Between frequent bathroom trips, acid reflux, restless leg syndrome, and all of the many other joys that come along with pregnancy, getting a proper night’s sleep while you’re pregnant can be more than a little difficult. At a time when you need almost more sleep than ever (probably second only to when your baby has arrived!), it can be very frustrating to not be able to get the sleep you need.
The majority of us aren’t getting enough sleep to begin with, and then add in the numerous pregnancy side effects and it’s not surprising that most pregnant women spend a good part of their day feeling over tired.
To help you get the best sleep you can during your pregnancy, we’ve put together a list of sleep so you can start getting the best rest possible for you and your baby.
(Please note: This isn’t a substitute for medical advice, and if you think you are having issues with your sleep and/or pregnancy, please consult a medical practitioner.)
Tip #1: Don’t sleep on your back
This tip is going first on our list because it’s so important and is linked to a number of pregnancy complications. Studies have found that women who slept on their backs during pregnancy had a higher rate of both stillbirths after 28 weeks of gestation and low birth weight in full term babies.
The lead author of the study that looked at the association between supine sleeping and low birth weight, Dr. Ngaire H. Anderson, pointed out that it’s only a small percentage of pregnant women that do sleep on their back, but it’s still a risk that requires attention: “[W]e are keen to encourage the message that sleeping on one’s side is a way to optimize the baby’s health, both in reducing stillbirth and optimizing the baby’s growth.”
Women in their third trimester are also advised to sleep on their left side, as it can increase the flow of blood and nutrients to the uterus, fetus, and kidneys.
Tip #2: Minimize caffeine
It’s the frustrating irony that at a time when you feel like you need caffeine the most, you’re supposed to have it the least. Unfortunately, minimizing caffeine during pregnancy is highly recommended, and drinking too much can keep both you are your baby a little wired. The jury is still out on exactly what the recommended amount is during pregnancy, but it’s generally considered fine to have a cup of coffee a day.
Remember, caffeine isn’t only found in coffee. It’s also found in many different foods and drinks including teas, chocolate (especially raw chocolate), energy drinks, and soda. Even decaf coffee has been found to contain as much as 20 milligrams of caffeine per cup (a regular cup of coffee contains approximately 100 milligrams). Depending on your body’s reaction to caffeine, you don’t necessarily need to cut it out altogether, but it is recommended that you keep your intake to a minimum and not to consume any caffeine after 12pm.
Tip #3: You’ll likely need more sleep than usual
Fatigue is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms, and it’s not surprising given the fact that your body is going through so many changes and you’re growing and supporting a baby! If you’re feeling tired much earlier in the evening than you’re used to or feeling like you need to sleep in later in the morning, do your best to accommodate your new need for sleep.
Some women find they need to go to bed as early as 7 or 8pm during pregnancy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Whatever your body is asking for, do your best to give yourself that rest. If you find getting up in the morning a real struggle, you can also see if you can make any shifts in your schedule to allow for a later sleep in in the mornings.
Tip #4: Ease baby related stress with evening relaxation techniques
Sometimes, the thing keeping you awake during pregnancy has nothing to do with your physical symptoms but rather the very common stresses and anxieties that come along with knowing you’re about to be a new parent.
It’s very normal to have a whole lot of worries and fear, whether you’re becoming a first-time parent or already have children, and these concerns could be keeping you awake at night and making it difficult for you to get a good sleep. Taking measures to help you relax and deal with your stresses can go a long way in not only helping you sleep better, but also improving your overall sense of happiness and well being.
Whether you decide to talk to a therapist, consult with a midwife, take yoga classes, practice meditation, or anything in between, there are lots of great ways that you can be supported through this time. Even a few minutes of deep breathing before bed can go a long way in helping you to relax and ease into sleep.
Tip #5: Get comfortable
This kind of goes without saying but making sure you’re set up for a comfortable sleep is key to a good sleep at any time, but particularly during pregnancy, when you’re already prone to a certain degree of discomfort. Setting yourself up with soft breathable bedding, supportive pillows, and the right comforter can have a major impact on the quality of your sleep.
Many women find that they run a little warmer than usual during pregnancy, so if you find your current bedding to be too warm, trying switching to a lighter comforter, or investing in bedsheets designed to be extra breathable.
It can also be helpful to place pillows between your knees when you sleep to take pressure off of your hips and back.
Tip #6: Take a nap (at the right time)
While napping can sometimes mess with your sleep schedule, it’s found to be helpful during pregnancy, likely because your body simply needs so much more rest than usual. If you find you need a little snooze throughout the day to keep you going, go for it! Just aim to keep your nap to 20-30 minutes ideally between 1-3pm. Sleeping much longer than that, or later in the day, can affect your sleep at night.
Tip #7: Cut back on fluids a few hours before bed
Staying hydrated is super important during pregnancy but drinking too much before bed can keep you up all night with regular trips to the bathroom. To get the best of both worlds, make sure you’re hydrating properly throughout the day and then cutting back a few hours before bed so you’re going to sleep with an empty bladder.
Tip #8: Avoid eating heavy meals before bed
Acid reflux is a common symptom of pregnancy, due to a few different factors including changes in hormones and pressure on the digestive organs, which can both slow down digestion. Eating heavy, oily, or spicy meals too close to bed can put unnecessary work on your digestion and make your acid reflux to flare up, causing both discomfort and trouble sleeping.
To avoid this, try eating your dinner at least a couple of hours before bed, and if you are still hungry later in the evening, enjoy a lighter snack.