After announcing your pregnancy, one of the first pieces of advice veteran-parents will likely give you is to “get as much sleep as you can now because once the baby comes, you’ll be missing it”.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. According to an study published in Sleep Medicine, women experience “short sleep duration, poor sleep quality, [and/or] insomnia” throughout all three trimesters. The study went on to find a direct correlation between sleep quality and stress, and looked at how sleep impacts pregnancy as a whole. Sleep deprivation has a significant impact on cognitive abilities, such as reaction time, alertness, general performance, and even emotion (as if pregnancy by itself doesn’t make managing emotion hard enough).
The good news is that there are a number of ways to help promote quality sleep throughout pregnancy – and even sleep through the night. It may take a little trial and error, though, as there are a number of factors that may be contributing to restless nights.
One reason for poor sleep during pregnancy is general discomfort. As your pregnancy progresses, your body shape changes, making it difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep in. If you are typically a stomach or back sleeper, you may feel particularly miserable, and even unnatural, trying to sleep on your side. To remedy this, try putting a pillow between your knees to help align your hips. You may also find some relief by putting a soft pillow under your growing belly to help support some of the weight. If you’re lacking in extra pillows around the house, there are a variety of “pregnancy pillows” designed specifically for this purpose.
As your baby (and belly) grows, there will be more and more pressure on your bladder – resulting in more and more trips to the bathroom. This is particularly frustrating after you’ve finally fallen asleep (and gets increasingly more frustrating each subsequent time after). Unfortunately, there aren’t any miracle cure-alls for this one, but you can be strategic about hydration. Try to load up on water as much as possible during the morning and mid-day, and then by the evening start to taper off your liquid intake (of course, don’t risk dehydration just to avoid that 12 am wake up).
Stress is another common reason for poor sleep quality for anyone – but even more so for pregnant women. A 2014 study examined stress hormone levels in pregnant women and found that as gestation progressed, the hormone levels increased incrementally. Pregnancy is stressful as it is, there is a lot to worry about (especially if you’re a first-time mom) so the added hormone levels only make it worse. If you’re experiencing insomnia as a result of a racing mind, try using a sleep-focused guided meditation app on your phone to help you fall asleep. Consider investing in a mouth guard if you find yourself clenching or grinding your teeth due to tension. Finally, if the stress is so bad that you still feel exhausted despite getting a full night’s rest, try implementing (appropriate) moderate physical activity, changing up your diet, or limiting your social commitments to allow you to get more rest. Always remember to consult your healthcare provider if the stress, or exhaustion, is overwhelming.
Sleep is essential to a healthy pregnancy, but don’t be too discouraged if you’re not getting as much sleep as you did before pregnancy. The best thing you can do is give yourself some grace and permission to rest during this time, even if that means saying no to a few social events or taking a midday nap to make up for those frequent overnight bathroom trips.
Tuck is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NBC News, NPR, Lifehacker, and Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.