How can I get better sleep while pregnant?

Sleeping while pregnant

You’re pregnant and always tired. Yet, somehow you can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep. It seems like there’s always something keeping you up, no matter how tired you are. Growing a baby is hard. Your changing body can make it difficult to get comfortable. You may even be dealing with morning sickness or heartburn. Understanding the barriers to good pregnancy sleep is a good place to start if you want more shut-eye.

Sleep barriers by pregnancy trimester

Your body is constantly changing when you’re pregnant. The sleep issues you experience during your first trimester may change by the end of your pregnancy. Having an idea about what to expect can help you deal with the changes as they come.

First trimester

During your first few months of pregnancy, your body probably doesn’t look like it’s going through a lot of changes. Most of your friends and family probably don’t even notice you’re expecting. Which should make sleep a breeze, right? Unfortunately, the high influx of pregnancy hormones in your system can disrupt your sleep. You may experience:

  • Nausea. Morning sickness doesn’t only happen in the morning. You can be sick any time of day or night. And when you’re vomiting or feeling nauseous at 3 a.m., you’re not going to sleep well. The fix: Figure out what helps your nausea and keep it nearby. Nausea is often worse when your stomach is empty so keep saltine crackers or ginger ale on your nightstand so you don’t have to run to the kitchen during the middle of the night. Talk to your doctor if your nausea is severe.
  • Frequent urination. You don’t need a full-sized baby pushing on your bladder to need the bathroom more frequently. Pregnancy hormones and a growing uterus can do that for you. The fix: Don’t drink a lot of fluids late at night. Cutting caffeine later in the day will also help.
  • Aches, pains, and feeling tired all the time. As your body undergoes some pretty significant changes, there will be body aches. Whether your breasts hurt, or you have pelvic cramping, aches and pains can make it hard to sleep. You might also feel the need to nap during the day. The fix: Exercise early in the day (later in the day might be keeping you up) and schedule your sleep. If you nap, avoid napping for longer than an hour and never nap late in the day.

Second trimester

The second trimester is generally known to be a time when pregnancy is easier, which means you should be getting some rest. If you’re still not getting the shut-eye you’d like, it might be because of the following issues:

  • Leg cramps. Pregnancy leg cramps start to set in during the second trimester, and they worsen in the third trimester. These cramps usually happen in your calf, but can affect any part of your leg or feet. The fix: When a leg cramp sets in, point your toes toward your head and hold that position. This movement can ease cramping. However, avoid pointing your toes in the opposite direction or away from your head (which can make cramping worse). Massaging the area or walking around after a cramp can also ease the pain and soreness afterwards.
  • Dreams. Pregnant women can have some crazy, vivid dreams. These dreams can be made worse by stress. The fix: Relax on a regular basis. Try meditation and other relaxation techniques. You might also find that enrolling in a parenting class or talking to a counselor about your concerns will ease stressful dreams.
  • Heartburn. As your uterus grows, it places pressure on your stomach, which means stomach acid moves up your throat. Lying in bed to sleep can make this worse. The fix: Avoid foods that cause heartburn (spicy, acidic, or fried). Instead of laying down right after meals, stay upright. You can also prop yourself up when you sleep to counteract the heartburn.

Third trimester

During the third trimester, you’ll probably experience more trouble sleeping than any other time during your pregnancy. This is partially because you’re larger than usual as you near the end of your pregnancy. Finding a comfortable sleep position is difficult. You may also experience the following:

  • Back pain. A combination of the hormones of pregnancy that relax the ligaments in your joints and lower back and your growing belly may be causing back pain that keeps you up. The fix: Exercise and stretch often to keep your back in good shape. Sleep on your left side and use a pillow between your knees or under your stomach.
  • Frequent urination. Again, your growing baby is starting to put pressure on your bladder, which causes you to get up and go frequently at night. The fix: D the amount of liquids you drink starting in the late afternoon.
  • Restless leg syndrome. Can’t keep your legs still? About 20% of pregnant women can’t either, which makes sleeping harder. The fix: Pre-bedtime evening walks and leg massages. You can also stock up on foods rich in iron and folate, which can help reduce your restless leg syndrome.
  • Breathing issues. Congestion and weight gain can lead to snoring and even sleep apnea. The fix: Sleep on your left side. Discuss your breathing and sleep issues with your doctor or a certified sleep specialist.

Pregnancy sleep positions

When you’re pregnant, finding a comfortable position to sleep in can be challenging at best. Sleeping on your back isn’t recommended because it can obstruct blood vessels and slow blood circulation for you and your baby. But sleeping on your stomach will hurt your belly or breasts or cause stomach problems. So what’s a girl to do? Side sleeping is considered the safest for you and your baby. Most doctors and experts recommend sleeping on your left side whenever possible because it’ll improve circulation and protect your liver but either side is fine; just find the spot that’s most comfortable for you. Need ideas on how to get comfortable?

  • Prop with pillows. Placing a pillow between your knees or underneath your tummy can give you extra support. A full body pillow is great for this. Pillows positioned in the right way can also keep you from rolling onto your back or stomach while you sleep.
  • Prop up the top of your bed a few inches with books or blocks. This will elevate your head and help reduce heartburn.
  • Placing a pillow under your hip will allow you to lay more on your back without being completely flat.

No matter what you do, sleeping while you’re pregnant is a challenge. But understanding why you’re having a hard time sleeping will help you address the problems head on so you can catch some z’s.