Ah, the joys of pregnancy! The warm feeling of new life growing in your belly; the knowing smiles from family, friends and strangers as they congratulate you on your leap into this miraculous adventure of a lifetime; the anxious anticipation of adding a new person to your family — there is no other time in your life when you will feel so revered and honored as when you are pregnant.
Too bad Mother Nature didn’t get the memo! Along with all the wonders of pregnancy come a few unpleasantries that herald the arrival of the tiny newcomer who is about to rock your world. Frequent bathroom breaks too numerous to count, new aches and pains, unabated nausea, and an ever-widening girth can make this prelude into motherhood challenging. And all of these bumps on the smooth road into motherhood can make a good night’s sleep a thing of the past.
For most women, figuring out how to sleep well during pregnancy is just one of the many challenges that make motherhood the toughest job you’ll ever love. According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 78% of women reported more sleep disturbances during pregnancy than at any other time in their lives. You know what that means? Well, for one thing, you’re not the only one tossing and turning at night. But it also means the sleep challenges don’t last forever.
And there’s more good news. There are steps you can take to minimize sleep disruptions and help you get the best possible sleep during your pregnancy. And, of course, at the end of nine months or so, you’ll be cradling a beautiful bundle of love and joy in your arms.
Let’s take a look at the ten most common sleep snatchers and how you can stop them from robbing you of precious sleep.
There’s a whole lotta growing goin’ on inside your body. You will soon notice not only your baby bump but a fuller figure all around. That means your favorite sleep positions may not work for you anymore. And they may be downright dangerous.
SOS — sleep on side — specifically, sleeping on your left side, is the best position for sleeping well and healthfully during your pregnancy. This position increases your blood flow and relieves pressure on your back. Several additional pillows can help. Put one between your knees to keep your hips aligned, one behind you to support your back, and one under your belly to support the baby’s weight. Or snuggle up to a body pillow to fill some of these supporting roles.
As your baby grows, your uterus begins to push on your diaphragm and lungs, making it difficult to breath while you sleep.
Using pillows to prop yourself into a semi-reclined position is a safe and comfortable alternative to the SOS position that takes the pressure off your lungs. In addition to propping up your upper body, place a pillow under your knees and one under each arm to prevent them from falling asleep.
Related: Best mattress for pregnancy
Morning sickness? Try “morning-noon-and night sickness.” While it’s not harmful to you or your baby unless it is severe, nausea will rob you of sleep and that can be harmful to both of you.
There are several ways to combat morning sickness that comes at night:
Pressure from your growing baby on your stomach can force acid into your esophagus, giving you painful heartburn, especially when you lie down at night.
The remedies for heartburn are similar to those for nausea. Be sure to avoid large meals near bedtime and eat slowly. Stay away from spicy and acidic foods.
Hormonal changes, increased blood volume, and your growing uterus pressing on your bladder all lead to more and more frequent bathroom runs that will disturb your sleep.
While you can’t eliminate the need to pee often, you can minimize the frequency.
Higher levels of estrogen and progesterone increase blood volume everywhere including your nasal membranes. This makes them swell and produce more mucus that stuffs up your nose and leads to postnasal drip that can keep you awake.
Saline sprays and nose strips can ease nighttime stuffiness and reduce snoring. Sleeping with your upper body elevated can also help make breathing easier.
It sounds like it’s related to washing, but it’s not. It just means that your bedtime routine and sleep environment are not optimal for sleeping well. Daytime stressors, certain foods, and late-night activities can steal your much-needed rest.
Clean up your bedtime ritual and stick to it.
You probably thought you had a year or two before you had to handle an active baby. Nope. Many pregnant women report feeling their babies kick at around 20 weeks, and baby doesn’t know when it’s time to sleep. But you can begin teaching your baby when to sleep even before they’re born.
Improving your sleep hygiene (see above) will help you and your baby fall asleep at night.
It’s not clear why pregnant women get leg cramps. Theories include compressed blood vessels in the legs restricting blood flow and low calcium and magnesium. Whatever the cause, they are painful muscle spasms that can jar you and your partner awake and keep you awake until they release and you calm down.
Increasing your intake of foods with calcium and magnesium may help. Staying active during the day, drinking plenty of water, and stretching your legs will help to prevent bothersome leg cramps.
RLS gives you an irresistible urge to move your legs as you feel a creeping and crawling sensation in your muscles. Definitely not relaxing.
Ask your doctor to test your levels of iron, magnesium, and vitamin D as deficiencies can cause RLS. Supplements can boost your levels. Daily exercise and avoiding caffeine can help keep RLS at bay.
Sleeping while pregnant can be tough. And you might start to consider sleeping aids to help you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Mom Loves Best blogger, Jenny Silverstone says, “If you can get by without sleeping aids while you’re pregnant, you should. Doctors aren’t completely sure how sleeping aids can impact your developing baby — although some kinds are known to be less harmful than others.”
Pregnancy is an exciting time of change and transformation both physically and metaphysically. Sleep difficulties are simply a part of the whole package, but they don’t have to rob you of the joys of being pregnant. Taking steps to minimize your sleep challenges will ensure you are rested and strong for your delivery and the next phase of life’s biggest adventure.
Learn all about how to help your child sleep from infancy to teenage years. Plus, learn about how you can get better sleep as a parent.