Famous movie actresses, supermodels, royal princesses, world leaders – even they can’t escape the fact that the “glow” of pregnancy often dims with lack of sleep. Whether you’re a princess or a commoner, pregnant women everywhere suffer from fatigue, and would do anything for a good night’s sleep. In 1998, the National Sleep Foundation’s poll on Women and Sleep, found that 78% of pregnant women report having more trouble sleeping than at other times, particularly during the first and third trimesters. Even with the joy of impending birth, nobody wants to be exhausted and irritable, so we’re sharing some tips on how to catch some solid “Z’s.”
Avoid the Burn
Various hormonal changes, increased weight and other issues can drastically change a woman’s sleep patterns, causing excessive fatigue. One such change is frequent occurrence of nausea and heartburn (GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease). One recent study found that 30-50% of pregnant women experience GERD almost constantly during pregnancy. To avoid heartburn, stay away from spicy, acidic or fried foods, and eat smaller meals more frequently. And finally, elevate the head of your bed to relieve symptoms of acid reflux, as well as sinus congestion, snoring, and sleep apnea (other health issues that often develop with pregnancy). A very simple way to do this without damaging your mattress or bedframe is to use an elevated mattress topper.
Body support – snuggle a pillow
Experts recommend that when pregnant, particular in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, you should sleep on your left side, because the pressure on the inferior vena cava (the large vein that is responsible for bringing all the unoxygenated blood from your lower extremities to your heart) can reduce blood flow to the uterus and therefore, the fetus. And similarly, they recommend not sleeping on your back for a longer period. The decreased blood flow can even make some women feel sweaty and dizzy. In addition, the added weight of pregnancy can shift your body’s center, resulting in hip and lower back pain.
If you are suffering from aches and pains, or find sleeping on your left side difficult, an easy remedy (recommended by the Mayo Clinic) is to use pillows as props. Early on, if sleeping on your back, you can place a wedge or bolster pillow under your knees to give your lower back added support. In later trimesters, while sleeping on your side, with knees bent, simply place these same pillows between your knees. You can also place a pillow (whichever is most comfortable) under your abdomen and also one behind your back for support and to keep your body from automatically rolling over. Or better yet, snuggle up to a large body or “cuddler” pillow to provide better alignment for your hips and spine. As an extra benefit, the additional support for your growing belly might even help reduce stretch marks!
Counting sheep – how to get to sleep and stay asleep
Virtually all pregnant women will experience insomnia at some point during their pregnancy, whether it’s from having to frequently get up to visit the bathroom, feeling various aches and pains, suffering from heartburn, overheating, and so on. But there’s no need to suffer while lying in bed, tossing and turning, and agonizing over your lack of sleep.
First of all, ease your aching body by refreshing your bed with a mattress pad, in comfy cotton, fleecy wool, or supportive memory foam. There are even temperature regulating mattress pads, perfect for pregnancy-related overheating. And if you’re driving your partner crazy by tossing off the covers all night, you can both sleep soundly with temperature regulating bedding and moisture-wicking sleepwear as well!
Finally, if you’re finding it impossible to get to sleep, or get back to sleep after yet another bathroom break, one great way to relax, is to just sit up in bed and read, write in your journal, knit or listen to soothing music, and so on, until you’re able to doze off again. To avoid disturbing your partner, you can use a small lamp and/or headphones. As for catching up on work on your laptop, not only will working potentially cause stress, but experts recommend not using computers in bed, as the screen’s bright light can alter the body’s normal sleep-wake cycle by suppressing melatonin production. To provide support for your upper body while sitting in bed, you can use a reading pillow, often known as a “husband” for its comforting arms! And to avoid the chill, you can wear a bed jacket (no longer just for grandma) – it’s like a comfy little bed sweater keeping your upper body warm!
Follow these tips, and hopefully you’ll catch some of those ever elusive “Z’s” – and just think, at the end of nine months, you’ll have a beautiful new baby and then you’ll get plenty of sleep…?