As you move along in your pregnancy, sleep might become a bit of a challenge. Should this happen you are not alone. Very few women are able to sleep peacefully and continuously throughout the night while pregnant. It’s certainly not something to worry about either, as sleeping difficulties are completely normal.
Why does it happen? It is the result of the increase in progesterone levels, which make you feel sleepier in the daytime and mess up your natural sleep patterns. Your uterus is also pressing against your bladder which increases your need to pee, and the constant getting up and trying to sleep again can hinder a good night’s sleep.
Your belly is increasing in size at this time and your usual sleeping position no longer feels comfortable. Sometimes it can be completely psychological too; the fears of motherhood or the seemingly daunting task of juggling your child, relationships and work at the same time might all be overwhelming. One very simple thing you can do to really boost the quality of your sleep is to tweak your sleeping position.
The best position to sleep in while pregnant is on your side, specifically on your left. In fact, it is recommended that you start sleeping in this position from the twelfth week of your pregnancy. Sleeping on your left side takes some of the weight off the right side. This will boost the amount of blood and nutrition that reaches the placenta and thus, your baby.
Sleep Position Risks
While wanting to sleep on your back or stomach, as usual, might be extremely tempting, here are the associated risks with sleeping in such positions:
- Plenty of strain on your back
- Your belly bump will move inside your stomach
- Reduce blood flow to heart and placenta
- Increase in backaches
- Increase in breathing difficulties
- Strain on your digestive system
- Low blood pressure
- Reduce blood flow to heart and placenta
In fact, sleeping on your side has been found to reduce the chances of stillbirth as reported by the National Health Services, UK. If changing your sleep position sounds challenging having slept in a specific position all your life, get a pregnancy body pillow. There are a number of these in the market, each to cater to a different need. There is the basic pregnancy wedge pillow which will support your bump alone as you sleep to the U-shaped pregnancy body pillow which wraps all around you to give you the support and comfort you need. Be sure to do your research and consider factors like whether you want memory foam or a feather-filled pillow.
If you wake and find yourself in a totally different position, don’t worry about it! The body readjusts itself when it’s uncomfortable. Sleeping in another position such as on your back would be extremely uncomfortable enough for your body to naturally wake you up anyway. So, there are high chances that you haven’t been in this new position for long. If you’re worried, get your partner to check on you through the night to adjust you.
Tips For Better Sleep
Since a comfortable position might not be enough on its own, here are some tips to get the sleep that you need:
- Cut down water intake before sleeping. This will minimize the need to get up in the middle of the night to pee.
- Do some gentle exercise like yoga or go for a walk in the day.
- Relax! Stress is insomnia’s best friend. So, don’t stress about being unable to sleep. Read a book or do some meditation to see if you can get drowsy. Diffuse some lavender oil to keep stress levels at bay. Make sure you have vented concerns from the day in a journal, or to your friend or partner.
- Get comfortable. Use as many pillows as you need and make sure the temperature of the room is comfortable for you. Cooler rooms help you sleep better.
- Keep your head elevated to minimize heartburn. As the uterus grows, it presses against the stomach which pushes up acid to the esophagus. When you lie down, this is exaggerated so prop more pillows if you need. Minimize or eliminate fried, spicy, and acidic food as a precaution.
- If sleeping continuously at night seems hard, take 20 to 30-minute naps throughout the day. Just be sure not to nap for too long as they might exhaust you more than you were initially.
- If you experience leg cramps or restless leg syndrome, talk to your healthcare provider. They may prescribe magnesium for the former and run an iron test for the latter.
Sleeping during your pregnancy might be hard and challenging but trying to tough it out for the next few months with as minimum sleep as possible is not a good idea. Sleep keeps your immune system and pregnancy brain in check. Also, women with less than six hours of sleep a day tend to have longer labors, higher likelihood for Cesareans, and complications such as preeclampsia and gestational hypertension. So, do what you have to do to get your sleep! Having said that, at the end of the day, the number of hours you have slept is not the sole marker for whether you’ve had enough sleep. If you feel like you’re sleeping more than enough and are still tired beyond the natural exhaustion that comes with pregnancy, see your healthcare provider. They will be able to help you get back to sleeping like a baby!