Frequent wakings, tossing and turning, difficulty getting comfortable, all coupled with various aches and pains. Throw in insomnia and some heartburn and the chance of getting a good night’s rest can seem impossible. Sleepless nights can be common practice for new parents, but most pregnant women also struggle with sleep in the months leading up to the arrival of their little one.
But does your growing bump automatically mean that your days of sleeping soundly are over? No. But it does mean you may have to make some adjustments to both your sleep hygiene and your sleep environment in order to accommodate your pregnancy and changing hormones.
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Top Issues That Keep You From Sleeping Well When Pregnant
You may have to revisit each of these issues as you continue along in your pregnancy. Something that was comfortable in your second trimester, may no longer work the closer you get to your due date. Stay open to trying new options though, as being well rested will help you during labour and those first few weeks of sleepless nights.
Issue #1 – How Do I Find A Comfortable Sleeping Position?
A growing belly can make it more challenging to sleep comfortably. The American Pregnancy Association recommends that pregnant women sleep on their side, specifically the left side, if possible. Sleeping on your left side increases the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and the baby.
The best remedy for creating a comfortable sleeping position comes down to pillows and elevation which will reduce the strain on your hips, back and baby bump. Here’s what you can try:
- Sleep with your legs and knees bent and put a pillow between them.
- Sleep with a pregnancy pillow. Do some research to help figure out which one would work best for you – a U shaped full body pillow or a narrower, straight lined body pillow
- Use pillows to elevate your head and back. This is especially helpful if you feel short of breath when you lie down.
- Get creative! Many moms to be claim that sleeping in a recliner chair was the only way that they could be comfortable for sleep.
Issue #2 – My Body Is Not My Own
Being pregnant usually means more frequent trips to the bathroom and either some nausea, heartburn or acid reflux. If your systems are in overdrive and are making it hard to sleep, try some of these tips:
- Limit liquids about three hours before bed. If you do have to get up in the night to use the bathroom, use a night light. Bright lights will trigger your brain and make it harder to fall back asleep.
- Break up your meals into smaller portions – try six small meals throughout the day. If you are hungry before bed, try and eat a small portion of a food that can help make you sleepy such as dairy, eggs or peanut butter, paired with a healthy carb.
- Limit any spice foods to lunch time meals.
Issue #3 – Even If I Sleep, I Don’t Sleep Well
If you are in bed for eight or more hours, why don’t you feel refreshed in the morning? Frequent wakings and aches and pains are usually the culprit. If you are already using pillows to support your body during sleep, try using a maternity support band during the day to take the stress off your body and help limit aches and pains at the end of the day.
Issue #4 – Insomnia
Bedtime routines are just as important for adults as they are for children. Your body needs at least 30 minutes to prepare for sleep. With a baby on the way, the never ending to do list can keep you up at night, making it hard to shut your brain off and drift off to sleep.
Here are some ways to wind down and get sleep ready:
- Keep physical activity to three hours before bedtime. In pregnancy, this not only means exercise but even cleaning or doing chores around the house can keep you too riled up to sleep.
- Pregnant women are even more susceptible to light and noise so be sure your sleep environment is a priority. Hormones can make you warm at night so keep your bedroom cool. Consider covering the clock if the light is bothering you or if you feel anxious watching the minutes tick by.
- Try some meditation or music to relax your body and your mind.
- If you do wake up in the night and can’t fall back asleep, try getting out of bed and doing a calming activity (no technology!) for 10 to 15 minutes outside of your bedroom.
Embrace The Changes
Remember that being pregnant only lasts for nine months and you will be comfortable again! In the meantime, embrace the changes as best you can and do what works for you. It may mean you take naps when you can, sleep with four extra pillows in the bed and limit your favourite spicy foods, but it will all be worth it in the end.
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips, subscribe to our newsletter and visit Good Night Sleep Site.