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.
Tips to Get Great Sleeping During Pregnancy Infographic
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Benefits of good sleeping habits
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:
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:
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.
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.
2. Can I Sleep On My Back When Pregnant?
3. Can I Sleep on My right side?
4. Can I Sleep on My left side?
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.
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