Sleep, glorious sleep! What is more tempting than to curl up in bed after a hard day at work. But, ironically, sleep is not the friendliest of bed-mates! In fact, sound sleep is something that eludes most people around the globe. When you are pregnant, sound sleep is usually a distant dream.
Easy or hard, you need to sleep! Remember that your body is working overtime to make the baby, and you need some extra sleep during this crucial period. Facing sleeping problems during pregnancy is tough, and that’s exactly what we are decoding here.
Pregnancy And Sleep – Problems And Solutions:
Now you know why you need to sleep well when you are pregnant. When you are responsible for a whole new life, you need to let go of some habits. It is time to say goodbye to late night parties, working late, and other lifestyle choices that can make sleep difficult to come by.
But not all sleep-related issues during pregnancy are about lifestyle! Some factors are unique to pregnancy and can make sleep seem like an impossible dream.
We have listed the trimester-wise sleep problems that women face during pregnancy along with ways to beat them. Take a look.
1. Sleep Issues – First Trimester:
This whole pregnancy thing is new to you. Your body is changing, and you are slowly coming to the realization that life, as you knew it, is now a thing of the past. Lack of sleep is one of the multitudes of changes taking place inside your body and in your life.
Here are some of the things keeping you from sleeping peacefully:
Frequent Trips To The Bathroom:
Have you noticed how the bathroom suddenly has become the most used part of the house for you? Well, you can blame the increasing level of the hormone progesterone for that! The extra progesterone, along with a growing uterus pushing your bladder leads to frequent urination during the first trimester (in fact, the whole of pregnancy). When you need the urge to empty your bladder every hour or so during the night, uninterrupted sleep can become the victim.
As your body grows to accommodate your baby, it puts pressure on your muscles and bones, leading to body aches and pains. It is common for pregnant women to experience swollen breasts and pelvic cramping during pregnancy, which can make sleep difficult.
The funniest thing about morning sickness is that it is not limited to the mornings! Pregnancy nausea and vomiting can hit you any time of the day, even at night! Sleep is the last thing on your mind when you have to rush to the bathroom to puke!
First Trimester Sleep Issues – Solutions:
You cannot escape from all the changes taking place inside your body; that is just part and parcel of pregnancy. But you can find ways to deal with the issues and ensure that you can sleep better at night!
Just follow the tips mentioned here and sleep like a baby (before the real baby makes his appearance!)
Schedule Your Naps:
When you are pregnant, you need to learn the art of making schedules! Start with naps. You need to nap as much as you can to catch up with your sleep. The best time to nap is between 2 – 4 pm. Even better, take two 30 minutes naps instead of a long two-hour snooze. If you are working, try and find a comfortable place at your office where you can catch a few winks.
Minimize Fluid Intake In The Evening:
Watch the clock strike 6 in the evening and put a break on your fluid intake. Yes, you need to drink water at night too, but try and drink as little as you can. Why? Well, if you want to cut down the number of bathroom visits at night, this step is essential.
Keep Salt Crackers Handy:
Most women find that saltines are a great way to beat morning sickness and nausea. So, stock up on crackers and keep them handy in the bedroom. If crackers are not working for you, find a food article that does and stock up on that.
Exercise, But Early:
Staying fit is essential during pregnancy. Exercising is a great way to keep your body in top health. But do not exercise late in the evenings if you want to avoid insomnia. Try working out early in the morning instead. You can even exercise in the afternoons and early evenings.
2. Sleep Issues – Second Trimester:
The second trimester is the honeymoon period of pregnancy! Now is the time when the morning sickness eases up, and your body is yet not big enough to cause too many problems. But this is also the time for some unique second-trimester issues that can cause sleep problems. Here they are:
Thank God that morning sickness is now a thing of the past. But you are not really out of the dock yet! Nausea may no longer keep you from sleeping but reflux will! During the second trimester, your growing uterus pushes against the stomach, causing heartburn. When you lie down, heartburn symptoms tend to become worse!
Though the worst is yet to come, cramps can make their presence felt in the second trimester too. Many pregnant women experience calf cramps, which can keep them awake at night.
Some pregnant women experience vivid dreams during the second trimester. Experts say that the stresses of life, added to the anxiety about the pregnancy and childbirth produces disturbing dreams for pregnant women. Such dreams can make sleep itself seem like the enemy!
Second Trimester Sleep Issues – Solutions:
How can you deal with the factors keeping you sleep deprived during the second trimester? Just follow the tips given here:
Give Your Digestive System Some Time:
When you are pregnant, digestion can become a longer process. If you tend to go to sleep immediately after your dinner, you need to change things. Try and stay upright for some time after you eat dinner to allow your digestive system to kickstart and to avoid heartburn.
Keep Dinner Light:
Another thing you can do to prevent heartburn is to keep your dinner menu light. Instead, go for heavier breakfasts.
Avoid Certain Foods And Drinks:
They might taste good, but certain foods can wreck havoc with your digestive system and cause heartburn. So, try and avoid foods that are spicy and oily. Stay clear of tomatoes, citrus fruits (including juices), and coffee. Another way to avoid heartburn is by avoiding carbonated drinks. So, avoid all bubbly beverages.
Eat Calcium-Rich Meals:
Calcium is not just good for your bones but can also help prevent heartburn. So, include calcium-rich foods in your daily menu. Apart from dairy, you can try leafy vegetables as well as canned salmon with bones.
Work That Foot:
Leg cramps can become a source of acute pain and discomfort as your pregnancy progresses. You can reduce and prevent leg cramps by flexing your foot. But do not point your toes, as that will only aggravate the pain. Instead, extend your heels and point your toes towards your head.
Try And De-stress:
Stress and anxiety tend to become like a second skin for mothers. But that is not a healthy way to live! So, starting now, when you are pregnant, start looking for ways to de-stress. Your efforts will not just help you sleep better, but will also prepare you for the battle that is parenting. Try meditation, yoga, listening to music, reading good books, talking to friends, watching hours of Dr. Who on Netflix – anything that will help you beat the blues! You can also try eating foods that are rich in tryptophan, which turns into serotonin in the brain and soothes your nerves. Opt for turkey, milk, and bananas for your daily dose of this awesome amino acid.
See An Expert:
If vivid dreams are keeping you awake at night, you can consider seeing an expert. A counselor can help you navigate the negative feelings clogging your brain and help you sleep better.
3. Sleep Issues – Third Trimester:
You are now in the final stretch. The end is in sight and very soon you’ll be able to hold your bundle of joy in your hands. But the third trimester is a tough nut to crack! The final trimester is especially bad when it comes to sleep.
Here are some of the sleep challenges you can face during the third trimester:
You are now bigger than you have ever been before (in most cases). As you gain weight, and as your uterus expands, the center of gravity of your body shifts. All these combined can cause a backache among pregnant women. In fact, as many as 60% of pregnant women say that a backache disrupts their sleep in the third trimester.
If you thought that your days of rushing to the bathroom to pee were over, you were sadly mistaken. You’ll experience frequent urination again as your belly grows big and your baby moves lower in your pelvis.
Vascular congestion in the nasal passages and a growing tummy can cause breathing problems in pregnant women. Many pregnant women start snoring in the third trimester because of this very issue. Snoring may not be a serious problem, but it can progress to obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that causes breathing to stop for a few seconds. Such breathing difficulties not just cause sleeplessness but can also lead to preeclampsia and low birth weight in babies.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS):
Have you ever felt like ants are crawling inside your legs? Well, you may have RLS! Restless leg syndrome can play spoilsport and cause many sleepless nights.
Third Trimester Sleep Issues – Solutions:
With the end in sight, you may be eager for the pregnancy to be over already! But there is still time for your baby to come into the world. And once he is here, sleep will become even more elusive! So, catch up on your sleep while you still can with these tips:
Pamper Your Back:
As mentioned before, sleeping on your side is the best position when you are pregnant. It will help take the strain off your back and help prevent a backache. Try and put a pillow between your knees for further comfort. You can also try and do abdominal exercises regularly. And try and get a gentle back massage when you are at it!
[ Read: Sleeping Tips During Third Trimester ]
Limit Your Fluid Intake:
You need a lot of water when you are pregnant. But try to cut down your fluid intake in the evening to avoid frequent urination at night.
See A Doctor:
If you are experiencing sleep apnea, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Get A Massage:
If RLS is keeping you awake at night try getting a light leg massage before you go to bed. Evening walks and a warm bath can also come handy to beat RLS.
You cannot eat too healthy, ever! So, even if you think your meals are yummy and nutritious, take a re-look. Make sure your food contains ample amounts of iron and folate to prevent RLS. And avoid caffeine too.
Sometimes, health issues like asthma and hyperthyroidism can also lead to sleepless nights during pregnancy. If you suspect something is amiss, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.
Best Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy:
Finding that perfect sleeping positions during pregnancy can be a battle. But we have made the task easy for you.
Here are the best sleeping positions you can try to get a good night’s sleep:
1. Not On Your Back Or Stomach:
The first things to remember about pregnancy sleeping positions are the don’ts.
Do not sleep on your back or stomach when you are pregnant.
Yes, you have always been a back/stomach sleeper but now is the time to break the habit.
Sleeping on your back can make it harder for you to breath. Also, when you lie on your back, your intestines are pushed back by your growing belly, which can cause complications.
Sleeping on your stomach too is a no go during pregnancy.
When you lie on your stomach, it presses your growing uterus as well as breast, causing a good deal of discomfort.
[ Read: Sleeping On Back During Pregnancy ]
2. Left Is Best:
The best you can do while pregnant is to lie on your side and that too, on your left side. Sleeping on your left side is not just safe but is also more comfortable.
Sleeping on the left side improves circulation and makes sure that nutrient rich blood reaches your baby without any trouble.
When you are lying on your left side, the liver has it easy too.
3. Try SOS:
The Sleep On Side (SOS) position is the best sleeping position during pregnancy.
4. Bent Knees:
While you sleep on your side, you can bend your legs and knees to find a comfortable position. And to make it more relaxing, place a pillow between your legs.
5. Belly Comfort:
Another great way to find comfort while sleeping on the SOS position is to place a pillow under your growing abdomen.
[ Read: Sleeping On Stomach During Pregnancy ]
6. Beat Heartburn:
Heartburn is a common complaint during pregnancy. You can prop up your upper body with a pillow to sleep in peace even when you experience heartburn at night.
7. Breathe Easy:
Many women experience shortness of breath during late pregnancy. If that is the case, try lying on your side, with your head propped up.
8. Support The Back:
Another good way to get a good night’s sleep during late pregnancy is to place a pillow behind your back to give your body some support and prevent a backache.
Can A Lack Of Sleep Cause Complications During Pregnancy?
You know that you need to sleep well when you are pregnant, but why?
There are many reasons you need sound sleep in everyday life. But when you are pregnant, you need sleep even more than before.
Wondering why you need to catch up on the zzz zzz? Well, studies show that a lack of sleep can lead to:
1. Longer Labor:
Some studies show that women who sleep less than six hours a night during the first-trimester experience more prolonged labor. On an average, lack of sleep can cause you to experience 10 or more extra hours of labor compared with women who sleep seven hours or more.
2. Birth Complications And Low Birth Weight:
Insufficient sleep can lead to complications during childbirth and low birth weight in babies.
3. Higher Risk Of Caesarean:
Are you settling for 4-5 hours of sleep every night? You should try to do better! Research shows that sleep-deprived women are more likely to end up needing a caesarean delivery.
4. More Fatigue:
Pregnant women often complain of exhaustion like they have never felt before. Fatigue and pregnancy go hand in hand, especially in the third trimester. Hormonal changes, a growing girth, nausea, heartburn – all of these combine to make a woman feel bone tired. And without proper sleep, the fatigue can become all encompassing.
[ Read: Fatigue During Pregnancy ]
5. Irritability And Lack Of Concentration:
Lack of sleep during pregnancy can also cause women to become irritable and develop poor concentration levels.
6. Weakened Immune System:
When you are pregnant, your immune system becomes weaker. That is not good news when you have another life growing inside you. Lack of sleep can further weaken your immune system and leave you susceptible to common ailments like cold and flu.
7. Ageing Of Skin:
A good night’s sleep can do wonders for your skin. But when you don’t get enough sleep, your skin can begin to age faster than before, leaving you looking haggard and older than your real age.
8. Insufficient Production Of Growth Hormone:
Sleep gives a boost to the production of growth hormone in the body. Growth hormone helps in keeping your body weight and shape in order. . But that is not all! Growth hormone is also important for the growing placenta and uterus. The hormone also works to keep your baby healthy during the pregnancy. Without enough sleep, your body is unable to produce sufficient growth hormone and can cause excess weight gain and other pregnancy complications.
Stress is a part of life. But when you are pregnant, the level of anxiety and stress can take a leap. Without sufficient sleep, depression can become a reality for many pregnant women.
[ Read: Depression During Pregnancy ]
More Tips To Help You Sleep Better While Pregnant:
Here are some more easy tips for you to catch some hours of peaceful sleep.
- During the first trimester, munching saltines to beat nausea is a good idea, but other than that you should avoid late-night snacks during pregnancy.
- When you can’t sleep, the bed can feel rather uncomfortable. Many people, pregnant women included, toss and turn in the hope of sleep. But that just doesn’t work! If sleep is not forthcoming, get up and do something boring – that should help you fall asleep.
- Make your bedroom, especially your bed, a refuge. Keep the room clean and the bed uncluttered.
- Get comfortable pillows and mattress.
- When you are pregnant, you tend to feel hotter than usual. This is because your body temperature tends to increase during pregnancy. So, work with the AC/thermostat and find a temperature that works for you.
- The world can wait; sleep cannot! So, keep distractions like TV, books, newspapers, and phones away before you hit the bed.
- No matter how chaotic your house looks, avoid deep cleaning the house at night.
- Remember, your bed is only for sleeping (and sex, of course). So, do not bring work home. And if you have to, do not take it to bed! Head to bed to rest, not work!
- Keep your room dark and quiet to cajole sleep to give you a visit. Even night lights can ruin a night’s sleep!
- Make sure you are getting at least 20 minutes out in the sun every day. Natural light can help regulate sleeping patterns.
- Try a cup of herbal tea (think chamomile, catnip, or oatstraw) before you go to sleep.
- You can also try magnesium supplements for a good night’s sleep.
You need rest, pregnant or not. But now that you are sleeping for two, sleep can become a costly commodity. Don’t worry! With the information given in this article, you now catch up on your sleep and prepare for the fourth trimester – the weeks and months post childbirth. Sleeping in the fourth trimester? Now, that’s another story altogether! So, sleep while you can!
Did you experience sleeping difficulties while pregnant? What helped? Do tell us your secret!
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