When it comes to pregnancy season, sleep challenges tend to be a pretty common complaint for the majority of women. Between hormonal fluctuations, anxiety, stress and sheer physical discomfort, sleep isn’t always your best friend. However, enough restful sleep is vitally important to a happy and healthy pregnancy for both you and baby. Especially as your pregnancy progresses, achieving satisfying sleep can become a more and more difficult task.
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to achieve the best sleep possible while pregnant, from the moment you discover your pregnancy, to the moment you deliver. Here are some ideas to take advantage of for how to get the best sleep while pregnant.
As with any aspect of life, one easy way to sleep better while pregnant is to maintain good hydration throughout the entire day. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during the day, but cut back as evening time approaches. Dr. Sam Sugar, M.D., director of MedCheck and Sleep Health Programs at the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami, says to avoid consuming anything—food or drink—less than two hours before bedtime. Consuming food or drink before bed can likely cause reflux, heartburn or frequent urination during the night, keeping you wide awake and uncomfortable. Instead, start your hydration regime early in the morning, and slowly wean off the fluids as nighttime approaches.
With good hydration comes exercise. It’s important to exercise regularly during your pregnancy, not only for overall health and wellness, but also to improve blood circulation throughout your body, thus reducing nighttime leg cramps. Good exercise will maintain your health during the pregnancy, but it will—lightly—tire your body out during the day, helping to give you a deeper and more restful night sleep. However, similar to staying hydrating, be careful not to exercise too late into the day, as this can release adrenaline, which will keep you awake at night. For more information on how to exercise while pregnant, check out our article on The Why, What and How of Exercising While Pregnant.
If you struggle staying awake during the day—as most women do during pregnancy—fret not! Naps are a great way to stay energized throughout the day, without losing sleep at night. Generally speaking, a 30- to 60-minute nap in the day can help make you more alert, sharpens memory and generally reduces feelings of fatigue. One study by the National Sleep Foundation actually found more than half of expectant mothers take at least one nap during the workweek, and 60% take a weekend nap as well. Dr. Teresa Ann Hoffman, M.D., an OB-GYN at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, says, “It’s best to nap between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.; otherwise you’ll have trouble falling asleep at night… take one or even two 30-minute catnaps rather than one long, two-hour sleep.” Of course, be sure to keep your naps earlier in the afternoon, so you can still get plenty of rest at night without feeling too energized to sleep.
As you prepare for sleep, make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. This might sound simple enough, but between a partner, children or even the mess of daily life, it can be a pretty tall task. Oftentimes during pregnancy, women feel warmer than normal, so keep your bedroom on the cool side. Be sure to block out any light and noise, including your cell phone. Having a cell phone by your head while sleeping can actually be very distracting during the night, with lights flashing on or noises from notifications. If possible, move your phone to a different room during the night, or keep it across the room and away from where it might distract you.
Make your bed comfortable, with firm pillows positioned to prop your head and upper body up a few inches. Dr. Matthew Mingrone, M.D., lead physician at Eos Sleep in San Francisco, shares, “Strategically placed pillows help support the stomach and can help you get to sleep—try a full-body pillow for this kind of support.” This type of support allows gravity to take the pressure off your diaphragm and allow you to breathe easier at night, ensuring a deeper night’s sleep.
At night, ease any physical stress by switching your sleeping position to the side, rather than your back. Sleeping on your side will actually reduce the amount of pressure on your uterus and allow you to breathe easier. Additionally, the position will relieve any back pain or aches you experience. In fact, according to the American Pregnancy Association, sleeping on your left side can increase the amount of blood and nutrients which flow to the baby. It can even help your body eliminate waste and fluids. Getting used to sleeping in this position early-on in your pregnancy will not only make sleep easier, but it will continue to help you relax and get more restful sleep as your belly grows.
Pregnancy can be a difficult time for sleep, and—spoiler alert—it doesn’t get much better after the new little bundle of joy is born. Take advantage of every opportunity you can by using these tips to get the best sleep possible during your pregnancy. Give them a try and see how you can feel more relaxed and comfortable as you enjoy this season of expectant motherhood.