Snoozing for Two: Tips For Getting a Good Night's Sleep When You’re Pregnant

As any pregnant woman knows, the impending arrival of a newborn seems to inspire an outpouring of advice from just about everyone. From the day you announce your pregnancy until the day you deliver, you’ll probably receive plenty of tips, pointers, and opinions aimed at helping you through your nine months, including this gem: “Make sure you get plenty of sleep now, because you sure won’t be sleeping once the baby arrives!”

The trouble with this well-meaning suggestion is that pregnancy isn’t always conducive to getting a good night’s sleep. In fact, nearly 80% of women report that sleep is more disturbed during pregnancy than it is normally.

As an OB/GYN for many years, I understand the importance of sleep during pregnancy and have plenty of useful advice on how you can get the rest you need.   

The importance of sleep during pregnancy

It can be frustrating to experience sleep deprivation during pregnancy, especially knowing that you’ll continue to have sleep interruptions for several more months in the very near future.

But sleep deprivation during pregnancy is more than simply frustrating — it can be unhealthy for both you and your baby. Adequate sleep during pregnancy nourishes your baby’s development and gives you the energy you’ll need each day and during labor and delivery.

A 2010 article published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews found ample evidence that sleep deprivation during pregnancy is associated with longer labor, an increased perception of pain during labor, and a higher rate of cesarean deliveries.

Scientific research also indicates that there may be a relationship between sleep deprivation and preterm births and postpartum depressive mood.

Pregnancy-associated sleep changes

Pregnancy can affect how well-rested you feel starting with shifting hormone levels at the start of your first trimester. Rising progesterone levels are partly responsible for the excessive daytime sleepiness experienced by many women in early pregnancy.

Hormonal changes that have a relaxing effect on muscles can contribute to frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom. These changes can also make women who slept soundly before pregnancy develop a snoring problem — or even short-term sleep apnea.

Then, there are the common pregnancy-related conditions that many women find themselves facing. It’s estimated that more than a quarter of pregnant women develop restless leg syndrome (RLS), a condition that causes unpleasant feelings in the legs and gets worse at night. Chronic heartburn, which can make it incredibly difficult to sleep, affects as many as half of all pregnant women.

And we haven’t even begun to cover the emotions, worries, or anxieties that keep many pregnant women from getting a good night’s rest. Not to mention how hard it can be to find a new go-to-sleep position. As soon as you do find a comfortable way to sleep, your baby grows, your belly gets a little bigger, and you’re left tossing and turning once again.

You get the picture, right?

The question is: What can you do about it?

Strategies for nine months of sound sleep

Taking steps to protect your sleep, or at least minimize lost sleep, helps put you in the best possible position for a healthy pregnancy and a relatively smooth labor and delivery. Here are some of our best tips for getting a good night’s sleep while you’re pregnant:

Prioritize sleep: Pregnancy isn’t the time to stay up late watching the news or finishing a work project. If you have a lot going on in your life, make enough time in your schedule to get the sleep you need.

Get some exercise: Unless you’ve specifically been told to avoid exercise during your pregnancy, getting at least 30 minutes of moderately-intense exercise every day can do wonders for helping you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

Control your fluids: Staying well-hydrated during the day can help prevent nighttime leg cramps that become more common in the third trimester, while cutting back on water and other fluids in the hours before bedtime can reduce nighttime trips to the bathroom.  

Make your bed comfortable: A comfortable, supportive bed is key to a good night’s sleep, especially during pregnancy. Because your growing baby increases pressure on your spine, getting different pillows to elevate parts of your body or relieve back pain may be your ticket to dreamland.   

Find the right position: If you can, sleep on your left side with your knees and hips bent; this position allows increased blood, nutrient, and oxygen flow to your baby. To take pressure off your back, place a pillow between your knees, another under your belly, and one behind your back. Avoid sleeping on your back for extended periods.

Turn down the temperature: Because your body temperature goes up during pregnancy, it can be hard to sleep in a warm room. Setting the thermostat a few degrees lower than normal can help you find the room temperature that’s most conducive to sleep.

Turn off the lights — and your devices: Your bedroom should be quiet and dark, and you should avoid looking at the TV, smartphone, computer, or any other brightly lit screens at least two hours before bedtime. That’s because artificial light can disrupt your normal wake-sleep cycle, leaving it difficult for you to nod off.

Avoid that midnight snack: Or any snack or meal just before bedtime, for that matter. Eating anything less than two hours before bedtime can be a recipe for acid reflux or heartburn.  

If you still can’t sleep, call the office of Dr. Richard Bardowell in Burbank, California and schedule an appointment. We’re here to help!

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