While the joys of pregnancy are many, there are a few things you probably don’t like, including sleep-disrupting discomfort. If you haven’t experienced changes in your sleep patterns yet chances are they’re coming soon. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep, and when you’re pregnant, your hard-working body may require more. To help you get all the rest you need, we’ve put together our best pregnancy sleep tips.
Know Pregnancy Sleep Challenges
You’ve got a lot working against a full night’s sleep, starting with your growing abdomen. Your first disruptor will probably be frequent bathroom trips due to growing pressure on the bladder. Your nighttime wanderings will only continue to increase as your due date approaches.
Even when you don’t have to use the bathroom, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to get comfortable at night. Back and ligament pain along with leg cramps are common issues that make falling and staying asleep a challenge.
And speaking of tossing and turning, your available sleep positions gets limited as your pregnancy progresses. Side sleeping, particularly the left side, is the safest and often most comfortable position for women at any stage of pregnancy.
Now that you have an idea of the kinds of challenges you’re likely to face, here’s how to dive into those challenges head (or belly) first.
Watch Your Evening Water Intake
First and foremost, stay hydrated. You’re building another human being and you need plenty of water to do that. However, the closer you get to your due date, the more pressure your uterus will put on your bladder. Try to drink all the fluids you need long before bedtime. In fact, it’s best if you can stop drinking two to three hours before bed so your bladder has time to empty before you fall asleep. While this isn’t foolproof, it can reduce your nightly visits to the bathroom.
Invest in Your Comfort
Pregnancy and comfort are two words that don’t generally go together. However, if you’re going to get a full night’s rest, you’ve got to do something to address comfort issues.
Side sleeping may be the only option left to you but that doesn’t mean it’s always comfortable. To keep the spine aligned despite an expanding waistline and weight gain, try an extra pillow or a body pillow between your knees. A body pillow can also be used as a support under your belly or behind your back.
Regulating your body temperature gets challenging too. All that extra blood flowing through your veins may make you feel overheated. Try natural fiber bedding made of breathable cotton or linen, a table fan on your nightstand, or open a window once the evening cools.
Watch What You Eat and When You Eat It
Your bladder isn’t the only organ that gets squished when you’re expecting. Pressure on the stomach often leads to uncomfortable heartburn, but you’ve got a few options to manage this one.
Be careful what, how much, and when you eat. Spicy dishes, citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeine, and tomatoes are common culprits but so too can fried and high-fat foods. Avoid these foods, especially in the evening. Try eating small, regular meals to avoid an overfull stomach.
Even with these precautions, occasional heartburn could keep you awake. If that’s the case, use gravity to help by sleeping in an upright position. An extra pillow or body pillow works well as an extra nighttime bolster behind your back.
Exercise helps you sleep in more ways than one. First, it wears you out so you’re more tired at night. That’s pretty obvious. However, talk to your physician about intensity and how long you should be exercising based on your personal circumstances.
Beyond physical fatigue, exercise also helps you address leg cramps. A regular regimen of both strengthening and stretching your quads, glutes, and calves can reduce these painful sleep disruptors.
Even though you’re exercising, prep for leg cramps anyway as preparation can help them pass more quickly. Clear an area so you have a direct path to a wall where you can stretch your muscles. Keep a heating pad nearby as heat naturally relaxes muscle tissue. And, prep your partner on how he can help in case of a tough nighttime cramp.
Sleep will become increasingly more difficult as your pregnancy progresses. But with a plan in place, you can address each challenge as it comes. Your sleep patterns may be different than they were pre-pregnancy, but you can certainly get all the rest you need as you prepare and make sleep a priority.