By Sarah Henry
Pregnancy is an exciting and challenging time, both physically and mentally. So it makes sense that sensations like body aches, leg cramps, and nausea, as well as emotions like exhilaration, anxiety, and depression can get in the way of a good night’s sleep. Almost every pregnant woman has trouble sleeping at some point during her pregnancy, so if you’re having trouble getting some shut-eye, you’re not alone.
But don’t despair: There are strategies that can help you have a restful night. Read on for more tips on getting a good night’s sleep during pregnancy. Sweet dreams!
Nonstop nausea can steal slumber
If constant nausea keeps you awake, try having a bland snack — such as crackers or apple slices — just before bedtime. A light bite may help settle your stomach before you turn in. If morning sickness is a problem, keep some snacks in your bedside table so you can reach for a quick nibble — and maybe even grab a little more time to snooze — before you get up for the day.
If you think you may need medications to control nausea, talk to your doctor first before taking any herbal supplements or remedies. Natural solutions may work even better than a pill. Ginger can be a great natural anti-nausea remedy, as can acupressure, which is often taught in birth classes. Whatever remedy you take, managing nausea can make it easier to get through the night.
A pressing need for bathroom breaks
The bathroom may become your second home in the early stages of your pregnancy because the volume of fluid in your body increases when you’re pregnant, and your kidneys are working harder to flush waste out of your body. Your growing uterus also puts pressure on your bladder. All this means you’re likely to feel the need to urinate day and night. To avoid too many late-night trips to the bathroom, limit your fluid intake in the evening (without cutting back on the amount of liquid you drink for the day), and empty your bladder completely each time you pee. Cutting out caffeine — coffee, tea, and cola — can also help.
Desperately seeking a comfy sleeping position
Sleeping may only become an issue as you get into the second half of your pregnancy, since it may take that long for your belly to get big enough to affect sleeping. But if finding a cozy sleeping position already takes some effort during this part of your pregnancy, now is a good time to start training yourself to sleep on your side. It’s best to sleep on your left side because this may increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach your baby. Some women may not like sleeping on the left, so your doctor may advise you to sleep on the right, if that’s the only way you can get some rest.
Avoid sleeping on your back, which can cause backache, breathing problems, and low blood pressure, as well as decreased circulation to your heart and your baby. Sleeping on your stomach obviously isn’t going to work for long, and may not work even in your first trimester, when tender breasts can make it uncomfortable.
Instead, try lying on your left side with your knees bent. Tuck one pillow under your tummy and another between your legs, or snuggle up alongside a body pillow. You’ll probably roll from side to side during your sleep, which is perfectly fine. Some women even take to sleeping in a recliner. With a little creativity you can probably get comfortable, so try not to lose any sleep over it.
An overwhelming urge to nap
It’s little wonder you find yourself wanting to take a quick catnap during the day because your body is working very hard to create a new life — even while you’re sleeping. In addition, the hormones progesterone and estrogen gradually increase during pregnancy and can affect your sleep. A boost in progesterone in the first trimester may make you fatigued, and estrogen is known to reduce the amount of REM (deep) sleep that you get.
That’s why naps are a pregnant woman’s best friend. (They’re a good solution for new moms, too.) So go ahead, be kind to yourself and lie down for a while during the day if you need to, as long as your nap doesn’t interfere with your sleep at night. If you’re unable to catch some zzzs during the work week, try to get some extra rest on the weekends.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Planning Your Pregnancy and Birth.
American Pregnancy Association.//www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/insomnia.html//www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/sleepingpositions.html
National Sleep Foundation. Women & Sleep.//www.sleepfoundation.org/publications/women.cfm
Santiago JR, Nolledo MS, Kinzler W, Santiago TV. Sleep and Sleep Disorders in Pregnancy. Annals of Internal Medicine; 134:396-408