Sleeping for Two: Better Rest During Pregnancy
Anticipating your bundle of joy can bring immense happiness—but pregnancy can cause some unpleasant things as well. Morning sickness, fatigue, and all-around uncomfortableness are some of the things women least look forward to when expecting.
A good night’s sleep can be hard to come by—especially in the first and third trimesters when the body is going through the most physical and emotional changes. Here are some tips for making sleep a priority during your pregnancy.
Tip 1: Make Sleep Your Routine
The National Institute of Health recommends that mothers-to-be spend at least 8 hours in bed each night so that they can get at least 7 hours of sleep. Proper sleep and rest can help women who are pregnant feel less irritable and makes concentration easier throughout the day.
To make sure you get enough rest, start by getting into a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Once your body’s internal clock gets the hint, these tips will help settle other problems that might arise.
Tip 2: Sleep on Your Left Side
Your regular sleeping position may no longer work during pregnancy. And sleeping on your back isn’t ideal because it puts pressure on the spine and intestines (and possibly the fetus).
Try sleeping on your left side. It’s a proven position for lessening heartburn—a common sleep disruptor during pregnancy, and this position gives the most room for your organs and baby to share.
(If you happen to wake up on your back or belly in the morning, don’t panic. While it’s not ideal, you’re better off getting a restful night’s sleep than not sleeping at all).
Tip 3: Prop with Pillows
Putting your pillows in the right position can help take some pressure off:
- For belly and back support: Prop a pillow under your tummy and between your knees.
- To relieve heartburn: Use an additional pillow under your head to keep acids from working their way up your esophagus.
- For shortness of breath (common towards the end of pregnancy): Put a pillow under your side to raise your chest.
If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, a store-bought “pregnancy pillow” can help keep your body in the ideal position without having multiple pillows slipping out of place while you sleep.
Tip 4: Lower the Temperature
Your body heat increases during pregnancy due to an increased hormones and metabolic rate, so you might be feeling hotter than usual. You’ll probably find that the most comfortable temperature on your thermostat is just a few notches lower than what you’re used to. It also helps to only partially cover yourself with a blanket.
Tip 5: Limit Fluid Intake Before Bed
As your baby gets larger and takes up more space in your belly, the urge to pee can be relentless. Your kidneys are also working extra hard for two, which can also be a major disruption of sleep. To reduce bathroom visits, limit the amount of fluid you drink an hour before bed.
You still need plenty of fluids during the day to prevent swelling and constipation. But cut back in the evenings to get a better night’s sleep. Also, eliminate caffeinated drinks like soda, coffee and tea after late afternoon as much as possible—they can trigger the bladder to work even faster.
Tip 6: Turn Out the Lights
Too much light confuses your body into thinking it’s daytime. That can make it hard to fall asleep or get back to sleep after waking in the middle of the night.
Make your room as dark as possible. Lower the light on your alarm clock and avoid using devices like cell phones and tablets in bed since they can disturb the natural sleep cycle. To light the way for your many nighttime bathroom breaks -- use nightlights so you don’t have to turn on the lights.
Tip 7: Take it Easy Before Bed
The need to unwind before bed is more important than ever during pregnancy. Avoid rigorous exercise right before bed. Try a more relaxing activity, like yoga or meditation (as your doctor allows). Reading a book also helps because it keeps your mind focused on one thing and does not require bright light or noise.
If fear and anxiety are keeping you awake, consider enrolling in a childbirth class or parenting class. More knowledge and the company of other pregnant women may help to ease the fears that are keeping you awake at night.
Tip 8: Beds are Made for One (or Two) Things
Don’t respond to email or pay your bills in bed. Your body should know that your bed is for one (or two things) like sleeping and sex. Keep it trained that way, so it makes it easier for you to fall asleep.
Tip 9: Skip Late Night Snacks
You may be eating for two, but try not to eat two hours before bedtime to avoid acid reflux or heart burn which can make you uncomfortable in bed. Also, avoid spikes in sugar that may also keep you awake at night.
Tip 10: Kick Leg Cramps to the Curb
During the second trimester, leg cramps are especially common. And pregnant women who are prone to anemia or low iron levels, may experience restless legs syndrome, which can be annoying and uncomfortable. The only relief for both occurrences is to just walk around, but also talk to your doctor about diet changes that can help. While you will have the inconvenience of getting in and out of bed, stretching your leg muscles out is better than lying in bed miserable.
Tip 11: Keep Naps Short & Sweet
You’ll probably need to nap from time to time during your pregnancy to catch up on missed sleep. Just remember to keep them short – between 20 and 40 minutes – to avoid falling into deep sleep. Any longer and you’ll likely find it hard to wake up and feel groggy instead of refreshed from your nap.
Remember that sleep problems are common during pregnancy. By making it a priority and tweaking your routine, you can make sure that you are getting the rest you need.