How to Sleep Better During Pregnancy
The pregnancy cycle is difficult for new mums-to-be especially when those sleepless nights kick in. With your belly ballooning every few weeks and rapidly increasing in weight, there is added pressure on your bladder resulting in non-stop tossing and turning in bed.
Your heavy belly and the consistent bathroom breaks may not be the only factors causing your sleeplessness. Severe backaches, nausea, depression and stress, heartburn and anxiety may also disrupt your rest and leave you feeling exhausted and unwell throughout the day. Despite these many problems, your body still needs adequate rest to supply you and your unborn baby with energy and nourishment.
To remedy these afflictions, you can incorporate relaxation techniques and other methods to ensure that you get the quality sleep you need to look after you and your baby’s health.
What causes sleepless nights during pregnancy?
Pregnancy is not a stroll in the park. From morning sickness to the drastic physical changes and even the struggle with depression and anxiety, there are many causes for sleepless nights during the pregnancy cycle.
Sleep deprivation is a common side effect of having a baby. In fact, research has shown that more than half of pregnant women noted bad sleep, insomnia, and sleep disturbances when they were expecting.
You are far more likely to experience an influx of hormonal imbalances during your first and third trimester. This is because of the rising levels of estrogen in the body which are produced more during pregnancy than in the entirety of a woman’s life.
The estrogen production also causes intense feelings of drowsiness which may cause you to sleep for longer, but the progesterone and estrogen levels balance out during the third trimester which may cause hormonal imbalances. When this happens, you may feel the urge to urinate constantly or experience restless leg syndrome, or even cravings and sexual desire.
With all these drastic shifts in your body’s functions, you will find it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Breathlessness, crankiness, growing appetite, depression, etc., are all byproducts of your body’s hormonal changes, but with some care and relaxation techniques, you can relax yourself better when it is time for bed.
Heartburn is widely common during pregnancy and is attributed to the hormonal changes your body undergoes. With the rapid production of the progesterone hormone by the placenta, the muscles of the uterus begin to relax. Progesterone also creates a smooth link between the stomach and the esophagus, which in turn releases the gastric acids back up. The gastric acids create a sensation of heartburning and can create severe discomfort when sleeping.
Heartburning may occur at any point of the day for pregnant women, but it is intensified during the night when you are lying down. Pregnancy hormones are what causes this release by relaxing the muscles that keep the acid in the stomach. Your body may feel fiery from the inside, and you may have a difficult time breathing when your insides are flaring up in this manner. Heartburn is also common during the last trimester when the weight of the baby bump puts pressure on the abdomen.
Pregnancy is undoubtedly a stressful time for the women with all the emotional and physical transformations taking place. The hormonal spikes may instigate stressful thoughts, restlessness, anxiety, and depression. You may also suffer other pregnancy discomforts such as backaches, morning sickness, sleep disturbances, and bloating of the limbs, etc. You may even struggle with eating and may take in too much at once or keep away from food altogether.
All these factors, combined with personal matters and work concerns may increase stress levels and you may find it harder to fall asleep. Most women tend to get more sleep during the first trimester but as the time passes, the exhaustion from carrying so much weight kicks in and you may experience stress induced insomnia more frequently.
How to Improve Your Sleep When Pregnant
A good night’s sleep is paramount for a healthy pregnancy. With so many bodily changes taking place at the same time, you may begin to feel sapped of all energy and this does not bode well for you, or the little one. You can combat sleepless nights by using the right tools and practicing the correct relaxation techniques that will keep you well rested and free of the many discomforts that come with being pregnant.
Use a pregnancy pillow (full body pillow, u-shaped pillow, etc.)
Using pregnancy pillows can significantly reduce bodily aches and discomfort when sleeping with a heavy belly. Pregnancy pillows are specifically designed to contour and embrace the tender curves of the body and allow cushioning in the most sensitive of corners to keep any weight from pushing down and adding pressure on the spine or other joints.
Body pillows encase the body in a soft, comfortable hold as you sleep on your side. Side sleeping is known to promote circulation and keep the pressure off your legs, hips, and back. If you are not fond of sleeping on your side, pregnancy pillows can make this position more comfortable by providing your body with support. You can purchase a ‘U’ or ‘C’ shaped body pillow for pregnancy as they provide maximum comfort and support. You can even opt for a fill body pillow that helps in the distribution of weight.
The ‘U’ shaped body pillows allow you to rest your head on the soft curve while your arms and belly are supported by one edge and your back is stabilized by the other edge. However, many experts recommend the ‘C’ shaped pillow instead as the curve of the C gently cradles the baby bump and keeps the weight from pushing down on your body.
Sleep on the right mattress
Sleeping on the right type of mattress can make all the difference during pregnancy. While it may be an added cost, it can significantly help with aches and pains around the body that keep you from resting to the fullest. We recommend investing in a mattress that can help relieve pressure from the tender areas of the body while also supporting your growing bump.
A good option is the Saatva Mattress, or the Saatva Classic Mattress that is fashioned specifically for the needs of pregnant women. With dual layers of coil, polyfoam, and a covering of memory foam, the Saatva Mattress offers plush comfort for mums-to-be. It gently contours the body and creates cushioning for the hips and shoulders, and the thin memory foam layer helps reduce tension in the lower back which is often a side effect of your growing tummy. The steel coil keeps the mattress from sagging or dipping in while also supporting spinal alignment.
Keep your bedroom cool
It goes without saying that a well-ventilated room will aid in a good night’s rest. There are many ways you can achieve this: place a fan next to an open window so the cool breeze from outside combines with the fan and keep you feeling cool and refreshed; you could also use air conditioning at night if it becomes unbearably hot.
A great and energy efficient way to keep your room cool during the night is to ensure that all electronics such as televisions, computers, charging pads, etc., are switched off. Electronics generate waves of heat when they are constantly running. By turning them off during the night, you will be saving on the energy bills and enjoying a good night’s rest.
If you live in a hot climate, then keep away from those silk or polyester sheets until it is wintertime. For those boiling summer nights, it is better to use light colored, lightweight cotton bed linens. These are breathable and soft, allowing for sufficient air flow that keeps your body cool at night. You should also prefer going to bed in your cotton sleeping wear as they keep you from heating up when asleep. Research claims that cotton sleeping wear also promotes a deeper sleep compared to hotter fabrics such as wool.
You can also try placing your sheets in the freezer for some time before heading to bed but be sure to put them in a zip lock bag or a plastic sheet first. Your socks can also be placed in the freezer for a while so that when you put them on, they provide a cooling sensation, putting you to a relaxed state immediately.
Practice deep-breathing before bed
Not only does deep breathing aid in stress relief, but it also helps relieve the functions of your body that create strain and anxiety. Practicing deep breathing every day for a few minutes can significantly help you relax and ease away the stressful thoughts of the day, or concern and fears about your little one.
When you inhale deeply, you allow your heart rate to slow down, and this is beneficial for a good sleep. Your body takes in more oxygen and informs the brain to ease in this state; it also lowers cortisol levels in the body, increasing endorphin release and balancing your hormones so you can fall into a deep, restful slumber.
Sleep on your side
The most comfortable position to sleep in when you are pregnant is on your side. Mums-to-be are recommended this position by doctors because it keeps the heart pumping at a regular pace. This is because sleeping on your side keeps the pressure of your growing baby bump away from the inferior vena cava, which is the large vein responsible for carrying the blood back to the heart from your other limbs.
It is also preferable for pregnant women to sleep on their left side with their knees bent. This does not strain the more sensitive organs such as the liver. It has also been noted that lying on your left side helps improve blood circulation to the heart.
There is no need to fret if you roll on your other side or on your back during the pregnancy cycle. Turning and shifting positions while asleep is natural and once you reach the third trimester, your body will automatically align itself to the more comfortable positions as lying on your back may simply become too strenuous.
Pee before sleeping
Another common side effect of pregnancy is the constant need to urinate, especially at nighttime. When you become pregnant, your body produces high levels of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG), which is a pregnancy hormone. This may cause those frequent bathroom breaks all throughout the day and night. Carrying a baby also means that your kidneys have to sift and filter through more than half the blood than usual and this causes the urge to urinate often.
When you reach your third trimester, the sheer weight of your tummy will begin to press down on your bladder, and you will want to rush to the bathroom every hour or less. If you are unable to sleep at night because of the consistent pressure on your bladder, it is best to pee before heading to bed so that you can fall asleep without the piercing urge to wake up mid rest and rush for the bathroom.
Stop liquid intake way before bedtime
Drinking water during pregnancy is paramount but avoid loading up your body with liquids before bedtime. Consuming liquids just before bed will cause those nightly trips to the bathroom and disrupt your sleeping pattern. A great way to ensure a good sleep is by drinking water or other fluids two hours before heading to sleep.
Stay hydrated during the day
The benefits of drinking the recommended amount of water every day are countless, but hydration is even more important for pregnant women. It keeps you well hydrated and keeps those muscle spasms, cramps, and blood circulation problems away by oxygenating the organs. In fact, water also helps wash away the bacteria that may cause urinary tract infections and balances the waves of hormones which cause irritation, stretch marks, bloating, or tightness of the skin which is so common during pregnancy.
All these problems can otherwise come in the way of a peaceful night’s sleep, and you may wake up feeling groggy and utterly restless. Water helps your organs function with fluidity and keeps uncomfortable aches and pains at bay. It is also essential for the baby’s health as the amount of water you consume impacts the amniotic fluid directly which protects your child and assists in its development.
Experts recommend at least eight cups of water a day, or 2000ml. You should take these in different intervals throughout the day and with your meals.
Sleep in a dark room
A research conducted by Professor Reiter, of the University of Texas, on certain animals indicated that fluctuations in the light and dark levels in the mother’s environment instigated behavioral problems in the newborn babies. It is speculated that the same may occur in human children, triggering ADHD or autism disorders.
It is recommended that pregnant women should sleep in darkness for a minimum of eight hours every night and this pattern should not be disturbed especially during the last trimester. Switching on the light reduced the production of melatonin in the body which may also impact the fetal brain which does not receive enough melatonin to regulate sleep cycles.
Sleeping Positions for First, Second and Third Trimester
The different stages of pregnancy require varying degrees of care and changes in sleeping positions. In the first trimester, it is easy to sleep in the position of your choice, but experts recommend practicing sleeping on your side for future ease. Do not worry too much if you cannot do this yet. Getting sufficient rest is far more important than getting the position down in the first trimester.
In your second trimester, you may still choose to sleep on your stomach early on, but when the growing bumps make it difficult to rest like this, you should switch positions. Avoid sleeping on your back when the pregnancy cycle reaches week 16 as this may jeopardize blood circulation through the vena cava. The weight of your belly may cut off the blood flow causing bloating and swelling of your feet and legs.
The best position to sleep in during the third trimester is on your left side, with your legs bent and tucked toward your chin. It encourages smooth blood flow to the uterus and helps in providing the essential nutrients to the baby. Research has shown that sleeping on your left side decreases any chances of varicose veins in the legs, bloating of the feet and legs, etc.
Can you sleep on your back while pregnant?
Sleeping on your back is not a preferable sleeping position as it weighs down on your back and hinders blood circulation causing swelling, numbness, and even varicose veins in the legs.
Some studies have also compared this position with lying on your side and it was concluded that sleeping on your back during the third trimester caused the baby to become less active. It was also observed that there were fluctuations in the heart rate patterns of the fetus due to low levels of oxygen supplied when the mother lies on her back.
Can you lay on your stomach while pregnant? Is it safe?
Mums-to-be can choose to rest on their stomachs until the baby bump makes it impossible to lie in that position. Though it is generally safe to sleep on your stomach during pregnancy, it may still cause bodily aches. Studies have shown that pregnant women can sleep in the position of their choice until they reach 30 weeks of gestation. After that, it is preferable to sleep on your left side.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many hours should a pregnant woman sleep?
Pregnant women should normally aim for a minimum of eight hours of sleep, but some women might require more. An extra hour or two of good sleep is often essential during the first trimester, especially for women who are busy with work and cannot manage more than six hours of rest a night.
During pregnancy, your body produces the progesterone hormone which may make you lethargic and drowsy. For this reason, you may even sleep up to twelve hours as your body requires the rest and energy for two. If you find yourself sleeping for even longer, that is normal as long as you get some fresh air, nutrition, and exercise on a daily basis.
Is oversleeping bad during pregnancy?
There is no evidence that proves that oversleeping is bad during pregnancy. In the past, many studies have been debunked that claimed that it negatively impacts the fetus. It is good to sleep for eight to ten hours and if you continue to feel drowsy, you can sleep for longer. If you are getting your regular exercise and nutrition, there is no harm in a few additional hours of sleep.
Is it normal to sleep 12 hours a day while pregnant?
Yes, it is normal to sleep for twelve hours a day during pregnancy. The progesterone hormone makes you feel drowsy, and your body may ask for longer rests. If you had a particularly stressful day at work, then your body needs a few extra hours of peaceful slumber.
Does lack of sleep affect baby development?
Numerous studies have indicated that lack of sleep can cause a greater risk of pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, or preeclampsia. It can also hinder the baby’s growth.
Less sleep may also result in a reduction of growth and pregnancy hormones which directly impact the child’s development. Lack of sleep may also mean less oxygen for the baby, which may endanger it over the course of time.