How to get a good night’s sleep throughout the stages of pregnancy
Pregnancy is an exciting time in your life. Your body is changing rapidly as it grows a marvelous new life – talk about miracle-making in action. But with all those changes, there’s more than a few challenges too. From leg cramps and RLS to sleep challenges to raging cravings – and exhaustion is often the name of the game. Every. Single. Day.
Sleep during any stage of pregnancy can be difficult, but each trimester presents its own challenges. The good news is that some of the most common sleep disrupters can be reduced with a few tricks. Feel free to steal what you need to get you sleeping better tonight.
First trimester of pregnancy & sleep
The first trimester of pregnancy can make you feel like you’re a riding a rollercoaster of emotions, new bodily sensations and, of course, worrying. Sleep, along with a healthy diet and moderate exercise can help you feel better about the changes happening now – and yet to come. And don’t forget, you and your baby both need you to be well rested at end of the ride – which is when the real fun starts.
- Exercise your right to nap. Early in your pregnancy, you’ll start feeling very sleepy during the day. High levels of progesterone, a hormone that helps regulate the reproductive cycle, brings on sudden and undeniable cravings for naps. Strangely enough, progesterone can also disrupt your sleep at night, leading to even more fatigue during the day. Feel free to play the “pregnancy card” and claim your right to nap.
- Power down with a shower. One of the first noticeable changes to your body during pregnancy is swollen, tender breasts, which can make sleep a challenge. Especially if you’re a stomach sleeper. To help relieve some of the soreness, take a warm shower or bath before bedtime. The warm water will stimulate blood flow to help reduce swelling and relax you into sleep much easier.
- Manage nighttime waking. Progesterone does more than just make you drowsy. This necessary hormone is also partially responsible for that never-ending quest for a bathroom. You need to hydrate to keep your pregnancy healthy but monitoring the amount and kind of fluid you consume as bedtime approaches will help cut down on the number of times you wake up during the night. Also, make sure you use a night light in the bathroom since turning on the lights will stimulate your senses and make it harder to fall back asleep. Night lights are less abrasive on the senses and will allow you to fall back asleep sooner.
Second trimester of pregnancy & sleep
By your second trimester, morning sickness and extreme fatigue are starting to subside (hopefully), which has you feeling pretty great – happy, healthy and energetic. It’s no surprise this stage of pregnancy is often referred to as the “honeymoon” stage. Your growing belly and the cocktail of hormones surging through your system means all your pregnancy is progressing as it should. But sleep can get more challenging too.
- Get comfy. Because of your size, you’re likely no longer able to sleep on your stomach. Most doctors will caution against sleeping on your back as it can increase blood pressure and decrease blood flow to your uterus. Instead, try lying on your left side. When you sleep this way, your uterus will push forward, ensuring that your baby gets plenty of nutrient-rich blood and oxygen through the night. Read more at parents.com.
- Fight heartburn. Progesterone (part of that hormone cocktail surging through your system) causes the stomach’s upper valve to relax, which means that food can more easily move in the wrong direction, bringing acid with it. Add the fact that your uterus is getting bigger and pushing on your stomach, it’s no wonder you have occasional bouts of indigestion. There are, however, some ways you can avoid it: eat small meals frequently rather than big meals infrequently and sit up straight to keep gravity on your side and move food through the digestive tract. Read more at healthline.com.
- Don’t worry about the nightmares. Do your dreams seem crazier than usual? Blame the progesterone surging through your veins, plus the excitement and apprehension about pregnancy and motherhood. “Dreams reflect your emotional reality,” says Mary O’Malley, a psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. “Pregnancy brings up positive and negative feelings that you’ll digest through your dreams.” Read more at babycenter.com.
Third trimester of pregnancy & sleep
Congratulations! You’ve made it to your third and final trimester – you’re in the home stretch. While we know you’re excited, we also know you’re probably feeling more than a little exhausted and anxious. Your belly is making it hard to get comfortable…period, let alone while trying to sleep.
- Understand how to reduce Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). RLS, that tingling or burning sensation in your legs can be super annoying – but there are a few things you can do to ease the discomfort. A warm bath before bed, moderate exercise or yoga and vitamin supplements have all been proven to help alleviate discomfort. Read more at babycenter.com
- Limit liquids before bed. “As the baby settles into a head-down position for delivery, his head will press against the bladder, and many women get up four to six times each night to urinate,” says Barbara Dehn, RN. (Tell us something we don’t already know!) In addition, your kidneys are now working overtime, filtering your blood and producing urine at nearly double the rate than before pregnancy, which can lead to more frequent urination. Read more at parents.com.
- Learn what causes snoring and how you can combat it. You may start snoring because of nasal congestion, the increase in abdominal width and your uterus pressing on the diaphragm. About 30% of pregnant women snore because of increased swelling in their nasal passages, which can block airways. If you start snoring, have your blood pressure and urine protein checked — especially if you suffer from swollen ankles and headaches as this could be a warning sign that something is not right.
As you make your way to the final yards of the pregnancy race, give your body credit for how hard it’s worked these past few months. Go easy on yourself and give yourself permission to rest often – this is your best chance to catch up on that much needed sleep. Nap often. Go to bed early. Gracefully accept when someone offers you their seat. You’ve earned it, baby.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- TED Talks – Sleeping with science
- 15 delicious mason jar breakfast recipes
- How sleep can boost your immune system