Gearing up for sleepless nights once your little one arrives is something on every mother’s mental checklist. But when those sleepless nights arrive before the due date, you may find yourself frustrated and exhausted. Up to 80% of women experience some type of insomnia or sleep disturbance during pregnancy. It is more common in the third trimester as your belly grows and general discomfort increases, although it can also take its toll in the first and second trimesters as well.
Importance of sleep during pregnancy
Not only does it feel great to rest, but our body heavily relies on it to function properly. During pregnancy, your body is working overtime and exerting extra energy to grow your little one. This is why it is even more important to get consistent sleep each night. Most adults need at least 4-5 completed sleep cycles within a 24 hour period. An adult sleep cycle is about 90 minutes, so this equates to the recommendation to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
It’s important to remember that if you’re struggling with insomnia, this will not harm your baby directly. Most often, a lack of sleep has the greatest impact on your mood, memory, appetite, decision making, daytime sleepiness, and stress levels. If you find yourself over-emotional about little things, a solid nap may be the best medicine for you (source).
However, studies have found lack of sleep to be a risk factor for a variety of potential pregnancy complications. Without sleep, our body releases additional cortisol into the body, which is your stress hormone (source). Sleep is an important factor in blood sugar regulation, which is why mothers with poor sleep habits have a greater risk for gestational diabetes mellitus (source). In addition, a lack of sleep has been found to be a risk factor for preeclampsia, preterm birth, cesarean section, and increased labor pains (source).
What can you do?
All things considered, if you’re struggling with sleep deprivation it’s definitely worth implementing new strategies to increase your hours of catching z’s. Let’s review a few common issues, and what could help you with them.
1. You’re uncomfortable (Most common in the third trimester)
- Try sleeping on your side with a pillow to support underneath your belly, as well as a pillow behind your back. Two wedge pillows may be helpful to get that perfect fit and find maximum comfort! Our favorite is linked here.
- A pillow between your knees may also assist in relieving hip pain.
- Gravity is your friend! Sleep at an incline to prevent extra acid from traveling upward.
- Avoid spicy, heavy, and friend foods.
- If okayed by your doctor, tums can be a very effective way to treat heartburn.
3. Frequent Urination
- Drink plenty of fluids during the day, but avoid excessive water intake about 2 hours before bedtime. This will give your body enough time to process your intake before hitting the pillow.
- Always fully empty your bladder each time you urinate. Lean forward and give yourself a couple of extra minutes to empty every drop possible.
- Limit your caffeine, as caffeine is a diuretic.
- Place a dim night light in your bathroom so that you don’t get jarred awake by the bathroom lights.
- Part of the urgency for urination that you’re feeling is the pressure from your uterus sitting on your bladder. This pressure increases as your belly continues to grow. Experimenting with different positioning may help, but is something you just need to deal with until the baby arrives!
4. Your mind is racing or you’re feeling anxious
- Develop a bedtime routine that will get your thoughts in the right headspace, then stick to it! This routine may include eliminating screen time for an hour before when you’d like to sleep, a warm shower, meditation, or connecting with your baby.
- Worries keep many of us up at night. Take some time to write your worries down on paper. This may help you process them, and think of possible solutions. Taking the time to do this can help you offload all your racing thoughts. Hopefully, you will be able to rest easier after doing this. Although difficult, try to shelve the worries that you can’t do anything about.
- Using a meditation app such as Calm or Headspace can be very helpful and teach techniques to allow racing thoughts to pass.
- If you’re feeling anxious about the health of your baby, or feel like something is “off”, never hesitate to call your doctor’s office or prenatal care provider. Most offices have after-hour on-call nurses who can help walk you through any health-related concerns.
5. You’ve got insomnia (you have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep)
- Take time to relax: a warm bath, a foot/shoulder massage, or reading a book could help you unwind.
- Try not to drink coffee, caffeinated tea, or caffeinated soda after 3 p.m.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes per day. Exercise helps you sleep better and fall asleep quicker. Try not to exercise within 4 hours of bedtime.
- Prepare your Bedroom: keep your room dark, cool, and quiet
- If you are lying in bed wide awake, get up and distract yourself until you are tired enough to fall asleep. Doing this normally helps more than staring at the ceiling.
6. You’re too hot
- Pregnancy is like having an internal heater attached to your core at all times. If you find yourself feeling too hot to sleep, try using a fan, minimizing layers of clothing, and swapping out your comforter for a more lightweight one. If the weather permits, keep the windows open for a nice breeze of fresh air.
7. Take naps during the day as needed
- Some mothers find it easier to nap during the day than to sleep all night long.
- Remember that getting a completed sleep cycle (at least 90 minutes of sleep) will help you to feel restored and refreshed!
- Take advantage of opportunities to catch up on sleep during the day!
If you feel you have tried everything and just can’t get to sleep, consult with your doctor about other options. There are pharmacological methods that could be used if recommended by your provider. They will be able to help guide you in the right direction to find a full night’s rest!