How to Sleep When Pregnant: A Helpful Guide
Everyone knows you need sleep to live and function, but from the moment you learn you’re pregnant, the idea that you need to be resting and recharging each night becomes more serious and important. When you’re pregnant, you’re not just taking care of your own body and health, you’re also responsible for the health and well-being of your baby too.
The problem is, when you’re carrying another human being in your womb, sleep doesn’t come as easily as it once did. A number of factors affect your ability to continue getting the quality sleep you need.
If you have trouble sleeping during your pregnancy, don’t be discouraged. You’re not alone. As bodies change and babies grow, many women experience challenges when it comes to getting good sleep.
Here’s the good news: there are things you can do to get better sleep while pregnant. It’s not hopeless. You just need to understand why you’re not sleeping as well as you used to and what to do about it.
To keep your baby and yourself healthy, you need sleep. This guide will provide you with the tips and resources you need to sleep better in the months and weeks leading up to your due date.
Why You’re Not Sleeping as Well as You Used To
The first step you need to take to start getting better sleep is to try to recognize and understand why you’re not sleeping as well as you used to. Here are 11 factors to consider:
When you become pregnant, your body starts producing higher levels of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones that help prepare your body for pregnancy. Increased levels of progesterone can impact sleep in two ways. First, the increase can lead to more daytime sleepiness, and as a result, more daytime naps. Napping more during the day can make it harder for you to fall or stay asleep at night. Second, an increase in progesterone levels can sometimes cause more nasal congestion and more relaxation in your muscles. For some, this can lead to more snoring while you sleep. If you’re not used to hearing the sound, or feeling the sensation of snoring, it can make sleep more difficult.
More Trips to the Bathroom
You might be losing sleep because of an increase in trips to the bathroom. As your uterus continues to grow, it presses down on your bladder which increases your urge to urinate. Frequent urination can also be caused by the pregnancy hormone hCG, which according to What to Expect, increases blood flow to your pelvic area and contributes to your urge to urinate more often.
Napping During the Day
As your body changes and your baby grows, you might feel more tired during the day. This is especially the case during the first trimester when your body starts producing more progesterone to help manage the pregnancy. As exhaustion sets in, you might find yourself taking more naps throughout the day, which, as you can imagine, can impact your ability to fall and stay asleep at night.
Heartburn or Nausea
Some women also experience more heartburn or nausea during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Heartburn comes as a result of your uterus growing and pressing up against your stomach. When this happens, the acid that normally stays in your stomach is pushed up into your esophagus, resulting in heartburn. Morning sickness, contrary to popular belief, can actually occur at any time of day—even in the middle of night when you’re trying to sleep.
Increased Baby Movement
As your baby grows and you move further along in your pregnancy, you’ll start to feel kicks, pokes, and other movements from your baby. It’s an incredibly exciting part of your journey as a new mom, but as you can imagine, it can be a fairly distracting and sometimes even painful thing to experience at night when you’re trying to fall asleep.
Added Stress and Anxiety
As you progress through pregnancy, you’re probably starting to think more about everything you need to do to prepare for your baby and all the ways your life will change once he or she arrives. When you’re stressed or feeling anxious, your mind races, your blood pressure rises, and it can be difficult to relax enough to be able to fall and stay asleep.
Bad Eating Habits
Poor nutrition can also affect your ability to sleep. Some women experience food cravings at different points during their pregnancy. If you’re suddenly finding yourself craving and eating more sugary, fatty, or processed foods, try to create a more balanced nutrition plan for yourself. An imbalanced or unhealthy diet can leave you with an upset stomach or too much energy at night.
Lack of Exercise
As your body changes and you become more tired, the idea of going to the gym and exercising regularly might be the last thing on your mind. If, however, you find you’re having a hard time sleeping at night, it might be because you’re not moving around and burning off as much energy as you used to before you became pregnant.
Added Weight / Back Pain
As you get closer to your due date, added weight can also make sleep uncomfortable. Some women also find it hard to sleep at night due to frequent back pain. Back pain is a normal part of pregnancy, and can come as a result of weight gain, posture changes, hormone changes, and muscle separation as your body prepares for delivery.
New Sensitivity to Your Environment
Some women experience heightened senses after becoming pregnant. As a result, many experience difficulty falling asleep due to more sensitivity to the environment around them. More sensitivity to smells, light, touch, and sounds can all play a role in your ability to fall asleep.
Some women also struggle with sleep throughout their pregnancy due to what the American Pregnancy Association refers to as pregnancy dreams. Pregnancy dreams are vivid dreams, nightmares, or anxiety-based dreams that can crop up as a result of all the physical and emotional changes you experience after you become pregnant.
As you think more about the reasons behind your difficulties with sleep it’s important to remember every pregnancy and every person is different. The factors affecting your ability to sleep at night could be completely different from the factors affecting someone else. To get to the root of the problem, listen to your body, talk with the people who know you best, and if needed, consult with your doctor.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Good Sleep
When you’re pregnant, getting a good amount of sleep each night and waking up well-rested each morning is important. Poor sleep throughout your pregnancy can affect you and the people around you in unexpected ways. Specifically, poor sleep can impact:
Your Physical Health
Not surprisingly, getting poor sleep throughout your pregnancy has the potential to wreak havoc on your physical health. Some research studies suggest that sleep deprivation can lead to changes in blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate. Other studies have found that a lack of sleep can also prevent the immune system from effectively protecting your body against illness and disease.
Your Mental Health
Your emotional well-being can also be negatively impacted as a result of lack of sleep. When you’re overly exhausted, it’s much easier to experience the effects and symptoms of stress, anxiety, and even depression.
Your Baby’s Health
Not getting enough sleep can also create problems for your baby. According to one article about poor sleep during pregnancy published by the Huffington Post, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found, “links between both the quality and quantity of pregnant women’s sleep and complications at birth, including low birth weight and preterm births.”
Your relationships can also suffer as a result of not getting enough rest each night. Poor sleep can make you more irritable and less patient, which can bleed into the interactions you have with your spouse, coworkers or other children.
Sleep deprivation also makes you less productive. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.” Without enough sleep each night, you’re more prone to make mistakes, have accidents, or make poor decisions while at work.
As mentioned, lack of sleep can also make you more accident-prone during the day. Without sleep, you’re more likely to fall asleep while driving. The National Sleep Foundation even goes as far as to claim that, “sleep deprivation can have similar effects on your body as drinking alcohol.” You also make decisions slower when you’re tired, which can lead to other types of accidents while at home, at work, or en route to a destination.
Now that you understand more about why you’re getting poor sleep and how it’s affecting you, your baby, and the people you interact with on a regular basis, it’s time to learn how to start getting better sleep each night.
Tips for Getting Better Sleep When Pregnant
If you’re struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep while pregnant, there are a number of things you can to do try to improve the situation.
Here are 10 tips you can implement to get better sleep in the weeks and months ahead:
Tip #1: Eat less junk food, especially before bed
If you’re struggling to fall asleep at night, it could be because you aren’t eating a well-balanced diet. To get better sleep, limit or eliminate entirely the amount of fatty or highly processed foods you put into your body each day. Avoid eating sugary junk food right before bed. Here’s a helpful article about five bedtime snack foods to avoid and five to try instead.
Tip #2: Exercise and stretch regularly
If you’re dealing with back pain each night, consider adding some light exercise and stretching to your daily routine. A word of caution: don’t try to overdo it. Do not implement a new, rigorous workout routine into your schedule if your body isn’t used to it. Start with something simple like walking, jogging, or light yoga.
Tip #3: Unplug from technology
To fall asleep faster, and help your mind and body naturally unwind, try to eliminate the amount of time you spend in front of screens right before bed. Leave 30-60 minutes of time before you go to bed to be screen-free.
Tip #4: Get a new mattress
If you’re not getting good sleep at night, your old mattress may be the culprit. Consider investing in a new mattress like a Sleep Number bed that can be adjusted to meet your specific needs each night, and throughout your entire pregnancy as you gain weight during pregnancy, and lose weight afterward.
Tip #5: Adjust your room temperature
If you’re sensitive to your environment, try adjusting your room temperature before going to bed. A few degrees in either direction could be just what your body needs to feel comfortable and relaxed. The experts at Sleep Number recommend 65-67 degrees as the ideal sleeping temperature.
Tip #6: Keep your room clean
Clutter can add unnecessary stress and anxiety to your day, which can ultimately impact how well you sleep at night. Solve the problem by keeping your bedroom clean and free of clutter. You can tidy up as part of your bedtime wind-down routine.
Tip #7: Try to relax your mind before bed
Use breathing techniques or meditation apps to put your mind and body in a state or relaxation before bed. Give yourself enough time before bed to go through the exercises your body needs to feel relaxed and prepared for deep sleep. Try this simple 4-7-8 breathing technique.
Tip #8: Get help from your partner
Ask your partner to help you relax by giving you a back or foot massage right before bed.
Tip #9: Invest in a better pillow
Your pillow can also prevent you from getting a good night’s rest. If you’ve been using the same pillow for more than two years, it’s time for an upgrade. Get better support and comfort by investing in a new pillow. Here’s a simple test to help you decide if it’s time to change your pillow.
Tip #10: Use calming smells and sounds
If you are particularly sensitive to smells and sounds, be proactive about creating the ideal environment you need in order to fall and stay asleep each night. Use sound machines and essential oils to calm your mind and feel more relaxed and ready for sleep. Try these DIY aromatherapy ideas for better sleep.
After the baby comes, sleeping while having a newborn is possible. These two moms share their experiences in getting quality sleep with newborns. Learn from them by reading their stories here and here.
Don’t be discouraged. If one of these tips doesn’t work simply move on to another tip the next night and find out if it helps sleep come easier for you. Remember everyone is different. The key is to keep testing until you’re able to land on a solution that works best for your body and mind.
Best Sleeping Positions When Pregnant
You can also get better sleep by knowing how to position your body while lying in your bed.
To get the best sleep possible when pregnant, you should sleep on one of your sides. The ideal side to sleep on each night is your left side. According to the American Pregnancy Association, sleeping on your left side, “will increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby.”
While lying on one of your sides, you can also improve sleep by leveraging pillows to alleviate any discomfort you might be having, or adjusting the Sleep Number setting in your Sleep Number bed to reduce pressure points. Here are a few ideas on how to use pillows to better support you while sleeping during pregnancy:
- If you’re experiencing back pain, put a pillow under your abdomen while sleeping on your side with your legs bent.
- If you’re experiencing heartburn or trouble breathing, consider propping your upper body up with extra pillows, or moving to an area that allows you to recline. If you have a bed where your head can be elevated, prop it up.
- If you’re experiencing hip pain, place a pillow between your knees.
There are two positions you should avoid using when sleeping while pregnant. The first is your back, and the second is your stomach.
Sleeping on your back can lead to more back aches, problems with your digestive system, and a decrease in circulation to your heart and your baby, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Sleeping on your stomach, as you’ll soon learn, tends to be incredibly uncomfortable for most women and virtually impossible once your belly starts to grow.
Rest is Now More Important Than Ever
Becoming pregnant is one of the most exciting events you’ll experience in your life, but it doesn’t come without challenges. To keep your baby and yourself healthy throughout your pregnancy, you need sleep—a lot of quality sleep. Use the tips outlined in this guide to get better sleep in the months, weeks, and days leading up to your due date. Your baby will be here before you know it!
Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® beds with SleepIQ® technology inside adjust to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support. SleepIQ technology tracks how well you sleep each night, giving you personal insights into your sleep so you’ll learn how life affects your sleep and how sleep affects your life. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep..