The Secret to Great Sleeping While Pregnant

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Sleeping While Pregnant - The Secret to Great Sleeping While Pregnant

Sleep plays such a pivotal role in your physical health and mental well-being, even more so when you are pregnant and carrying very precious cargo.

You probably hardly ever hear the term, ‘sleeping for two’, but that’s truly what you’re doing without thinking, while carrying your growing fetus.

Let’s be real for a minute though, sleeping during pregnancy is better said than done for most, especially when the source of your insomnia is heartburn, nausea and other sleep disturbances.

It is recommended that pregnant women get at least six hours of sleep daily, especially during the first and final trimesters of pregnancy. Sleep is so vital during the first trimester because of the increase in the pregnancy hormone called progesterone, which causes the body to feel constantly fatigued and sleepy. We will briefly examine the risks of bad sleeping habits and the benefits of good sleeping habits.

The benefits you reap from getting great sleep during pregnancy are phenomenal, but research has also shown that if pregnant women who get less than six hours of sleep daily during their final trimester have a heightened risk of having a cesarean section or experiencing extended labor.

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  • Research has shown that pregnant women who sleep for less than six hours a day during their final trimester have a heightened risk of having a cesarean section or experiencing extended labor.
  • When you’re not well-rested, your cognitive functions suffer and you lose concentration easily and it’s difficult for you to get through a normal day.

Benefits of good sleeping habits

  • Good sleeping habits aid both you and your baby through the three major stages of pregnancy: formation, growth and development.
  • When you are well-rested, you function more efficiently because you are more focused and energized.
  • You increase your chances of having a normal childbirth.
  • You reduce the risk of mishaps like tripping and falling due to exhaustion or the dreaded risk of falling asleep at the wheel.

Common Problems You May Also Face

There are some disturbances, however, that are more directly linked to pregnancy which you may have very little control over. These include:

  • Leg cramps: Most times this is due to a mineral deficiency.
  • Swollen ‘cankles’: The increased circulation in your legs can lead to what’s called edema which you notice as a swelling. This arises when the circulation pushing the blood back up your legs is not as fast as that coming down.
  • Numerous bathroom trips: Due to your enlarged uterus, your bladder has reduced capacity and cannot retain as much liquid as before. Therefore, you will have to relieve yourself quite frequently especially during the nights when your body is working on expelling waste.
  • Back pain: Your lower back tends to absorb most of the pressure from your growing uterus which may lead to sleeplessness.
  • Tenderness in your breasts: Your body is preparing food for your unborn child so your milk ducts have been activated and are in preparation mode which may cause tenderness.
  • Shortness of breath: This is two-fold because your lungs are under pressure from your uterus below space-wise and your increased circulation requires more oxygen to keep things moving.
  • Abdominal discomfort: Your enlarged uterus is placing pressure on many of your organs including your abdomen which may keep you up at nights.

This list is by no means exhaustive because each pregnant woman can present her own disturbances that may not be common to others. For instance, from personal experience, I had extremely itchy skin after having a shower that would sometimes keep me up at night. My OBGYN linked it to my hormones creating a hypersensitivity in my skin to my bathing water, which is not very common, but nonetheless possible.

Whether by choice or by nature, sleep disturbances are a nuisance, so let’s get right into some tips on how to enjoy great sleep while pregnant.

Best Tips to Get Same Quality Sleeping During Pregnancy

1. Set A Regular Bedtime

Try to set a bedtime within a certain time frame from early on in pregnancy, like say between 7pm and 8pm and do your best to stick to it. By setting a time frame versus an exact bedtime, you will allow for more eventualities, reduce the anxiety of not getting to bed by a more specific time and minimize the likelihood of developing a sleep disorder.

2. What and When to Eat

Maintaining a healthy diet is very important for your body and that of your fetus. Eating foods rich in essential vitamins and minerals is absolutely fundamental. It’s also important to avoid certain foods especially close your bedtime such as:

  • Fried Foods
  • Greasy Foods
  • Spicy Foods
  • Drinks That Contain Caffeine

It is recommended that heavy meals are eaten no less than two to three hours before going to bed to allow time for your food to digest. Otherwise, it may be a long night and a groggy morning after.

3. Put Your Anxiety to Rest

If anxiety and restless thoughts are the reason for your sleeplessness, try to make a list of say what you want to get done before bedtime and then practice a soothing ritual to help ease your mind like a warm candlelit bath alongside soothing music.

4. Set The Tone for Sleeping

Since your circulation is doing double-time during pregnancy, you tend to generate more heat than normal. So ensure your bedroom is cool, quiet and noise-free to encourage your body to relax. And wear comfortable, breathable clothing and ensure that you’re resting in the most comfortable position for you and your growing bump.

5. Topical Magnesium

Magnesium oil, spray or lotion are great topical products that are safe for pregnant women. They relax the muscles in the leg to reduce cramping. They are also good over the counter sleep aids. They improve sleep quality, reduce limb movements in sleep and increase sleep quality by simply rubbing it all over your body before bed.

6. Essential oils

The safest oils to use during pregnancy to relax your body and mind and improve sleep quality are:

  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Ylang-ylang
  • Mandarin
  • Frankincense

7. Use sleeping aids

We will speak on this topic in more detail later on, but sleeping aids such as pregnancy body pillows and egg-crate mattress have helped many mothers overcome the woes of sleepless nights. Also, sleeping aids in the form of medication is only recommended as a last resort, but is still an option.

8. Exercise

Light to moderate exercise such as Yoga can help relax your muscles and your mind and relieve any tension built up in your body. It will also release endorphins which will encourage more restful quality sleep.

9. Sleep on your side

Doctors usually recommend against sleeping on your back especially after 16 weeks of pregnancy to avoid restricting blood flow to your uterus.

Best Sleeping Position During Pregnancy

1. Can I Sleep on My Stomach?

It’s hard to change sleep positions especially after years of finding comfort in a particular spot. Sleeping on your stomach may have been one such position.

  • Pro: It’s a comfortable position for many women prior to pregnancy and would help you to sleep better if you’ve always slept on your stomach.
  • Con: if you continue to sleep on your stomach during pregnancy, you will start to experience discomfort in the latter part as your abdomen becomes more enlarged and goes through constant physical change.

2. Can I Sleep On My Back When Pregnant?

  • Pro: This position takes the weight somewhat off of your tummy.
  • Con: The main vessels carrying blood to your heart and to your placenta – aorta and vena cava – are located to your back just to the right of your spine. Therefore, sleeping on your back can place great weight on these blood vessels and reduce the flow of blood to the heart and to your baby. If sufficiently severe and prolonged, may lead to fetal death (source). It is mainly for this reason that sleeping on your back for extended periods is discouraged during pregnancy, especially after reaching 20 weeks. Furthermore, the weight of your uterus adds pressure on the back which can contribute to lower back pains and also compress your intestines, thereby affecting your digestive system. Other complications can also arise like shortness of breath and hemorrhoids.

3. Can I Sleep on My right side?

  • Pro: Sleeping all the way on your right-side (versus on the right side of your back) is said to be fine for short periods.
  • Con: Right-side sleeping may also compress your major blood vessels. In addition, sleeping on your side may place pressure on your hips and lead to soreness.

4. Can I Sleep on My left side?

  • Pro: The left side is the most recommended side to sleep on while pregnant. This ensures that the flow of blood and nutrients to your baby and your uterus is unrestricted and the elimination of waste and fluids is also uninhibited.
  • Con: Soreness on your hips

For the most part, SOS (sleep on side) is the most highly recommended. Whichever side you choose to sleep on, it is bound to experience soreness after a while. So it’s actually a good idea to shift the weight a bit and bend your knees and put a pillow between your legs for most comfortable rest.

If you normally experience heartburn or shortness of breath at night, it’s good to also prop a pillow behind your back to elevate your upper body and minimize the effects of these. If you have a pregnancy pillow to support your growing bump, that is also a great idea. We will discuss this and other sleeping aids in the following section.

What Sleep Aid Can I Choose During Pregnancy?

For physical comfort, regular pillows can be used to support the back and belly to release some of the pressure from your body. Placing a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side alleviates the pressure from your lower back.

Pregnancy pillows are also available from numerous retailers online and on the ground which is specifically designed to perfectly contour your body. Most of these pillows provide all around support from back to belly. Some of these pregnancy pillows even claim to relieve carpal tunnel, sciatica, acid reflux and nasal congestion. These pillows usually come in full body length, U-shaped or C-shaped tailored to the level of support needed. Wedges can also be used to recline the back or support your growing bump.

For relief on your hips, an egg-crate foam-mattress pad can be placed on the top of your regular mattress for SOS sleepers. This pad can help to align your hips a little better and relieve the stress and pressure on your joints.

For deeper relaxation beyond the physical or if nothing else seems to be working to help you get some rest, medication is another option.

Due to the limited testing (if any) carried out regarding the impact of sleep medication on pregnant women, it isn’t usually recommended as the first option. Whether over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medication, it’s impact on your baby will not be fully known at the outset, so bear that in mind when pursuing this option.

Nonetheless, ensure that you consult with your doctor before taking any medication. That being said, antihistamines are OTC medications that are sometimes used as sleeping aids for pregnant women because of their drowsy side effect. These include Tylenol, Benadryl, Unisom and Sominex among others. Other side effects of these medications include dizziness and impaired alertness, so again ensure that your doctor gives you the all clear and stay away from heavy lifting and driving after you’ve taken these.

If you suffer from chronic insomnia and anxiety, your doctor may find it necessary to give you a prescribed sleep medication. Again, ensure to stay clear of heavy lifting and driving. If you notice any strange changes in your body or with your baby’s movements after starting your course of treatment, do not hesitate to contact your doctor right away. It’s better to be safe and concerned, than not to be.

Wrapping Up

At the end of it all, be an active participant in listening to your body because this is so important during pregnancy. You should be so in sync with your body’s needs to ensure that you are doing all that you can to give birth to a healthy, well-nurtured, bouncing baby and be healthy

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