Pregnancy is a time of contradictions. Pregnant women feel awful, but they look glowing. They feel overwhelming joy at creating a new life, yet suffer crying jags at the smallest thing. Perhaps most frustrating is that pregnant women are always tired, yet find it increasingly more difficult to sleep as the months roll past.
Unlike other individuals, who may try a slew of home remedies or prescription sleep medications to get some much-needed shut-eye, pregnant women must also be conscientious about what they ingest or do. The wrong things could prove harmful to the unborn child's health or their own.
But all is not lost. There are some things pregnant women can do to help themselves get better sleep during pregnancy. Before we delve into tips and tricks, however, let's take a look at why it is so tricky for expecting mothers to get a good night's rest.
Reasons Expecting Mothers Can't Sleep & What To Do About It
Can't Sleep In Normal Position
For expecting mothers who typically sleep on their back or stomach, an inability to sleep in those positions could be keeping them from a restful night's sleep. Sleeping on the back can place too much pressure on both the back and uterus while relaxing on the stomach is dangerous for the unborn child.
What To Do: Eventually it will become more natural to sleep on your side, which is the current recommendation for expecting mothers. To make this more comfortable, however, you can bend the knees and place a pillow between them. The padding supports the back and hips, thus easing nighttime discomfort.
The additional pressure from extra weight and (in the last trimester) certain hormones can create heartburn. It is difficult to sleep when your throat is burning, or you find yourself regurgitating food. Heartburn is made worse by lying flat on your back, stomach, or even the suggested side position.
What To Do: If heartburn is keeping you from sleep, try sleeping in a semi-vertical position. Using several pillows, prop the upper half of your body up until you are almost sitting. Doing this will decrease nighttime heartburn while not placing undue stress on your back or unborn child.
Rising progesterone levels can cause daytime sleepiness, while other fluctuating hormones can cause frequent nighttime urination due to a loosening (or relaxing) of specific muscles. Relaxing those muscles is necessary to allow the abdominal wall to expand outwards and the uterus to grow larger to hold a growing baby. It can disrupt sleep considerably, however.
What To Do: While you can't do much about fluctuating hormones during pregnancy, you can decrease nighttime urination by avoiding drinks at least 30 minutes before bed. While tempting, try to avoid taking daytime naps so your body will be ready to rest at night. If you absolutely must nap (which occurs primarily in the first trimester), try to take it earlier in the day instead of later. Aim for before noon, or one at the latest.
It isn't only the physical body which undergoes a great deal of stress during pregnancy, but also the mind. Whether it is the first child or the sixth, every expecting mother suffers at least a small bout of anxiety. They worry over the baby's safety, and their own. Mothers with second or consecutive children may worry about how a new baby will affect their family's schedules—and whether they'll be able to handle it. That concern can keep pregnant women up late into the night, bombarded by a long string of "what if's."
What To Do: If stress is the culprit in your lack of sleep, start by trying meditation. While some find it difficult at first (especially with "pregnancy brain"), practice does make perfect. If you begin meditation in your first trimester, you will be adept at it by the second or third. Meditation works by teaching the participant to calm their thoughts and focus on their breathing. It will also be useful during labor!
Children & Schedules
Not all sleep stealers are internal. Many women suffer from external issues leading to a lack of sleep. One of the most common is current children and family schedules. A first-time mother can rest if necessary during the daytime, but a second-time mother with a toddler in tow will find it difficult. Younger children can't be left alone, thus, mom can't nap. Older children will have school and extracurricular activities that will take up considerable resting time.
What To Do: If you find yourself being overwhelmed during your pregnancy, ask for help. Your partner could, for example, watch the children for an hour after work so you can rest or take the oldest child to their events while you cook dinner. Parents, siblings, and close friends could also be called on to help. Even if you can't nap, having one or two fewer things to do can make your evenings significantly easier, thus allowing for a more restful night's sleep during pregnancy.
Other Pregnancy Safe Sleeping Tips
While not all home remedies or sleeping aids are safe during pregnancy, there are a few ways to get a good night's sleep which are safe for both mommy and baby. A quick disclaimer, however: before attempting anything which would be out of the ordinary for you (based on your typical routine), please speak to your doctor or midwife.
- Drink a warm glass of milk at about half an hour before bed.
- Try gentle prenatal yoga or stretching. (Should be approved by a doctor, based on current health.)
- Listen to soothing music while you try to fall asleep.
- Ask your partner to massage your shoulders or feet.
- Take a warm shower to help relax muscles in preparation for sleep.
- Many pregnant women swear by aromatherapy—although other's sensitive noses dissuade them from it. Lavender is a light, relaxing scent known to induce sleep.
For more information on sleep health or how to get a good night's sleep, contact us today.