Getting a good night’s sleep during your pregnancy can be hard to come by as your body works towards developing your baby and you are preparing for the physical event of childbirth. Being able to get sufficient rest is an essential part of your pregnancy but it seems strange that when your body needs it the most, sleep eludes you. Trying to find an ideal sleeping position and adjusting to the changes of each trimester can often be a challenge.
Changes in your sleeping pattern
During the first trimester of your pregnancy you may discover that you are sleeping more than usual as your body works to nurture your developing baby. This rarely means a good night’s sleep as the pressure on your bladder from your growing uterus causes you to make countless trips to the bathroom during the night.
As the nausea and fatigue subsides, the second trimester is a good time to set a routine by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day to help establish a pattern in preparation for the third trimester.
Most pregnant women find that they have the most trouble getting uninterrupted sleep during the latter stages of the pregnancy. As the foetus increases in size, it is harder to find a comfortable sleeping position.
Many pregnant women report having vivid dreams, especially in the last trimester. These dreams can mainly be attributed to your changing hormonal levels. They are completely normal and may reflect your concerns about how you are going to cope with your new life.
Although it is common for pregnant women to experience interrupted sleep during the night there are various ways where you can minimise its impact on your usual sleeping pattern.
Sleeping positions for better comfort during pregnancy
Try and get into the habit of sleeping on your left-hand side with your knees bent. There are some people in the medical profession who believe that lying on your right-hand side is best avoided while you are pregnant. There is a major vein in your body called the vena cava, on this side that is responsible for taking blood back to the heart, and pressure on this may reduce your blood supply and cause dizziness.
Experiment with using pillows to find comfortable sleeping positions. Try using a body pillow to support your top leg or a rolled-up blanket for your abdomen to relieve pressure off your lower back.
When you are getting up from lying down, remember to roll onto your side and push up with your arms. This prevents you from placing extra pressure on your already separating abdominal muscles.
Ways to help you get a better night’s sleep
It often helps to know what is affecting your sleep the most and work towards reducing that. Introducing a gradual process instead of changing all the elements of your pregnancy at once can allow your body to adapt to a different sleeping pattern as it changes through each trimester.
Your baby may be particularly active at night when you are settling for your rest. This is likely to be because your movement throughout the day has gently rocked them to sleep. Also when you are lying down your baby can stretch out more and kick around. Gently massage over your tummy and enjoy the movement. Breathe deeply and let your mind rest.
You may find that you begin to suffer from “night sweats”. Keep a cool damp cloth next to your bed and wipe yourself down if this happens.
Try and establish a routine to help you wind down from a busy day. Introduce yoga, meditation or other relaxation techniques into your lifestyle to help you unwind.
Avoid rigorous exercise leading up to bedtime. Instead, try relaxing with a soak in the bath or reading a book.
Your sleeplessness may be related to your mind working overtime, planning everything that you have to do before your baby is born. Keep a note pad and pencil next to your bed, write your thoughts down and then lay back and get a good night’s rest.
Do not take any drugs to help you sleep, natural or medicinal, as these can have an adverse effect on your baby.
Before using herbal teas you should check with a pharmacist or herbalist who is an expert in their field. The following teas are generally considered safe during pregnancy: citrus peel, ginger, lemon balm, orange peel and rosehip. Herbal teas should be taken only in a weak infusion and consumed in moderation during pregnancy. A warm cup of milk with honey before bed is an ideal way to wind down.
Minimise the consumption of caffeinated drinks such as coffee or tea. And limit any intake to the morning or early afternoon. See Pregnancy diet for more information.
If you are experiencing issues with heartburn, try not to eat large meals just before bedtime and have more frequent and smaller meals throughout the day.
If you find yourself deprived of sleep, try taking naps throughout the day to make up for lost sleep during the nights.
There are bound to be nights where you just can’t fall asleep. Instead of worrying about not getting enough rest, try occupying the time with something you enjoy – read a book, listen to music or catch up on emails.