Almost all pregnant women have sleep problems of one sort or another at some point. These problems may include:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Sleep that isn't restful
- Waking up often during the night
- Trouble returning to sleep
Causes of sleep difficulties during pregnancy
A number of problems can contribute to your sleeplessness during pregnancy. During early pregnancy:
- The same pregnancy hormone that causes fatigue during the day can also disrupt your sleep cycle at night.
- You may have trouble finding a comfortable position for sleeping.
- You may find yourself waking up several times throughout the night to urinate.
As your pregnancy continues, a wide range of problems may disrupt your sleep.
- As the size of your abdomen increases, you may have trouble finding a comfortable position.
- Anxiety and stress can also contribute to sleeplessness, particularly as your due date approaches.
Other problems contributing to discomfort and insomnia include:
What you can do
Here are some tips to help you get enough rest:
Take a warm shower or bath at bedtime.
- Remember that your sense of balance is off during your pregnancy. Be careful not to slip in a wet tub!
- Never take a bath if you think your water has broken.
- Avoid placing yourself in stressful situations.
- Relaxation exercises, deep breathing or simply closing your eyes and imagining a peaceful scene may help.
- Nap when possible during the day
- This can help you avoid getting too tired, especially if you have a hard time getting restful sleep at night.
Avoid sleeping flat on your back.
- This position puts the full weight of your uterus on your back and on the major vein that carries blood between your lower body and heart.
- Sleeping on your back can increase your chances of getting backaches. It can also aggravate digestive problems, heartburn and hemorrhoids.
- Try to get used to sleeping on your side, particularly on your left side. This position can improve your circulation and help reduce swelling in your feet.
- Tuck one pillow between your legs.
- Use more pillows to support your back and abdomen.
- If you suffer from shortness of breath or heartburn, use pillows to lift up your upper body.
Make your room comfortable.
- Don't watch television or read in bed.
- Use your bed only for sleeping.
- Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature.
- Play some relaxing or natural sounds to help make you sleepy.
Go to bed earlier.
- You may need to go to bed earlier than usual, especially if you find yourself waking up several times during the night.
- Go to bed when you feel tired. Don't push yourself to stay awake until your usual bedtime.
Avoid getting up during the night.
- Drink adequate fluids earlier in the day, but avoid drinking anything for the two or three hours before bedtime. This will reduce the number of times you need to get up to urinate.
- If you are often troubled by heartburn, eat your last meal of the day several hours before lying down or going to sleep.
- To prevent nighttime leg cramps, gently stretch your leg muscles before bedtime.
- Unless your health care provider has advised against it, get at least 2 1/2 hours of aerobic exercise every week. This means that most pregnant women should try to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most, if not all, days.
- Even moderate exercise, like walking, can help you get a better night's sleep.
- Always be sure to find out from your provider what exercises are safe for you and how long you can maintain your exercise program.
Do not take sleeping medications.
- Always talk to your health care provider before taking any medications.
When to talk to your health care provider
Talk to your health care provider if your sleeplessness lasts a long time or continues to increase. If anxiety and stress are contributing to sleeplessness, your provider may be able to suggest support groups and other resources that may help.