Tips to help you get a good nights sleep while you are pregnant, with information on the importance of sleep and rest during pregnancy.
Many believe that the sleep problems suffered during pregnancy are simply a way of your body preparing you for the lack of sleep you are likely to experience for the first few weeks after your baby is born. However, this rationalisation doesn't provide much comfort when you find yourself wide awake at three in the morning for the fourth night in a row!
Sleep problems tend to be worse in the first and third trimesters due to nausea, indigestion and a simple inability to get comfortable. The second trimester is sometimes called the 'honeymoon' period because many experience less disruptions to sleep during this time, however, you are unlikely to enjoy the same quality of sleep you did before you fell pregnant.
If you are having trouble sleeping during the night and feel overly tired, an afternoon nap can do wanders for recharging your batteries and making you feel human again, even if it's just for half an hour. However, if you begin to feel overly anxious about sleeping you should talk about it with your health care professional.
Here are our pregnancy tips for getting a good (or at least half decent!) nights sleep;
- Just as you will establish a bedtime routine for your newborn once he or she arrives, a relaxing bedtime routine will also help you to drop off. You should try to go to bed at approximately the same time each night so that your body begins to expect sleep. Additionally, taking a bath, having a warm milky drink or simply putting your feet up for half an hour before you go to bed will help you to wind down and hopefully make sleep come easier.
- Clock watching is just about the worst thing you can do if you are having trouble sleeping as it simply makes you more anxious about how long you have been awake, which in turn makes it even more difficult to get back to sleep. If you really can't sleep you should try getting out of bed and reading a book or magazine until you begin to feel drowsy.
- Nighttime toilet visits become a frequent occurrence throughout pregnancy. To help minimise these disturbances you should try to avoid caffeinated foods and drinks, reduce the amount of fluids you consume in the hours before your bedtime and make sure you take a trip to the toilet before you settle for the night. When you go to the toilet you should lean forward so that your bladder empties completely.
- It can be difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep in whist you are pregnant. Sleeping on your left side with your knees slightly raised is often considered the best position for you and for your baby. It is said to help relieve nausea for those in the first trimester of pregnancy as well as to increase blood flow to the fetus, decrease swelling and reduce pressure on the liver and the inferior vena cava - the blood vessel that carries blood to your heart from your legs.
- A wide range of maternity pillows specifically designed to support the contours of the pregnant body during sleep are available and many find these to be a great comfort during the night. However, others find that placing a regular pillow or cushion behind their back and under their stomach or knees provides adequate, more economical support.
- Taking some gentle exercise during the day will improve blood flow, make you feel more relaxed and may help you to enjoy a deeper sleep. Yoga is a good option especially as the relaxation techniques learned can be used to wind your mind down after a busy day. However, although it sounds cliched, a brisk walk in the fresh air will do wanders too. It is important to consult your doctor before trying any new type of physical exercise during pregnancy.
- If you suffer from leg cramps during the night you should gently stretch the muscle and massage the area until the pain has subsided. Stretching out your calf muscles before bed may help to reduce their incidence. Additionally, cramps can be a sign of dehydration so you should make sure that you are drinking enough fluids during the day (6-8 glasses is recommended).
- To avoid nighttime indigestion (common in the third trimester) you should avoid eating heavy or spicy meals before bed. Instead, if you are hungry, snacking on plain food such as a banana or some crackers may help. Additionally, drinking milk or herbal tea may help to reduce discomfort. Keeping a glass of sparkling water by your bed can provide convenient relief from heartburn during the night.
- Many women suffer from vivid dreams or nightmares during pregnancy. You should not worry about the content of the dreams as they are simply thought to be a manifestation of the great physical, emotional and cognitive changes your body undergoes during pregnancy and therefore have little meaning outside of your dream world. Additionally, the broken sleep experienced during pregnancy means that you are more likely to remember the content of your dreams than usual. However if you are concerned or worried by your dreams, talking with a partner or friend may help to put them into perspective.