Advice on getting a good nights sleep in the third trimester of pregnancy, with information on sleep problems, insomnia and the benefit of naps
Sleep (or a lack of it) becomes a big issue for many in the third trimester as you are up against leg cramps, heartburn, aching joints and the frequent need to empty your bladder, all the while trying to navigate your tummy into a comfortable sleeping position. However, before you despair, there are several things you can try to get a better nights sleep.
Firstly, if you are not doing so already, you should go to sleep lying on your left hand side - this not only helps to improve circulation, digestion, kidney and liver function, but also prevents the weight of your unborn baby pressing on the inferior vena cava, the blood vessel that brings blood to your heart from the lower half of your body. Sleeping on your back in the latter stages of pregnancy (unless you are propped up into a sitting position) can result in palpitations, shortness of breath and even low blood pressure.
The most comfortable way to lie in this way is to bend your knees slightly and strategically place pillows so that they provide support for your lower back, tummy, hips and joints. While you can use regular household pillow, special maternity pillows are also available. Some find that having a memory foam sheet or layer on top of the mattress helps to relieve painful joints.
Alternatively, if you enjoy the comfort that pillows bring but miss snuggling with your partner, try lying on your side and resting your tummy and top leg against your partners back or side so that you get support and the snuggle factor.
Your growing baby begins to press on your bladder again in the third trimester meaning more nighttime trips to the toilet. Try to reduce the amount of fluids you consume in the hours before your bedtime (although make sure you drink plenty in the day), take a toilet trip before you settle for the night and try to lean forward when you urinate so that you completely empty your bladder.
Heartburn or indigestion are often a problem during the final stages of pregnancy. It is best to avoid eating heavy or spicy meals late in the evening and to drink a glass of milk or eat a banana before bed as this may help to settle your stomach. Additionally, keep a bottle of fizzy water by your bed for easy access in the night as this is also said to help relieve the acidity.
Even though you feel exhausted you should try to take some exercise such as a brisk walk, yoga or swimming on a daily basis (always consult your doctor first) and ensure that you eat a healthy, balanced diet with little processed foods so as to avoid stimulants such as caffeine and sugar that prevent you from sleeping. This will not only make for a healthier pregnancy but is also likely to help you enjoy a deeper sleep. Additionally, ensuring that you are hydrated and stretching out the muscles in your calves before you get into bed may help to reduce leg cramping in the night.
During the final trimester, the movements of your baby become increasingly noticeable and while it is a joy to feel your baby moving inside of you these movements are likely to keep you awake on the odd occasion. There is little you can do about this as your baby has a completely different rest pattern to you so if your baby kicks up a storm in the middle of the night just try to relax and enjoy it.
Taking an afternoon nap can do wonders for recharging your batteries and compensating for the time you spend awake during the night. Taking a warm bath or having a milky drink before bed may also help.
The most important thing to remember is that even if you are having difficulties sleep, stressing about it is probably the worst thing you can do as anxiety makes sleep even more difficult. If you are unable to get comfortable, get up and read a book for half an hour, take a bath, have a warm milky drink or even try sleeping in a reclined position on your sofa. However, as with any pregnancy problem, if you do feel that sleep is becoming an issue then you should go and talk about solutions with your health care professional.
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