Sleep is a way of refreshing yourself after a day’s hard work and if you are a “mother-to-be” then it’s much more important part for you. For you are taking care of not only yourself but also of that little bundle of joy which is growing inside you. A pregnant female needs at least 8 hours of healthy sleep for herself and her baby.
It is not as easy as it sounds, pregnant females reading this article will understand, when I say that a good healthy sleep is practically impossible for them to have. No matter which trimester you are in, there is always something bothering you, making it difficult for you to have good night’s sleep. I am here to tell you how to sleep well in pregnancy despite all the stress and problems you are facing.
Before digging in ways to sleep better in pregnancy, let’s first learn why is it difficult for a pregnant lady to get some sleep and accordingly we will tackle this problem.
Why Can’t One Sleep In Pregnancy?
Sleepless nights start early in pregnancy. Starting from the first trimester of pregnancy, your body starts dealing with unusually high amount of oestrogen which racks up your sleep wake cycle. Apart from this there are other physiological changes which makes sleeping difficult for a pregnant lady. These changes present throughout the pregnancy and some of these changes are:
- Polyuria – Frequent visits to the washroom is very much common in pregnancy and makes one leave bed frequently in nights. Though it is considered a sign of diabetes, pregnant females have a predisposition for urination as enlarging uterus compresses the bladder.
- Leg Cramps – Usually seen in second trimester of pregnancy, leg cramps is the pain in the calf region due to sudden contraction of calf muscles owing to decreased calcium in the body and compression of aorta by growing uterus. This complaint can present in normal individuals too but it is far more common in pregnancy.
- Anxiety – Owing to hormonal changes in pregnancy, pregnant females are usually anxious and they worry about their coming baby which leads to sleepless nights.
- Heartburn – Heartburn is a burning pain in mid chest, often mimicking heart attack. This is due to gastric acid reflux in esophageal lumen or in layman terms it is acidity. Why is it common in pregnancy? Well first, in pregnancy uterus displaces stomach upward decreasing the angle between stomach and esophagus. Secondly, in lying down position as our stomach and esophagus are on the same level, acid doesn’t have to move against gravity which makes reaching to esophagus easier and causes heartburn.
- Sleep Apnea – Sleep apnea is a medical condition in which patient finds it difficult to breathe during sleep. It might have several reasons. But more importantly, in pregnant females uterine enlargement in abdominal cavity leaves little space for diaphragm to expand which makes breathing difficult. Also, females have thoracoabdominal breathing, which in pregnancy becomes only thoracic as there is no help from abdominal muscles.
- Generalised Discomfort – This is by far the most common reason of sleepless nights in pregnancy. Females not able to find right position to sleep in, especially in third trimester of pregnancy when tummy is huge. Other than this early morning nausea makes it further impossible to sleep.
All of these sleep problems may be troubling you or your partner, but there is an easy solution for all these problems. A little change in habit and a few of my advices might just make sleepless nights a thing of past for you.
Tips To Sleep Well In Pregnancy
Avoid Coffee Before Bedtime
Not just coffee but any caffeinated beverage is unhealthy for sleep. Caffeine is a known CNS stimulant work by blocking adenosine action. A cup of coffee before sleep is effectively known to reduce sleep time by one hour and if you already are having sleep troubles, it is not likely to help you.
Certain other beverages known to have caffeine in them are tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolates etc. Following large caffeine intake a person may experience headache, inability to sleep, rapid heart rate, muscle tremors etc. Caffeine is also associated with anxiety, one of the reason for sleepless nights in pregnancy. I think a little cut down on these beverages will do the trick if you are having sleepless nights following coffee intake in pregnancy.
Keep Hydrated But!
Hydration is an important need of body and you can’t just stop drinking water. On the other hand you also have so many of these bathroom breaks that you just hate water right now. So what to do in this situation. You can do one thing, you can take as many bathroom breaks as you want in day time and a little, practically no break in night-time. This will help you sleep better as you won’t have to wake up every third second to rush to the washroom.
How to do this? Well, drink as much water as you want till the evening. Rather drink plenty of water, as much as you can. However, do not drink any amount of water or drink as little as possible before 6 hours to sleep. This timing will reduce your bathroom breaks to minimum and you will sleep hefty in your pregnancy.
Workout On Daily Basis
A 30 minute daily walk is essential for every one of us and pregnant women are no different. You should not take your exercises lightly because of your pregnancy. Take a visit to your physiotherapist and take advice regarding exercise during your pregnancy. A few things from the top of mind are stretches over a ball, pelvic floor exercises, relaxation techniques and yoga.
Kegel exercises increase your chance of having a normal delivery. Other exercise reduces your night cramps and also makes you tired enough to fall asleep in a jiffy. Yoga and neck massages on the other hand help you relax. Anxiety being a major reason for sleepless nights during a pregnancy, I would say you certainly should opt yoga as a regular with exercises.
Maintain Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is utmost important for a good healthy sleep. It helps making us a sleep wake cycle – a pattern by which our body decide when to sleep. This pattern takes a while to establish so you will need to be consistent with your efforts and once it is established, you won’t need anything else to help you sleep.
How to maintain sleep hygiene. A few things to remember are
- Do not take any meals or snacks just before going to sleep. Avoid exercises at sleep time.
- Use your bed for sleep. Do not watch TV or eat food in the bed.
- Go to sleep daily on same time, even if you are not feeling sleepy. Similarly, try to wake up from the bed on same time daily. It might take some time but you need to make this a habit.
- If you are having trouble sleep, do not indulge into thoughts. Instead, try counting it will make sleeping easier.
- Relax yourself before sleep, take a warm comfort bath. Wear comfortable clothes while going to sleep.
- A precaution only for pregnant females – keep lights on in bathroom, you do not want to slip.
Avoid Large Meals to sleep well in pregnancy
Large meals should be avoided altogether – pregnant or otherwise. There are certain dietary habits which I would advise to every pregnant female. These are:
- Avoid eating larger meals 1-2 hour before your sleep time. It will help your body to digest it before you go to sleep.
- Try eating smaller frequent meals instead of one large one. This will not only help you sleep but will also help reduce weight which can be a problem in pregnancy if you want to go for normal delivery.
- Chilli and spicy foods are a big no. They precipitate heartburn in pregnant females who are already at risk due to their physiology.
- Do not eat anything just before going to sleep, it is an unhealthy habit and won’t do you any good.
Keep Yourself Active
Keep yourself busy throughout the day, help out others in day to day activities. Be mobile. If possible go for shopping, movie or anything. It is suggested that you should avoid heavy work but that doesn’t mean you should avoid doing small work too. These small stuff take your mind off the extra stress you take during pregnancy and they also make your body in need of rest. So, when you lie down at the end of the day, it will be easier for you to go to sleep.
Going out during the day will help your time clock to understand day and night. Circadian rhythm is a way by which our body learns when to sleep and when to work. Sunlight and regular routine helps in that. Usually, pineal gland releases melatonin which modulates these sleep patterns.
Learn Your Pregnancy & Stop Worrying
Learning about pregnancy is important for your lifestyle at this time. You may join the classes about pregnancy, baby and delivery or you can also read books about these things. These things are the ones which make you anxious during the night and keep you awake.
Knowing about them helps alleviate the unnecessary worry and fear of them. We only fear what we don’t know. If you still have thoughts in your mind, try talking to your partner or jot them down in your diary and worry about them next day. Know this that everyone is with you in this pregnancy and whatever you are worrying about will be taken care of. Do not lie awake thinking stuff and sleep well in pregnancy.
Support During Sleep
Get yourself soft fluffy pillows and a lot of them. If possible get a full body pillow. Sleep posture is an important part of your sleep and it is quite difficult to maintain during pregnancy. Experts advise sleeping in left recumbent position i.e. sleeping on your left side. It helps increase blood flow to your uterus and thereby to your baby. Keep a pillow under your back and turn to your left side and have a good night’s sleep.
It is very difficult to sleep on your back or on your tummy and you will realize that I am right if you are pregnant, so left or right recumbent position is of course preferable for a pregnant lady. You can try keeping a pillow between your legs or raising your head end using pillows ( this will also reduce heartburn-remember gravity! ). This is also a comfortable position to sleep in. So as is said get loads of pillows.
Avoid Daytime Naps
These daytime naps are highly undesired. Sleep experts say these naps take a chunk of sleep out of your regular sleep and often it is difficult to go to sleep at night following these naps. You will sleep late or may not sleep at all. All in all your sleep wake cycle is bound to be disturbed. Next day your daytime nap will be longer and you will sleep barely at night. It will keep going on and you will have a hard time coming back to your original routine.
Still, daytime naps are a great way of relieving stress and if you can’t sleep during the night, these naps may be the only thing which is keeping you awake. Recommended nap time is half hour to one hour, prolonging these naps is not helpful. Go for them only when you are not having any sleep at all during night.
Avoid Passive Or Active Smoking
Any sort of smoking is harmful for your baby and your body. Cigarettes contain nicotine which is far more active stimulant than caffeine so you can obviously imagine the effect it will help on your sleep. Most pregnant females might not even be smoking, but don’t think you are impervious to cigarettes. If anyone in your family is smoking, means you are smoking maybe not actively but passively.
Passive cigarette smoking is just as bad, especially when your partner is the chief smoker in your family. For that means smoke will be in your home, your bedroom and everywhere. Try to make them quit this habit and if they can’t, try to stay away from them while they are smoking.
These few tips should help a regular sleep problem in pregnant ladies no matter which trimester they are in. A little advice – do not take sleep drugs without prescription, rather check twice with the doctor if he is writing a prescription for a sleep drug. Ask for safer drugs. Drugs can be very harmful for baby so tread carefully. You should better try these tips first and as in every other thing, this will need help from your partner. You need to communicate with your partner about these sleep problems and if none of above is helping you out, you should go see a doctor.
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