Sleeping During Pregnancy: Your Ultimate Guide
Since you’ve got pregnant, you’ve probably had many people tell you to “get sleep now because when the baby comes, you won’t get any.”
Unfortunately, trouble sleeping often starts before a woman has her baby. Discomfort and pregnancy symptoms can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.
You might be tempted to turn to the easy solution of sleeping medication. However, that’s usually not recommended by most doctors.
Benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines — two sleeping medication types — may raise the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, cesarean birth and breathing problems in newborns, according to studies. Even taking a melatonin supplement, which is naturally produced in the body, is not generally recommended.
If you’re trying to play it safe and avoid sleeping pills, you may feel like your options are limited. Luckily, there are plenty of natural sleep aids and changes you can make that will improve your sleep.
Implement these tips below and we can almost guarantee your sleep will improve.
Pregnancy Sleeping Problems
Waking up to pee
Perhaps one of the most annoying pregnancy symptoms is the need to frequently urinate. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop when you’re sleeping. After you’ve finally got comfortable and drifted off, you’re awoken by the urgent need to run to the washroom.
When you’re pregnant, the amount of blood you have in your body increases. As a result, more fluid is getting processed through your kidneys and entering your bladder. If you suffer from lower leg or feet swelling, you’re even more likely to wake up during sleep. When you lie down, your blood can more easily carry the retained fluid to your bladder. This can be common in the first trimester.
As you get further along in your pregnancy, usually during the third trimester, your uterus may start putting pressure on your bladder, giving you more sudden urges.
With your growing baby belly, it can be difficult to find a position you feel comfortable enough to fall asleep in. If you’re someone who sleeps on your stomach, you’ll quickly find out that you’ll need to start getting used to another position.
Past 20 weeks, women are advised against sleeping on their backs too. This is because the weight of your uterus when you lie upwards can interfere with blood flow, leaving you dizzy, nauseated or with breathing problems. That leaves you with one option: To sleep on your side. If you’re not used to sleeping in this position, it could take awhile to become comfortable, especially if you’re further along in your pregnancy.
As your body changes, you may begin experiencing different types of pain, which can prevent you from falling asleep. Up to 70% of women experience back pain during pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. To further the problem, women are advised to sleep on their sides during pregnancy, but unfortunately, this position often leads to or worsens back pain.
Some expecting mothers also experience leg problems, such as leg cramps or restless leg syndrome — which may become more noticeable at night.
Anyone can suffer from insomnia, but it becomes more likely during pregnancy. In fact, 8 out of 10 women will experience insomnia and other sleep issues while expecting.
There are a few reasons why you could be having trouble falling or staying asleep. Apart from the problems listed above that can prevent sleep, you may also be experiencing hormonal changes or anxiety about your baby’s arrival. If your mind is constantly racing, it may be difficult to calm down enough to get a restful sleep. Many pregnant women also suffer from vivid dreams, which may lead to them avoiding sleep.
Natural Sleep Aids and Tips for Pregnancy
There are plenty of pregnancy or maternity pillows on the market today at varying price points. These pillows are usually made in a C or U-shape so that the mother can curl around it or hug it as they lay on their side. You can also position the pillow in a way that makes you comfortable or that eases your aches or pains.
If you’re used to sleeping on your back, a U-shaped pillow is the best choice. A C-shaped pillow can help those suffering from back pain and swelling in the legs and ankles. Women with a smaller bed sometimes choose a J-shaped pillow since it only has one side.
Lavender Essential Oil
Some studies suggest that lavender essential oil may improve sleep quality and promote relaxation.
There are a few ways you can use lavender before bed:
- Place a few drops in the palms of your hands and sniff
- Place a few drops in the palms of your hands and rub into your temples, wrists or feet
- Place a few drops on your pillow case
- Combine a few drops with a carrier oil (almond, olive or jojoba oil) and have your partner give you a massage
Note: Fragrance oil is different than 100% pure essential oil.
Having a bedtime isn’t just for children! If you go to bed at a certain time every night, it will become easier for your body to drift asleep. If the time we try to sleep varies, it’s hard for our bodies to adjust or know what to expect.
It’s also helpful to create a bedtime routine or a set of activities you do right before bed. This helps signal to your mind and body that it should be winding down. Your routine can take 15 minutes or an hour — it depends on the time you can dedicate nightly.
A routine can consist of:
- Turning your devices off at a certain time
- Dimming the lights in your room or home
- Reading a novel or magazine
- Yoga, meditation, prayer or another spiritual practice
- Having a bath or warm shower
- Talking with your partner
- Listening to music
Stay off the Devices
In today’s world, it’s so normal to be constantly connected that sometimes it may verge on addiction. If you’re someone who surfs the web or scrolls through Facebook in bed, you have a big habit to change.
There are a few reasons you should put down technology before bed:
- Browsing or answering text messages before bed can add stress, making it more difficult to sleep
- There’s always something to look at online or watch on TV, causing you to push back your bedtime
- Exposing yourself to artificial light before bed makes for a worse sleep. Studies have shown that it can stop the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep.
If the problem is that your mind is focusing on your anxieties or your pains, meditating before bed could be the answer.
A Harvard University study concluded that mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia and can improve sleep. To meditate, choose a sound or word such as “om” or “relax.” Repeat this phrase either out loud or inside your head. When your mind drifts, know that it’s okay, take a deep breath and return your focus to the phrase.
If you can’t seem to focus enough for a mindfulness meditation, try a guided visualization meditation for sleep, such as the one below.
It’s true that exercise gives you energy throughout the day — but it can also help you sleep better at night. People who exercise report an improvement in their sleep quality, according to a 2010 study.
Exercise should be appropriate and safe for pregnancy. If you didn’t workout before conceiving, don’t push yourself while expecting. Start with lighter activities, such as prenatal yoga, walking or swimming. Whichever activity you choose, do it during the day and not before you sleep.
You probably know that it’s a bad idea to drink coffee or tea at night or right before bed. But many people don’t realize that having a cup later in the afternoon can still affect their sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, it takes about 6 hours for half of the caffeine consumed to be eliminated. If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, try to set a cut off time. Since women should limit their caffeine intake during pregnancy anyway, having your last sip around 2 p.m. is a good idea. If you’re having a craving for something hot, try a herbal tea, chicory or apple cider.
Don’t Drink & Sleep
Don’t drink fluids right before bed to prevent waking up to urinate. Instead, keep hydrated throughout the day. When you pee, try to lean forward. This will help empty your bladder, leading to less washroom trips.
Avoid Sugar at Night
Sweet cravings can be difficult to control during pregnancy, but try to avoid them before bed. Since sugar gives you a boost of energy, it may keep you up when you should be winding down.
What natural sleep aids do you use during pregnancy? Comment them below! Be sure to share this post with your pregnant friends so they can have a restful sleep, too!
P.S. If you were reassured that your baby is okay, would you sleep better at night? Our fetal dopplers are handheld devices that allow you to hear your baby’s heartbeat through headphones. Pretty amazing, right?