If you’re having difficulty getting good sleep while you're pregnant, know that you are not alone. Up to 78% of pregnant women report frequent awakenings during the night, which can lead to excessive sleepiness during the day. Between finding a comfortable position and dealing with heartburn and frequent urination, it’s hard to get the quality zzz’s you need to feel good. Couple that with new parent anxiety and fluctuating hormones and you’ve got the perfect cocktail for sleep disturbance. We’ve gathered nine pregnancy sleep recommendations that you can use as a reference to help you get the quality sleep you need while your baby grows.
1. Maintain Basic Sleep Hygiene
Pregnant or not, sleep hygiene forms the crucial foundation for sleeping well. Start by creating a sleep schedule and try to maintain it within 20 minutes every day, even on weekends. Next, create a relaxing bedtime routine, whether that’s taking a bath or making a cup of your favorite tea and lighting a candle.
Make sure you're comfortable and your environment is relaxing: keep your bedroom calm and organized, buy pillows and sheets that make you feel relaxed and comfortable. And if you’re a clock watcher, hide the clock! Remember, your bed should be used for sex and sleep only, meaning no books or screens (We promise you can live without Instagram!)
Keep your bedroom cool. According to SleepAdvisor.org, sleeping in rooms between 60 and 68 degrees increases the production of melatonin, which in turn encourages sleep. When you’re pregnant, your core body temperature runs higher, making it even more important to keep the thermostat down.
If you do wake up in the night, don’t just lie there. Staying awake in bed can cause anxiety about not sleeping, introducing a vicious cycle. Get up and do something relaxing like reading or even imagining your baby sleeping.
2. Exercise Regularly
Keep moving! (Unless a doctor tells you otherwise.) Exercising helps release any pent-up energy as well as improves your overall mood. We know it can be hard, especially as your pregnancy advances, but shoot for 30 minutes a day even if that means just walking around the block. Try to keep it earlier in the day as exercising right before bedtime can raise your adrenaline levels and make it harder to sleep.
3. Take Short Naps During the Day
Naps aren’t normally considered good sleep hygiene, but when you’re pregnant they may be a necessity. Try to keep it to 20-30 minute catnaps and definitely not too close to bedtime. Napping too long can disrupt your sleep cycles, and you may wake up groggy and more tired than when you laid down.
4. Cut Back on Fluids at Night
While it’s important to stay hydrated during pregnancy, increased kidney production and pressure on the bladder can cause more frequent urination. Drink what you need to during the day, but avoid drinking two hours before bedtime. This will reduce your trips to the bathroom and help you get better quality zzz’s.
5. Plan When and What You Eat
An expanding uterus along with hormonal changes that come with pregnancy can affect your digestive system. Many pregnant women complain about heartburn, especially at night. To decrease discomfort avoid greasy foods such as french fries. Carbonated beverages, spicy foods, and acidic foods such as citrus and tomatoes can also exacerbate heartburn. If your baby moves around a lot and causes heartburn, you can also keep a food journal to help determine which foods may trigger the movement.
If possible sit upright for 1-2 hours after eating to decrease acid reflux, and if you need to lie down, recline on elevated pillows. Also, refrain from eating 3-4 hours before bedtime. This gives your body a chance to digest your food before lying down, letting it focus on doing the repair your body needs at night. If you do need a snack before bedtime, try something bland like crackers or a banana.
6. Clear Your Head
Anticipating a new baby brings great joy, but it can also add a lot of stress. A lot of new mamas-to-be worry about finances, preparing for the baby, what kind of parent they’re going to be. These are normal feelings, and it’s important that they are expressed so they don’t keep you up at night. Find a trusted friend that you feel comfortable talking to, and if necessary get professional help. Developing relaxing, calming habits like yoga, meditation, and breathwork can go a long way toward helping to relieve stress. Putting pen to paper is one of our tried and true methods of stopping brain chatter. You can spill out your worries and concerns onto the page and then put your journal in a drawer. You know that your fears are contained somewhere (you can always revisit them if you need to), which frees up mental space for sleep.
7. Find a Comfortable Position
Most doctors recommend that pregnant women sleep on their left side after 20 weeks. Doing so can encourage not only blood flow to the fetus, but the kidneys, liver, and heart as well. But finding a comfortable position can be tricky. Pregnancy body pillows are designed specifically for your body at this particular stage and can go a long way towards helping you feel comfortable. You can also place a pillow between your knees and underneath your baby bump. Placing a pillow behind your lumbar can help reduce pain too. An egg crate or foam layer can help with sore hips. And special mattresses designed for those weighing over 230 pounds can also be a boon for pregnant women.
8. Ensure Healthy Breathing
As a result of weight gain as well as physiological and hormonal changes, pregnant women are predisposed to sleep-disordered breathing. This can leave you feeling tired when you wake up, even after a full night’s sleep. To mitigate this, keep your weight gain within the range that your doctor recommends. Also, consider using a humidifier to relieve nasal congestion, which can increase while you’re pregnant. Elevating the head of your bed slightly (you can put risers under the legs) can go a long way toward helping with sleep apnea. And as always, consult your doctor if you have any questions.
9. Pamper Your Legs
Many pregnant women experienced leg cramps at night, due to differences in the way the body processes calcium. Preventative measures include exercising and gently stretching your legs. Also, increase calcium-rich foods in your diet, and be sure to drink plenty of water. Pregnant women are also prone to developing Restless Leg Syndrome, which is a strong urge to move your legs at night. This syndrome may be caused by an iron or folate deficiency, so if you have concerns, talk to your doctor for an evaluation.
Pregnancy is an incredibly special time in a woman’s life, and yet it comes with its own problems and challenges. Getting the rest you need is key to making sure you and your baby enjoy optimal health.