How to Get Better Pregnancy Sleep

By Elise Morgan
Boston NAPS Guest Blogger

Sleep can be an elusive thing when you’re pregnant. Although you might be fighting feelings of tiredness through the day – especially in the first and third trimesters - getting to sleep and staying there can be a challenge.

If that sounds like you, you’re not alone: 78 percent of pregnant women have difficulty sleeping, according to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation. The good news is, you don’t have to endure sleepless nights for the next nine months.

Hormones and pregnancy sleep

 As your body changes with your growing baby, your usual sleeping position might become uncomfortable, or even impossible. The reasons can be attributed more to your increasing belly.

Hormone changes necessary for the healthy development of your child can be detrimental for sleep and increase your risk of sleep apnea and snoring.

  • Relaxin: Detected around weeks 7 to 10 of pregnancy, relaxin is a hormone produced by your body throughout pregnancy. It is responsible for softening the joints, muscles and ligaments to help make room for the growing baby. This can lead to pain and discomfort, particularly in the pelvic area, and constipation due to reduced gut motion. Read more about hormones of pregnancy and labor.

  • Other hormones: Changes to other hormone levels in pregnant women, including progesterone, estrogen, oxytocin and cortisol, are also thought to change sleep architecture and, at least in part, contribute to the sleep difficulties encountered throughout pregnancy, according to a study on pregnancy sleep disorders published by the National Institutes of Health.

 Sleeping tips during pregnancy

  • Sleep on your side: Sleeping on your side is the recommended position throughout pregnancy as it optimizes the flow of blood and oxygen to your unborn baby. Keep your legs bent and consider using a pregnancy pillow to maintain a side sleeping position throughout the night.

  • Reduce liquid intake at night: For many women, frequent nighttime calls of nature wake them up at night. The pressure on your bladder from your growing baby causes the urge to go more frequently. Avoid consuming caffeinated drinks and cut back on beverages of all kinds in the evening.

  • Try stretching or a massage: Aches and pains, particularly leg cramps, are common during pregnancy. They can make it difficult to fall asleep, or provide a rude and painful awakening at night. Stretching before bed or even a leg massage can alleviate the discomfort. If this doesn’t provide relief, talk to your doctor about magnesium or calcium supplements.

  • Move back your bedtime: Although it may seem counterintuitive, try heading to bed a little later than usual. Instead of staying up with an additional helping of your favorite TV series, fill the time with restful activities that don’t include blue light to get you in the mood for sleep. (Blue light encourages alertness.) ,Instead, fill the additional time with a calming bath, reading a good book or even a relaxing yoga routine.

 Getting good sleep during your pregnancy is important for both you and your baby. Ensuring great sleep during pregnancy and establishing a bedtime routine for yourself can set you up for better sleep through early parenthood and into the future. Understanding your sleep needs, the impact of sleepless nights and how to mitigate the sleep problems is valuable knowledge to add to your arsenal of sleep tactics and solutions.

Elise is a freelance writer located in North Carolina who has recently found her passion writing about all things health and wellness. Elise has two wonderful kids of her own, and understands how difficult it can be for soon-to-be moms to get great sleep while pregnant, so she hopes these tips can provide as a resource to those struggling with sleepiness.