How To Sleep Better During Pregnancy

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March 18, 2019

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Sleep is important for our overall health and is something all Sweat Trainers prioritise, but when it comes to getting a good sleep during pregnancy, it isn’t always easy! 

Although you need more rest when you’re expecting, it can be difficult to find comfortable sleeping positions, stay asleep, or get a good night’s rest. 

According to John Hopkins Medicine, getting enough sleep is very important during pregnancy, as research has shown that women who don’t get enough may have a higher risk of developing pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure.

Here are some tips to help you get better sleep during your pregnancy.

Common pregnancy sleep problems

Each stage of pregnancy can feel different and bring new challenges. According to Mayo Clinic, fatigue and daytime sleepiness are common in the early stages of pregnancy due to increased hormone levels and metabolism. 

Later in your pregnancy when your belly is bigger, carrying the extra weight of your baby can leave you feeling tired, too - not to mention the energetic toll of any other daily responsibilities such as work, studying or caregiving.

Aside from general fatigue, it’s also common to experience other symptoms that can make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or have a nice deep sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed. These can include:

  • Leg cramps, backaches or tender breasts

  • Restless leg syndrome

  • Heartburn or reflux

  • Nausea or morning sickness

  • A busy mind or feeling anxious

  • Unusual dreams

  • Shortness of breath

  • The movement of your baby

  • An increased heart rate

  • Needing to go to the toilet frequently

How much sleep do you need during pregnancy?

Make it a priority to try and get an average of 7-8 hours of sleep while pregnant. Even if sleeping through the night is difficult, setting aside the time and spending it in bed means you can still be resting.  

Many mums-to-be find it difficult to get enough restful, restorative sleep. Whether you need to catch up on lost sleep or are feeling generally more fatigued during the day, taking short naps (or even just a lie down!) can help you to get the rest you need.

Sleeping during the first trimester

Lots of women deal with nausea and morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy, which can lead to poor sleep. 

If nausea is keeping you up, experiment with food and drink to see what makes a difference. Having a light snack before bed may help to settle your stomach, and cutting back on caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea can also be a good idea. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that for pregnant women who have a high daily intake of caffeine (in excess of 300mg per day) lowering this during pregnancy is advised to reduce the risk of pregnancy loss and low birth weight. Too much caffeine can also increase your heart rate and mental awareness, making it hard to sleep, while the acidic nature of coffee can irritate your stomach lining. 

During the first trimester, there are a lot of changes happening and it’s normal to feel more tired than usual. Try to follow a consistent bedtime routine each night and set aside time during the day for extra rest if you need and your schedule allows. If your days are busy, an earlier bedtime may be a good idea!

To make things easier as your pregnancy progresses, try to get out of the habit of sleeping on your back as soon as possible. According to the NHS, research shows that after 28 weeks, falling asleep on your back can double the risk of stillbirth due to how it can affect the flow of blood and oxygen to your baby. 

Researchers encourage sleeping on your left side as this minimises the chance of compressing the vena cava, which can result in reduced blood flow to the fetus and maternal hypotension. 

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Sleeping during the second trimester

During the second trimester, hormonal changes can leave you feeling congested and lead to snoring or difficulty breathing easily. Nasal sprays, sleeping on your side or having a humidifier running can help to reduce this, but speak with your healthcare professional for advice or if you have any concerns. 

Every pregnancy is different, and while the second trimester can be easier on some women, others may find it the same or even more challenging. Continue trying to get 7-8 hours of sleep per day and do what you need to make your sleep more comfortable as your belly grows. 

A pregnancy pillow can help to make lying on your side more comfortable, and placing a pillow behind your back can offer extra support.

If you’re experiencing leg cramps, gently stretch your calf muscles or flex your toes. Being active during the day and staying hydrated can also help to minimise cramps.

Sleeping during the third trimester

During this trimester, it’s important to sleep on your side, so that pregnancy pillow might come in handy even more now! Move it to a position that feels best, whether that’s supporting your belly, between your legs, or with your arm over it. The NHS says not to worry if you wake up in the night on your back - just turn over onto your side and go to sleep again. 

Backaches are common in this final stage of pregnancy and can affect your sleep, so keep an extra pillow handy for back support, and consider doing some postural exercises to help reduce aches and pains by keeping your back strong and opening up your chest. 

Your baby might now be pressing on your bladder more, which can mean frequent trips to the toilet during the night. Pelvic floor exercises are great to maintain your strength during and beyond your pregnancy.

If you are finding it hard to sleep, don’t force it. Read for a little while and see if you become sleepy again. 

As always, make sure you are checking in with your doctor regularly throughout this time and listen to your body.

Tips for a restful sleep during pregnancy

These are a few things you can do to improve your sleep throughout each trimester:

  • Get into a bedtime routine — try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day 

  • Try to reduce the amount of liquid you drink just before bed to reduce trips to the toilet

  • Exercise during the day. Doing some pregnancy-friendly low-impact workouts can help to make sleeping easier 

  • Listen to music or a meditation track to calm your mind

  • Invest in a pregnancy pillow

  • Keep a notebook by your bed - either to journal before bed or jot down important things you think of in the middle of the night

  • Try to sleep with an extra pillow under your head -this can help to minimise heartburn  

  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool, or buy an eye mask

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Try these tips for better sleep while pregnant

During your pregnancy, how much sleep you get can have a significant impact on how you feel each day, but all the changes your body is going through can make it hard to get the rest you need. 

Be gentle with yourself, listen to your body and do what feels right for you, communicate regularly with your healthcare professional, and do your best to prioritise your sleep each day during this incredible time.

Disclaimer: Although exercise during and after pregnancy has been associated with multiple health benefits, you should consult with and obtain permission from your physician or other health care provider before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for you, especially while pregnant and in the months following your pregnancy. Not all exercise is suitable for everyone or every pregnancy and exercises, including those contained in this article, may result in injury. Do not start this fitness program if your physician or health care provider advises against it. This article is for informational purposes only. Any instruction, information, or guidance contained in this article is not a substitute for medical advice, consultation, and/or medical treatment from your doctor or healthcare provider. Do not delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of any instruction, information or guidance contained in this article. You are responsible for your own safety and are participating in this fitness activity at your own risk. Start slowly and do not exceed the exercise recommended by your physician or health care provider. If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain, discomfort, bleeding, or shortness of breath at any time while exercising, stop immediately and seek medical advice.

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A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


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