It’s one of the common things people say when you’re pregnant: “Get your sleep now, while you can, haha!” or something of that nature. That’s all well and good – and most of us would love to get the sleep we need – but sometimes it can be challenging to get restful sleep during pregnancy, no matter what trimester you’re in. According to the National Sleep Foundation, up to 78% of women report sleep disturbances during pregnancy, compared to other times in their lives. While physical changes can certainly interfere with sleep, anxiety can also be an issue. While it’s totally normal to be nervous about motherhood and all its accompanying changes, if the anxiety is interfering with your daily life and seriously hampering your sleep, a counselor can help ease your mind and even provide suggestions on how to promote relaxation and sleep during pregnancy.
Here are some tips to help you slumber soundly, but if nothing is helping, talk with your midwife about what’s going on. She might have some suggestions unique to your situation.
Thanks to progesterone and rising hormone levels, it’s really common to be super sleepy during the first trimester. While napping is good (and even necessary!), try not to nap after 4pm, as this can make it harder to fall asleep later on in the evening. Frequent bathroom trips are common, even though you’re not showing yet, because of increased progesterone and expanding uterus. To help minimize trips, try to taper down fluids after 6pm. If you find yourself getting nauseous at night or in the early morning, keep some crackers in a bag next to your bed.
Like so many other pregnancy symptoms, it may get easier to sleep during this time. However, other symptoms (like heartburn) can emerge, making snoozing not-so-restful. Heartburn occurs in later pregnancy because the uterus pushes on the stomach, causing acid reflux to go into the esophagus. Lying down can make this even worse; try propping yourself up on an extra pillow (or two!) and try to eat at least 4 hours before going to bed. Minimizing your intake of acidic foods can also ease the heartburn. Sleeping on your left side can also help, and may improve the flow of blood and nutrients to the fetus.
Leg cramps can arise now, and some – especially in the calf – can be painful. If you get a cramp, flex your toes to your head; don’t point your toes. Bananas can ease muscle cramps, and they even contain tryptophan, which converts to serotonin and can help you relax.
As your belly gets bigger, it can be harder to find a comfortable position. The only position you should avoid is sleeping flat on your back, since the fetus can press on spinal nerves and the inferior vena cava, which enables blood to flow between the lower body and the heart.
If nocturnal bathroom trips eased up last trimester, you might find yourself back at it again this trimester, as your uterus keeps growing and your baby drops lower in your pelvis.
It can be even harder to get comfortable now, so experiment with pillows. Some women find it helps to place a pillow under the belly and a pillow between the knees. A pregnancy pillow can also be placed along your back for support.
If you’re finding it difficult to breathe because of congestion or start snoring, rest assured, this is normal, as well. You can try using those nasal strips from the drugstore to help open up your nasal passages.
Approximately 20 percent of pregnant women experience Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), which can interfere with sleep and rest. Low levels of iron and folate can cause RLS, so make sure you take your prenatal vitamin daily. Some women find hot or cold packs, warm baths, and massage help ease the discomforts of RLS. Talk with your midwife about whether any supplements like B12, iron, magnesium, or folate might be warranted.
What are some ways you were able to ease discomfort and get restful sleep during pregnancy?