There is no greater joy than that which is derived from carrying your child. Unfortunately, there is also no greater pain.
Experiencing pregnancy can be a beautiful period of your life, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t painful. While you’re busy carrying another growing human, your body undergoes many changes. You’ll experience swelling, aches and pains, nausea, and the challenges of learning to adjust to normal life with an ever-expanding girth.
One area where this causes major complications is your sleep. In fact, according to a poll from the National Sleep Foundation, 78 percent of women reported suffering from more sleep disturbances while pregnant than at any other point in their lives. That’s a lot of lost ZZZs!
It’s time we stand up for our sleep. Of course we know sleep is a critical component to our well-being, but it becomes all the more important while experiencing pregnancy. Losing sleep will hurt both you and your baby. Research has linked loss of sleep in pregnant women to decreases in immune function, increases in depression, and increased risk of complications during birth. While the research is still limited, the obvious truth is hard to ignore. Less sleep = more problems.
To protect yourself and your growing baby, you’ll want to do everything you can to ensure your proper sleep. Don’t know how? This guide will help you combat all your issues of discomfort so you can have sweet dreams throughout your entire pregnancy.
The Baby Bump
Let’s start with the most obvious issue: The Bump. Around your second trimester (and definitely by your third) you’ll start to notice it isn’t so easy to find comfort in the bed anymore. Your growing baby bump, while adorable, may start to feel like a nuisance. This means your favorite sleeping position may not be viable anymore; in fact, it could even be dangerous.
Stomach sleeping is the most uncomfortable, and hazardous, position for pregnant women to choose. Once you enter your second trimester, applying pressure on your uterus by lying on your stomach can be extremely dangerous. Lying on your belly will put pressure on your inferior vena cava, the large vein responsible for carrying blood from your lower body to your heart, meaning blood flow is restricted for both you and baby. Sleeping on your back is no better. In this position, you put pressure on both your aorta and vena cava.
To rectify this issue, experts recommend sleeping on your side (specifically the left) for both comfort and safety. While sleeping on your left side, you allow for increased blood flow and place less pressure on your back. To optimize this position even further, take these tips into account:
- Add some pillows. Putting a pillow between your knees to keep your hips in line, behind you for back support, or under your belly can help keep you cozy.
- Choose the right mattress. Be sure your bed allows for proper body contour, while still offering support. Read reviews to dig into the details, or find specific options that are the best for side sleepers.
Your bump is a precious reminder of the gift you will soon receive, so don’t let your attitude towards it turn negative because it’s hard to get comfortable. Adapt, adjust, and you can easily find ways to stay cozy.
The larger your baby grows, the more your uterus will push on your lungs and diaphragm. This will obviously start to introduce issues into your sleeping patterns. If you can’t breathe easily, you’ll wake up disturbed and toss and turn throughout the night trying to readjust. Avoid this issue altogether by putting some safeguards in place before you even fall asleep.
Use pillows to prop your upper body up into a reclined position. Whether on your back or your left side, this position will help you relieve some of the pressure off your lungs and breathe easier. Don’t worry. Reclining on your back is a safe and comfortable alternative to sleeping on your side, but if you’re one who likes to stay on the safe side, you should stick to your side. You may also find support from a pregnancy pillow which helps to cradle your body and make your sleep easier.
The Bathroom Trips
Added pressure on your bladder, changes in your hormones, and an increase in your blood volume will all lead you to needing to take a few more bathroom trips than you’re used to in the middle of the night. There’s nothing more annoying than realizing you’re up for the fourth time in the night and counting all the hours you lose of sleep.
Here’s what you can do. It’s important to keep up with your hydration and drink plenty of water during the day, but after around 7PM you should slow down on your liquid intake. You can also avoid diuretics, substances that increase fluid secretion, such as coffee, soda, and tea. And when you do inevitably have to get up in the middle of the night, be sure to fully empty your bladder each time. Leaning forward will help this.
Restless Leg Syndrome and Cramps
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is the most common problem in pregnancy affecting up to 40 percent of pregnant women. This condition causes itchy, crawly feelings in your legs that gives you the urge to move them. Once you do, the feeling typically subsides. But by that point, you’ve already been awoken and disturbed from your slumbers.
To treat RLS, you may want to try natural remedies such as yoga, decreasing stress, and getting a massage. Your doctor may also recommend increasing your vitamin intake after testing for levels of iron, magnesium, and vitamin D.
Leg cramps can also be an issue interrupting your sleep. It’s unclear why pregnant women are afflicted with leg cramps, but it’s likely due to restricted blood flow to the legs and low calcium and magnesium levels. To eliminate midnight leg cramps, add foods with magnesium and calcium to your diet, stay active, stretch before bed, and stay hydrated.
Falling Into Dreamland
If you have general issues falling or staying asleep each night, you may need to reassess certain lifestyle habits. Take an audit of your sleeping habits and make sure you’re doing the right things to help you rest easy:
- Avoid stress. A busy mind will keep you up all night. Try to keep your stress levels low for an easier time falling asleep. Consider meditation to help lower your stress.
- Decompress. Create a wind-down routine to help you relax each night. This could include a warm bath, yoga, reading a book, or whatever helps you calm your mind and body.
- Keep away from technology. Artificial lights are stimulating and disrupt your circadian rhythm. Avoid technology in the last hour or two before bedtime.
- Find the best mattress for you. Comfort and support are key factors in your sleep. Your mattress matters. Make sure you’re sleeping on the right bed for you.
- Stay consistent. Keeping up a routine helps your body learn its rhythm. Fall asleep and wake up at the same time each day and practice the same relaxing techniques to wind you down each night.
You should never sacrifice your sleep, but you should value it even more while your sleep is responsible for helping keep your growing baby healthy. Take these tips into account and do whatever you can to make sure you keep up with your quality ZZZs.
Author’s bio: Ashley Little is a writer from Mattress Advisor, a leading review site that helps others get their best night of sleep each night. Her wind-down routine includes dimming the lights, burning a few candles, and reading a great book each night.