When you become pregnant, a lot more changes than just your shape. Along with an expanding waistline, hormonal changes and morning sickness, pregnancy can result in significant changes to your sleeping habits.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at one aspect of pregnancy that surprises a great deal of expectant mothers: the effect that the physical changes in your body during pregnancy can have on your energy levels and sleep requirements.
Ready to start? Whether you’re planning a pregnancy, in your first trimester or just want to learn more about the practical side of pregnancy, read on to learn about the effects pregnancy can have on the way you sleep.
How does pregnancy change the way you sleep?
Most mothers anticipate certain things during pregnancy. From weight gain to aches and pains, the most well-known body changes of pregnancy are documented in most pregnancy books and on all pregnancy websites.
One aspect of pregnancy that often isn’t documented is sleep. During pregnancy, the amount of sleep you need can increase and the effects of insufficient sleep – fatigue, stress and anxiety – can become far more troublesome.
Pregnancy can bring on a wide variety of sleep disturbances. These can range from heartburn and nausea to cramps and muscular discomfort. As time goes on, a good night’s sleep can become increasingly elusive for many expectant mothers.
I have a good husband. My heartburn was so bad during my pregnancy that I had to sleep in the chair. pic.twitter.com/a2ytNPDEMg
— Generations of Savin (@genofsavings) July 6, 2014
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 78 per cent of women deal with sleep disturbances during pregnancy. Most of the time, the sleep-related side effects of pregnancy become more of an issue for mothers as their pregnancies progress.
One of the biggest problems many expectant mothers face is insomnia. Most of the time, insomnia starts during the first trimester. Pregnancy-related insomnia often results in mothers falling asleep easily but waking up repeatedly during the night.
This means many pregnant women sleep in intervals lasting 20 minutes to several hours, instead of the standard six to 10 hour block of continuous sleep.
Comfortable sleep is impossible at the last stage of pregnancy. Baby girl is killing me
— Nicole Polizzi (@snooki) July 21, 2014
While the conditions that affect each mother are often different, the end result is the same: getting a full night of undisturbed sleep while pregnant is difficult, especially when you don’t make changes to your sleeping habits.
Luckily, many of the negative effects that pregnancy has on sleep can be avoided or lessened with the right changes to your sleep routine. Read on to learn simple tips and tricks that you can use to make getting a full night’s sleep less of a struggle.
The importance of deep sleep during pregnancy
Before we look at the best ways to improve your sleep while pregnant, let’s look at why it’s important to get a full night’s sleep. When you’re pregnant, you’re not just sleeping for yourself – you’re also sleeping for your child.
When you don’t get enough sleep, many of your body’s essential processes start to slow down. You extract fewer nutrients from food and your heart’s ability to pump blood throughout your body diminishes, making you more likely to develop heart disease and high blood pressure.
It’s a cruel twist of nature that in my last few weeks to sleep through the night, pregnancy is keeping me awake.
— Kate Eames Muhlbaier (@KateMuhlbaier) July 22, 2014
For an expectant mother, this can mean fewer nutrients reaching the foetus, poor blood flow and, in many cases, exhaustion. Good sleep is much more than just an important aspect of a healthy pregnancy – it’s absolutely essential.
Changing your sleep habits for an easier pregnancy
While not all of the sleep disturbances caused by pregnancy can be avoided, many can be made more bearable by changing your habits. These 10 simple tips can help make your pregnancy less exhausting and far more manageable:
1. While it’s best to avoid high-intensity exercise while you’re pregnant, low-intensity exercise like walking, swimming and yoga can help stop cramps from compromising your sleep.
Searching for pregnancy-friendly exercises? Baby Center’s Exercise During Pregnancy section lists lots of great exercise routines for expectant mothers.
2. Make up for lost sleep during the day by napping frequently. One or two half-hour naps are often all it takes to recover from a night of uncomfortable sleep or insomnia.
3. Give up coffee and caffeinated energy drinks. While there’s no consensus on the ‘safe’ amount of caffeine to drink during pregnancy (experts suggest no more than 200mg per day) it’s best to avoid caffeine altogether.
4. If you feel nauseous at night, avoid spicy or flavoursome foods at dinner. The best way to eliminate nausea is by eating bland foods like bread or plain rice in the evening. The less it tastes, the less likely it is to upset your stomach.
5. Avoid sleeping on your back after the first trimester. While sleeping on your back occasionally is rarely an issue, it’s best to sleep on your side to prevent the weight of your uterus pressing into veins and reducing blood flow.
6. Create a pre-sleep routine. Eat supper, shower and slip into your pyjamas at the same time every night to make falling asleep more consistent. Our guide to getting deeper, better sleep explains how to develop a pre-sleep routine.
7. Avoid fried and acidic foods if heartburn is keeping you awake. Another good way to fight heartburn is to eat at least two hours before you sleep, stopping acidic food from re-entering your oesophagus.
8. Feeling uncomfortable? Experts recommend sleeping on the left side of your body to maximise blood flow to the foetus and your vital organs. If you need more support, consider sleeping with a pregnancy body pillow.
9. Stay hydrated by drinking at least eight tall glasses of water per day. As well as combating dry skin and aiding digestion, drinking plenty of water makes it easier for you to fall asleep at night. 10. Relax and avoid stress. As tempting as it might be to keep working until late in your pregnancy, studies show that the stress of a full-time job can make it harder to fall asleep, even in your first trimester.
What is your pregnancy sleep tip?
Did you suffer from insomnia or sleep discomfort during your pregnancy? If you’ve discovered an unconventional or creative solution to the sleep issues many mothers face, let us know and share it in the comments.