Everyone knows sleep is hard to come by after baby arrives. But pregnant women face challenges getting their zzz’s as well. Fluctuating hormones, an expanding belly, and a host of other issues can interfere with a mama-to-be’s circadian rhythms. But better sleep while pregnant is possible, here’s how.
1. Quell Nausea
For some mamas, the achiness and nausea of morning sickness (which unfortunately might occur at any hour of the day) can interfere with a good night’s sleep. To help you through it, stash crackers and water or juice on your bedside table. That way you can try to soothe your stomach without the disruption of leaving your bed.
2. Get Regular Exercise
Unless your doctor advises against it, you should exercise regularly: think light 30-minute daily workouts. Exercising in the morning, afternoon, and early evening can help you sleep better at night. But avoid working out late in the evening, as this exertion could cause insomnia.
3. Be Smart About Fluids
Pregnant women are famous for their midnight trips to the bathroom, particularly in the first and third trimesters. It’s important to drink a lot of hydrating liquids when you’re expecting. But for your best sleep, you’ll want to limit your fluid intake after 6 pm. And keep the caffeinated drinks to the morning hours only, or you might still be affected by the stimulant come bedtime.
4. Take Short Naps
Pregnancy can be exhausting, especially in the first trimester when your progesterone levels are peaking and your body is diverting all energy to your baby. Try to sneak in an afternoon nap, preferably between 2 and 4 pm when your body is likely hitting a drop in your circadian sleep cycle. Short 30- or 45-minute naps are better than longer ones, which might actually make you feel more tired overall.
5. Utilize Pillows
Pillows might be a pregnant woman’s best friend. You probably know you can’t sleep on your back after 20 weeks and that snoozing on your left side maximizes the oxygen flow to your baby. Try tucking a pillow in between your legs once you’ve settled yourself on your side; it will help ease any lower-back pain you might be experiencing. A pillow under your belly or a full-body pillow can also provide support and bear some of the weight of your growing bod.
6. Talk to Your Doctor
If you’re finding yourself snoring and severely, speak to your doctor. Some women, especially those who start out their pregnancies on the heavier side, develop sleep apnea during their pregnancies. Let your doctor know if you’ve started snoring or if you find yourself waking yourself up to breathe. Your doctor might prescribe the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to make sure you and the baby are getting enough oxygen.
7. Nix Heartburn
Heartburn is the bane of many a pregnant woman’s sleep routine. The increasing size of the uterus can crowd the stomach and push acid up the esophagus, which doesn’t make for pleasant sleeping conditions! Aim to eat a small dinner at least four hours before lying down to give your body enough time to digest, and consider sleeping with your torso slightly propped up to let gravity do its job on stomach acid. And avoid eating spicy, fried, and acidic foods.
8. Try to Relax
Feeling anxious over becoming a mom? That common worry and the many others mamas experience can lead to wild, sleep-disrupting dreams and insomnia. Focus on relaxing your mind and body in the hours before bedtime. Prenatal yoga, meditation, a warm bath, an evening stroll, or reading are a few soothing activities that can help ease anxiety and create a sense of calm and (hopefully) sleepiness.
9. Head Off Leg Cramps
Leg cramps are common in pregnant women, and some mamas even report developing restless leg syndrome (RLS). Since nothing disrupts a good night’s sleep faster than a twitchy calf, it’s best to take preventative measures against them. Eating foods rich in iron, folate, and calcium can help head off leg cramps. You’ll also want to go easy on the carbonated beverages, including soda water, as they can interfere with your body’s calcium absorption and lead to cramps.
10. Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment
Do whatever it takes to set yourself up for pregnancy sleep success! Install a nightlight in your hallway or bathroom so you don’t have to turn on the eye-opening overhead with every trip to the potty. Keep a journal on your nightstand to jot down any worries that might wake you up, and promise yourself to think about them in the morning. A fan can keep cool air flowing on a queasy body. And if you find that the only place you’re comfortable conking out is in the overstuffed chair in the living room, then start considering that your new bedroom. You’re growing another life, mama. You sleep wherever and whenever you can!