Please welcome Dr. Anthony DiMarco, MD, Medical Director and Professor of Physiology at Case Western Reserve University
A pregnant woman lies in bed trying to sleep.

How to Get Better Sleep While Pregnant

How to Get Better Sleep While Pregnant

During pregnancy, a mother’s body goes through many changes and she may often feel exhausted. Yet, in this time, it is more important than ever to get the rest that her body and her baby need.

Pregnancy can disrupt your natural sleep patterns, or just make it more difficult to relax and rest. Many expectant moms struggle with discomfort and tiredness at different times during the nine months. A survey done by the National Sleep Foundation found that nearly 80% of pregnant women have difficulty sleeping. When you are already dealing with nausea, fatigue, swelling, frequent urination, heartburn and other aches and pains, it may seem like sleep disorders are just another frustrating side effect.

Let us take a look at the common sleep problems that pregnant women face and some tips for getting more rest before the baby arrives.

Common Sleep Disorders During Pregnancy

The majority of women experience some general difficulty resting and relaxing, especially in the later months of pregnancy. Here are some of the specific types of sleep disorders that women can develop during this time.

Insomnia

New moms often share stories about watching TV, late-night movie marathons, or dreading the sound of their husbands’ snores while they lay awake. Pregnant women frequently report waking up in the early morning hours and difficulty falling back asleep. In fact, insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders. In early pregnancy, insomnia may be triggered by hormonal changes. Then, as her due date nears, it can result from worries about labor and giving birth, stress about managing work, finances and other children, or general anxiety. Some of this is a natural reaction; the birth of a new baby is a big change for a mom and the entire family.

Restless Leg Syndrome

If you are woken up by an irresistible feeling to move your legs while lying in bed, you may have restless leg syndrome (RLS). The feeling of RLS has been described in many different ways:

  • Muscle discomfort and aches,
  • Cramping and tension,
  • Tingling and crawling,
  • Burning, or
  • Itching.

These sensations show up in the feet and legs while the body is at rest. It can cause you to wake up or have difficulty falling asleep. Relaxing is a challenge as you struggle with the urge to move, stretch or rub your lower extremities. RLS is often associated with pregnancy, as well as obesity and lack of physical activity. Some women get relief with the help of iron and magnesium supplements while pregnant.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This sleep disorder is caused by interrupted breathing as the tissues in the mouth, tongue and throat relax and shift at night. When these soft tissues block the upper airway and hinder breathing, it is referred to as sleep apnea. Loud snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness can be embarrassing symptoms. But, it is the regular apneas and chronic sleep deprivation that can have dangerous health effects.

Women who are overweight are more likely to develop sleep apnea during pregnancy. This occurs as she gains weight and retains water throughout the nine months, causing fatty tissues around the neck and throat to also increase in weight.

Nighttime Heartburn

Another frustrating, yet common side effect of pregnancy is chronic heartburn. Nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the official term for problems with stomach acid in the esophagus at night. This is a common complaint, especially later in pregnancy, due to hormonal changes affecting digestion. Acid can also be pushed up the throat as the uterus grows and the kicking baby upsets your stomach.

Get the Rest You Need While Pregnant

It is important to listen to your body and take good care of yourself during pregnancy. Here are some simple sleep hygiene tips to get the rest you crave in these special months while awaiting baby.

  1. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day of the week. Having a sleep schedule will help your body maintain its natural sleep cycle.
  2. Stick to a bedtime routine. Spend the last few hours before bed winding down. Then, read a book or listen to some relaxing music for at least 30 minutes before lights-out.
  3. Use supportive cushions and pillows to make yourself more comfortable in bed. Special maternity pillows can help take pressure off the parts of your body that feel the most discomfort.
  4. Try to get at least 30 minutes a day of light aerobic activity. Practicing yoga or taking a walk outside can improve circulation, mental health and your ability to fall asleep.
  5. Avoid drinking a lot of fluid in the evening. This helps cut down on the need to go to the bathroom at night.
  6. Cut back on caffeine. Reducing your intake of caffeine is recommended during pregnancy, plus this stimulant makes it more difficult to stay asleep.
  7. If you struggle with heartburn, try using pillows to prop your head up higher while lying down. You should also avoid heavy dinners and spicy foods.
  8. If you have RLS, try taking a warm bath before bed and ask your physician or OBGYN if you should take any particular supplements.
  9. If you have trouble sleeping through the night, schedule a short nap during the day. Though naps tend to upset the natural sleep cycle and can be counterproductive, it is really important for pregnant women a good amount of rest.
  10. Ask your partner for a relaxing massage at the end of the day. This can help you both to reconnect, unwind and get a good night’s sleep.

Find a Comfortable Sleep Position During Pregnancy

It is recommended for moms to sleep on their left side in the third trimester. Staying on this side facilitates blood flow in the body and the supply of nutrients to placenta and fetus.

It can be hard to find a comfortable position at night, though. Try shaping your body like the letter “S” can help take undue pressure off your back. To get in this position, bend your legs at the knee and your arms at the elbow. Next, use a pillow to support your belly or between your legs to support your hips and pelvis.

Check out this video for more tips on sleeping postures and positions during pregnancy.

Helpful Advice for Every Stage in Life

If you are struggling to get the right amount of sleep. Contact Sleep Health Solutions to schedule a consultation.

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