*This article has been written to provide general information only and does not represent medical or professional advice. If you require medical advice regarding pregnancy, please consult your doctor.
It's common knowledge that new parents will be kept up many nights, but you may not know that it can start long before your baby is born. Expectant mothers report all kinds of sleep problems , from an inability to get comfortable to muscle twitching to nightmares.
Symptoms vary from person to person and may depend on the stage of pregnancy . To help you get the rest you need, we're going to review each trimester and look at the most common sleep problems as well as how to sleep during pregnancy.
Common Sleep Problems During Pregnancy
As early as the first trimester, women may begin to experience sleep problems . These problems can be both physiological and psychological , caused by the stress that pregnancy places on the body and mind. As you progress through your pregnancy , you may notice that your experience changes and that some months are more difficult than others. Every person is different, but here are some of the most common sleep problems and what you can do to solve them.
Increased number of trips to the toilet
You may notice that as your body begins to produce more progesterone , you will need to go to the bathroom more often. This, combined with your uterus growing (and pushing against your bladder ), could result in more frequent urination .
Tip: Avoid drinking too many fluids after 6 p.m. and avoid caffeine altogether after lunchtime.
Unfortunately, hormonal fluctuations during the first trimester also tend to cause severe headaches . When progesterone spikes, blood vessels dilate, causing headaches so bad they can keep you up .
Tip: For some women, taking acetaminophen can help manage pain. Remember to consult your doctor before taking any medication. You can also try placing a cool towel on your forehead to cause the blood vessels to contract .
As your breasts begin to prepare for milk production , they will likely become sore. High estrogen levels and the presence of hCG ( human chorionic gonadotropin ) may contribute to this. Women who are used to sleeping on their stomachs may have difficulty falling asleep .
Tip: Try sleeping on your side and using a pillow to soothe your breasts. You can also try taking a warm bath before bed to calm your body and prepare you for sleep .
What is commonly called "morning" sickness can also occur in the evening or at night. If they happen while you're trying to sleep , it can be very difficult to get rest.
Tip: Keep some crackers on your nightstand so you can grab them if you feel nauseous. Having food in your stomach can help combat nausea, making it easier to fall asleep .
Disturbed sleep patterns
It is very common for women to experience extreme lethargy during the day throughout the first trimester. This is not only due to the increase in progesterone, but also because your body is using calories to grow the fetus inside you.
Tip: You should try to adjust your sleep schedule by getting up with the sun, exercising early in the morning, and setting sleeping and waking times . You'll probably need to take naps , but do them between 2 and 4 p.m. so you don't have trouble sleeping the next night.
Muscle cramps – especially leg cramps – are common during the second trimester due to an imbalance of calcium in the body. These cramps can come out of nowhere and wake you up in the middle of the night.
Tip: Consuming soda and other carbonated drinks has been shown to decrease the amount of calcium your body is able to metabolize, fueling the imbalance. Avoid drinks like soda and sparkling water if you have problems with cramps .
Another common inconvenience during the second trimester? Heartburn . As the baby puts pressure on your stomach, acid reflux can occur. Lying in bed at night can exacerbate this problem and prevent you from sleeping .
Tip: Try to stay up within four hours of going to bed. This will help you digest your food and keep stomach acids inside the stomach. You can try eating larger breakfasts and smaller dinners and avoiding spicy, fried and sour foods. This includes citrus fruits, tomatoes, coffee and fruit juices.
As your due date approaches, you may begin to feel anxiety . It could be the birthing process , future parenting skills, or a combination of things. Anxiety can cause vivid, sometimes disturbing dreams that can keep you awake .
Tip: Create a bedtime relaxation ritual that you can practice every evening. You can try meditation , relaxation techniques , prenatal yoga , or anything that helps you relax . You should consult your doctor before participating in any strenuous physical activity . If these dreams are seriously affecting your sleep , you may consider seeing a counselor to discuss the things that are worrying you.
Inability to get comfortable
As your belly grows and your body changes, you may find that it's not as easy to settle down for sleep . Doctors will recommend against sleeping on your back , but many people find it too uncomfortable to sleep on their stomach. It is generally advisable to sleep on your side , although it can be difficult for people who are not used to it.
Tip: Use a pregnancy pillow or body pillow to trick your body into thinking it's sleeping like you're used to. Many people like to place a pillow on either side of the stomach when sleeping on their side, putting their weight on these pillows without crushing the stomach.
Restless legs syndrome
It is common to suffer from restless legs syndrome during pregnancy. Restless legs syndrome ( RLS ) results in an irresistible urge to move your legs , similar to the strange " tingling " sensation. This syndrome can be caused by low iron or folate levels in the body and can certainly lead to poor sleep .
Tip: Before going to bed, massage your legs to get the blood circulating. Nighttime walks have also been shown to help relieve RSL. You can also try incorporating more green vegetables and iron-rich foods into your diet.
Pregnant women often experience difficulty breathing while sleeping during the third trimester . This is due to the weight gain that comes with pregnancy . This problem is especially common in women who were overweight or obese before pregnancy.
Tip: If you have a blocked nose , a nasal spray or neti pot can help clear your nasal passages . In extreme cases, pregnant women who have difficulty breathing may consult a sleep pathologist . He or she may prescribe a device that will keep your airways open to provide you and your baby with the necessary oxygen .
Pelvic and other bodily changes often lead to back pain during pregnancy. For obvious reasons, it can be difficult to fall and stay asleep .
Tip: Place pillows between your knees, under your stomach and behind your back to relieve your lower back. You can also use a pregnancy pillow . During the day, make sure to stretch frequently or try prenatal yoga .
As we mentioned previously, anxiety is an unfortunate part of many pregnant women's lives. A major change is about to happen in your life and there are many preparations to make. Anxiety can lead to insomnia and general poor sleep.
Tip: Make a written list of all the things you need to do and check them off one by one. This will make you feel like you have better control over your situation. Before bed, drink chamomile tea and make sure the lighting and environment in your bedroom is as comfortable as possible.
Other tips for sleeping during pregnancy
The combination of these issues can make it difficult to get comfortable and, ultimately, get to sleep . Since sleep is even more important during pregnancy, here are some tips to help you sleep better.
- Adopt a relaxing bedtime routine . Light music and a warm bath may be helpful.
- Avoid electronic devices at least an hour before bed. Blue light can send signals to your brain to stay awake.
- Avoid sugar and caffeine after three in the afternoon.
- Don't look at the clock if you wake up during the night. Turn it in the opposite direction to you if that helps.
- Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature and dark during sleeping hours.
- Try a sleep app or podcast . There are tons of them that offer meditation or ambient sounds.
- Try not to stress about losing sleep . Worrying about not being able to sleep can often keep you awake longer.
- Use aromatherapy to help you sleep. Lavender is great for helping you fall asleep .
- If you can't sleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing (listen to music, read, meditate) instead of staying awake.
- If necessary, ask your doctor to prescribe natural sleeping pills . Do not take it without your doctor's advice.
The Best (and Worst) Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy
Certain sleep positions are recommended by medical professionals because of the way they move the baby through your body. People generally have a preferred sleeping position, so you may have difficulty sleeping in a position that isn't yours. However, you can use pillows to prop up your body and ensure maximum comfort while you fall asleep.
Sleeping on your back
The worst: This is a common way to sleep, which is unfortunate because it can cause problems during pregnancy. Sleeping on your back can cause back pain , breathing problems , and digestive problems . It's even known to decrease circulation to the heart and baby, as your abdomen rests on your intestines and major blood vessels.
Sleeping on your stomach
Best: Although there are fewer negative effects to lying on your stomach , it can be difficult and uncomfortable to do so once the pregnancy is further along. Many people who sleep on their stomachs buy a pregnancy pillow so that they feel like they are sleeping on their stomach, but without putting pressure on it.
Sleeping on your side
Best: Sleeping on your side is the most common and comfortable position during pregnancy . It is recommended to sleep on your left side because the liver is on the right side of the body. This position helps prevent the uterus from touching this organ and can help improve blood flow to vital organs and the baby .
If you're having trouble sleeping while expecting a child, try some of the tips recommended here. You can also try to create an environment conducive to sleep by making sure you have comfortable sheets and supportive pillows . Use them to create a comfortable nest that will allow you to rest in peace.