For many women, the first trimester is the best one sleep-wise. Your body is working hard to nurture and protect your developing baby’s new home. Plus your heart is pumping faster and you’re creating more blood. All of this results in fatigue during those first few months. Many women find that they are sleepy all the time, and afternoon naps and nighttime sleep during pregnancy seem to come easily. However, as you enter your second and third trimesters, a bigger belly, leg cramps, and bathroom urges can cause restless nights. These strategies for better sleeping while pregnant1,2 can help you get the rest you and your developing baby need.
- Try sleeping on your side. This position will help relieve any discomfort from the developing baby’s weight—especially on your back. If possible, try sleeping on your left side; it helps improve circulation and will keep your uterus from applying pressure to your liver, which is on your right side.
- Snuggle with a pillow. To help support your abdomen, place a pillow under your stomach. Placing another pillow between your knees may also take away some back stress and pressure.
- Clear congestion. Saline nasal sprays and humidifiers can help combat congestion, which affects many pregnant women, especially at night.
- Kick the cramps. If leg cramps are keeping you up, do calf stretches before bed, drink enough water, and exercise regularly—all may help reduce charley horses. Some preliminary research suggests that magnesium may help, too, but stick with food sources such as whole grains and beans.3 Don’t take a magnesium supplement without consulting your doctor.
- Calm your legs. Restless leg syndrome, the constant need to move your legs, can affect some women during pregnancy and is thought to be caused by low levels of iron and/or folic acid. Get enough iron in your diet by eating lean meat and fish. It’s best to get folic acid from a prenatal supplement, which can help support all of your nutrient needs.
- Rest your worries. If you wake up with anxiety, try attending a birth, parenting, or even a prenatal yoga class. Sharing with other new moms can help ease your worries and allow you to feel more in control.
- Reduce bathroom trips. Bothered by needing to go to the bathroom repeatedly during the night? Try drinking plenty of fluids early in the day, then cutting back later.
- Watch for heartburn triggers. Heartburn affects many pregnant women and can be particularly bothersome in the evening hours, preventing sleep. Try eating smaller meals, and avoid fried or spicy foods, citrus juice, and carbonated drinks. Elevating your head (with a pillow or by slightly raising the head of your bed) can also help.
- Get into a routine. If you’re going to take a nap, take it earlier in the day. Then go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. By getting into a sleep routine, your body will start adjusting to this schedule.
- Exercise during the day. Exercise is a great way to keep your weight gain on track (excessive weight gain can affect sleep comfort), reduce stress, and improve circulation (which helps with leg cramps). For most women, it’s best to keep exercise earlier in the day—it can have an energizing effect that you don’t need close to bedtime.
If sleep during pregnancy continues to elude you, bring up the issue with your doctor. Sleep is key to maintaining the energy you and your developing baby need during these months.
1KidsHealth from Nemours, “Sleeping During Pregnancy,” http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/your_pregnancy/sleep_durin...
2Mayo Clinic, “Sleep During Pregnancy: Follow These Tips,” http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth...
3What causes leg cramps during pregnancy, and can they be prevented? - Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-a...