this approach. If this isn’t your first pregnancy, you may have to care for your other children and run the household. That can make it hard to spend this much time in bed, but try to make it a priority. Get help from your partner or family if need be.
Plan and Prioritize Sleep
Sleep is so essential during pregnancy that you should plan and prioritize it if your nightly routine isn’t working.
If your baby is the least active at 6pm, then schedule in a nap.
Find a sleep schedule that works best for your body and your baby’s routine.
Exercise for 30 Minutes a Day
Unless your doctor advises you otherwise, try to get in 30 minutes of exercise per day. Exercise will help release those feel-good chemicals that will relax your body and ease your mind. It will also help you get a better night of sleep.
Scientists aren’t sure why exactly exercise improves your sleep, but there are a few theories. One theory is that exercise triggers an increase in body temperature. The post-exercise cooling of the body may promote sleep.
Exercise also helps you burn off energy, which decreases arousal, depression and anxiety.
Regardless of the reasons, studies have shown that exercising on a regular basis helps improve (or eliminate) insomnia and improve sleep quality. So, get up and move. Your body and your baby will thank you for it.
Sleep on Your Side
The National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping on your left side at night to improve the flow of nutrients to your fetus, kidneys and uterus. If you can, avoid sleeping on your back for long periods of time. This can cause back pain and add pressure to the womb.
Keep your knees and hips bent when you sleep on your side. For added comfort, place a pillow between your knees, behind your back and under your abdomen. This will help take the pressure off of your lower back while your sleep.
Eat the Right Foods, Drink at the Right Time
It’s important to stay hydrated during pregnancy, but those frequent trips to the bathroom can keep you up all night. Drink plenty of fluids during the day, and cut off the amount you drink in the hours just before bed time.
Nutrition is also important during pregnancy and will affect your sleep quality. Avoid eating sugary foods close to bed time, as this may give you a rush of energy that will keep you up for hours. Avoid caffeine, too. Not only will it keep you awake, but it can also be dangerous for your baby.
While you’re at it, you may want to cut out spicy, fried and acidic foods from your diet. All of these foods contribute to heartburn, which will prevent you from getting a good night of sleep.
Don’t Force Sleep
Don’t lay in bed and try to force yourself to fall asleep. Get up and do something. Read a book, knit, write in a journal or take a warm bath.
You might find that after you start doing something, you start feeling tired. Your mind might just need a little stimulation before it can transition to the relaxed, sleepy state.
Getting up also allows you to use that time more productively. You can’t force sleep, so use that time wisely.
Bright light can mess up your sleep pattern and make it more difficult to fall back asleep. If you’re getting up multiple times to use the restroom at night, consider using a nightlight.
A nightlight will allow you to see where you’re going, but won’t be bright enough to fully disturb your sleep.
Don’t Be Afraid to Nap
If you have a free hour or two and you’re feeling tired, listen to your body and take a nap. Those chores will be there when you wake up. And contrary to what you were told by your mother, the laundry does not need to be folded right now.
How to Deal with Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy
Sleep apnea is extremely common during pregnancy, especially in overweight women. This condition can be serious, and it can affect your baby’s health.
Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Snoring loudly
- Extreme daytime fatigue
- Making “choking” or coughing sounds after a breathless pause
- Waking with dry mouth or headache
- Frequent nighttime urination
If you’re exhibiting signs of sleep apnea, it’s important to see your doctor. Tests can be performed to see if sleep apnea is the problem. If you do have sleep apnea, you can discuss possible treatment solutions.
Some of the most common treatment options include:
An oral appliance is the simplest way to deal with sleep apnea, but they are best suited for mild cases. These appliances open the air passageways while you sleep. For best results, your appliance should be custom-made for your mouth.
A continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) machine uses air pressure to keep your airways open while you sleep. These machines require you to wear a mask over your nose or your nose and mouth. The mask connects to a tube that connects to a machine. The machine delivers positive air pressure.
CPAP machines are effective for obstructive sleep apnea.
Surgery is typically the last resort option, especially for pregnant women. Doctors will either want to perform surg ery before or after pregnancy if sleep apnea is discovered.
Typically, a CPAP machine is the best option if you want a conventional treatment.