A common ailment of many pregnant women is the inability to find a comfortable sleep position. Early pregnancy can cause fatigue, morning sickness, and frequent urination at night, while the third trimester brings many positioning problems due to the size of your belly.
However, getting a good night’s sleep during pregnancy is not impossible. This article highlights the best sleeping positions, how to use body pillows, and other tips to help you get enough sleep during all three trimesters.
The Importance of Good Sleep During Pregnancy
Pregnancy naturally makes you tired and creates other aches and pains, making a good night’s sleep all the more critical. The first trimester is often marked by excessive fatigue due to increased hormones, particularly progesterone. If you are a woman who usually gets by with only six hours of sleep, you may suddenly find yourself craving seven or eight hours of snooze time as well as needing a nap or two during the day.
The good news is that fatigue usually subsides with the onset of the second trimester. Increased progesterone levels can also make you feel unusually warm, which makes it difficult to sleep for some. Consider adding a fan to your room or purchasing a cooling blanket.
In addition to simply feeling better, adequate sleep is needed to help with memory, appetite, mood, critical thinking, and decision-making skills. Another crucial reason you need a good night’s sleep is that it promotes blood circulation.
An unborn baby requires nutrition and oxygen from the placenta. A good night’s sleep promotes blood vessels to regenerate and increases blood flow to the developing baby via the placenta and umbilical cord.
Sleep deprivation is also linked to preeclampsia, a dangerous condition that causes a spike in blood pressure that can lead to preterm labor. In addition, the lack of sleep can cause other dangerous problems like gestational diabetes and or preterm labor.
And sleep doesn’t only affect your health physically; lack of sleep also alters your mood and emotional health. When you sleep better, you feel better. Maintaining a positive mood through the ups and downs of pregnancy can help you stay upbeat through this emotionally challenging time.
Common Sleep Disorders During Pregnancy
Obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common breathing sleep disorder, and it can affect pregnant women due to weight gain and nasal congestion. Sleep apnea symptoms are loud snoring, morning headaches, waking with a dry mouth or sore throat, high blood pressure, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Restless legs syndrome
Restless leg syndrome or RSL is the uncontrollable urge to move your legs. The feeling is usually described as an uncomfortable crawling or tingly sensation but not painful or leg cramps. It is most common in the evening or at night when you are relaxing or lying down.
Pregnant women are two to three times more likely than non-pregnant women to experience RLS. If RLS becomes a common evening occurrence, try cutting back on caffeine and adding more iron, folate, and magnesium to your diet.
Sleeping on your left side may also help, along with taking a bath or a walk before bedtime.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder of GERD is a condition that results in heartburn or acid reflux. If GERD is causing sleep problems, avoid sleeping on your right side; instead, sleep on your left side or on your back with cushions to elevate your back, shoulders, and neck. Research has shown that sleeping on the left side reduces reflux episodes.
Waking up in the middle of the night with radiating chest pain or pain in your neck, jaw, or arms is also associated with GERD.
Ways to combat GERD involve relaxation techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises, avoiding late-night meals, and some over-the-counter medications. Always ask your doctor for medical advice before taking any medications or supplements.
Tips to Improve Your Sleep Position and Comfort
We all have our favorite sleep positions, and it can be hard to give up that cozy, go-to spot in your bed. But, as your due date approaches and your belly becomes larger and heavier, you may find you have trouble sleeping, particularly if you are a back or stomach sleeper. Not only do back and stomach positions become uncomfortable, but most doctors advise that pregnant women avoid back sleeping after pregnancy week twenty.
Sleeping on your back after twenty weeks can cause a drop in blood pressure as your growing uterus and baby pushes down on the large veins in your lower back, also known as your inferior vena cava. But if you find yourself having nodded off on your back, don’t stress; simply change positions.
One of the best items that you can gift yourself is a pregnancy pillow. Pregnancy pillows can be a lifesaver when looking for a comfortable sleeping position. Try positioning a pillow between your legs and under your bump as you lie on your side. You can also roll up a towel and place it under the small of your back to reduce back pain and pressure.
While many sleep experts say sleeping on your left side is best because it increases blood flow, there is nothing wrong with sleeping on your right slide if that is what you find most comfortable.
You may find it takes several pillows and trying different positions to achieve your best sleep, and unfortunately, what works one night might not work the next. So keep plenty of pillows close by in case you need to shift or add cushioning.
Some women claim they get their best sleep quality when sleeping semi-upright in a recliner instead of a bed. Nurture& gliders have power recline to allow you to recline seamlessly and relax. And with the built-in USB charger, you can keep your phone close by to play soothing white noise or music as you drift off.
Habits that can improve your bedtime
While establishing healthy sleep patterns is a good idea for anyone, it is essential for pregnant women. Adequate sleep is linked to lower risks of preeclampsia, a higher birth weight, and a reduced risk of preterm labor, which could result in an unplanned cesarean or stillbirth.
Here are some tips to help you achieve quality sleep during all stages of your pregnancy.
Eating and drinking strategically
Late-night visits to the bathroom and waking up with heartburn can ruin a good night’s sleep. Avoid eating or drinking at least an hour before bed, and make your last drink of the evening a soothing cup of decaf tea or warm milk to help you relax.
Try to eat several small meals throughout the day, which can help reduce heartburn.
Improving sleep hygiene
Having a healthy sleep routine can improve your sleep quality. Try to go to bed at the same time nightly and to wake up at the same time in the morning. Create a habit of turning off electronics an hour or so before bedtime and instead engage in something relaxing such as reading, working on a puzzle, or meditating.
Ensuring healthy breathing
Excess weight can lead to breathing issues, especially when sleeping, so work with your doctor to maintain healthy pregnancy weight gain. A humidifier and propping yourself up with pillows can also make breathing easier.
Soothing your legs
A calcium-rich diet can help ease leg cramps and pain. It may also help to engage in gentle stretching or yoga pre-bedtime, which will also ease backaches and help you relax. Soaking in a warm tub is another way to ease back and leg pain.
Easing new parent worries
It is important to stay educated on pregnancy dos and don’ts and what to expect, but also to avoid worrying unnecessarily. If you find yourself going down the internet rabbit hole, turn off the electronics and engage in meditation or take a walk outside. Breathing exercises, yoga, and listening to music are also helpful aids.
Take yourself out for lunch or connect with friends over a cup of coffee or a spa day. If you have any new mom friends or family members, talk to them about any worries or concerns you may have.
Ask your doctor before taking sleep aids
Always ask your doctor before taking sleeping aids if you feel like you need some help to go to sleep. Some sleep aids are categorized as safe during pregnancy, but it’s always best to consult your doctor or healthcare provider before moving forward with taking them.
No matter which trimester you are currently in, trouble sleeping is a common occurrence. Always have plenty of pillows close by and consider trying out new positions such as left-side sleeping or sleeping in a recliner or a Nurture& Glider. If you have concerns, speak to your doctor about any symptoms that you find troublesome, but try not to worry as stress leads to sleep problems. Set up a sleep schedule, and remember being well rested is key to a healthy and stress-free pregnancy.