Importance of Sleep During Pregnancy
Sleep: we all need it but never seem to get enough of it. It’s one of the key factors to sustaining good health and greatly affects all areas of our well-being. However, when pregnant the importance of well-structured, established sleep habits is heightened even more, in order to nurture the fetus and provide relief for you as the mom-to-be.
Not receiving quality night’s sleep may lead to more fatigue during the day, restlessness or insomnia at night, and changes in your mood and overall health. Lack of sleep is often the starting point of adverse health conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Additionally, research shows that women who do not receive enough hours of sleep during pregnancy may develop complications, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or experience longer labors. In short, sleep matters.
However, between uncomfortable physical changes in the body and hormonal shifts that naturally occur when you’re pregnant, it may seem impossible to achieve a solid eight hours a night. The first trimester is when women typically feel drowsier due to a surge in progesterone levels. While often there’s relief in the second trimester, by the third you may notice more discomfort, particularly when falling asleep. It’s common during this stage to develop swelling, due to high levels of estrogen. At this point, it’s not for lack of trying to achieve a good night’s sleep on a regular basis.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone and we’re here to help! Although getting adequate rest may seem like a challenge, there are a few strategies to help ensure a better night’s sleep. Take note of certain sleep-related symptoms which may occur during your pregnancy and what you can do to help prevent or minimize them. With so many changes happening at once, the importance of sleep during pregnancy should be one of your top maternal priorities (along with a clean beauty skin care routine!).
Sleep-Related Symptoms That May Occur During Pregnancy
If you’re having more trouble than usual falling asleep, it may be due to any of these symptoms that tend to pop up during pregnancy. There are preventative ways to reduce their occurrence, but if you continue experiencing them, speak with your doctor for solutions.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is common among pregnant women. It’s an uncomfortable feeling that makes your legs feel achy or tingly, similar to how it feels when your leg falls asleep. Only this time it lasts longer than normal. The symptoms often worsen at night, which can affect your ability to relax and feel situated for comfortable sleeping purposes. Try gentle stretching a few hours before bed and easy leg movements to maintain blood flow.
This condition is when your breathing stops temporarily throughout the night. As a result, you may snore heavily and wake up gasping for air. Developing sleep apnea can increase the risk of hypertension or preeclampsia. If you’re snoring more often or waking up frequently, it can lead to other problems, including high blood pressure, sleepiness during the day, and other cardiovascular conditions.
Acid reflux also occurs frequently among pregnant women and tends to become more severe at night. Antacids is often the go-to solution. However, consider making changes to your diet, as certain foods may aggravate your symptoms. Also, eat earlier in the evening to help reduce the level of acid reflux you experience.
It’s no secret that women who are pregnant have to pee more often. It comes with the territory. To keep this from disrupting your sleep routine as much as possible, refrain from drinking fluids right before bed. It may help with the frequency of how often you have to get up at night.
It’s normal for your body to experience changes when you’re sleeping for two. These symptoms may occur in addition to baby kicks, moderate anxiety, and other activities or emotions that regularly keep you up at night. Sleepless nights are not fun by any means, but it’s temporary. In most cases, these occurrences subside on their own.
A regular sleep schedule may alleviate these symptoms. It may be a matter of training your body and mind to get on board with how to properly sleep when pregnant. Whenever you feel concerned that a symptom is worsening or want guidance, talk with your doctor and support system for help.
Tips on How to Sleep When Pregnant
Changes in the body affect normal sleep routines. It affects how much you sleep, when you sleep, and even the ways in which you sleep. The best position to sleep when pregnant is on your left side to help develop the baby and improve the flow of nutrients and blood to the uterus and kidneys.
Many women prefer a body pillow for more comfort and to release pressure or pain from the lower back. Prior to bedtime, though, there are several ways to prepare the body for a good night’s sleep.
Follow a Sleep Schedule
Get your body in the mindset of winding down at a certain time every night. Even if you don’t go to bed right away, start a relaxing routine a few hours before your bedtime goal to establish your circadian rhythm. Take a relaxing shower and do a quiet activity like reading a book or listening to a podcast. Following these kinds of habits will allow your body to “get in the mood” to sleep.
Keep the Room Cool
An overheated room can cause restless sleep. Keep it dark and cool with a fan if you need air circulation or ambient noise. By dropping the temperature of the room by a few degrees, it can make it more comfortable and conducive for sleeping. This is especially important if you’re pregnant during the summer months. The body may need more time to cool down before feeling prepared for the necessary hours of sleep.
Remove Electronic Devices
Smartphones, iPads, and other electronic devices all serve as an ongoing distraction when you’re trying to achieve good sleep. Once you’re done using them for the day, leave them in another room if possible to eliminate the screen lights and notifications from disturbing your rest. It can be a difficult habit to break not bringing your phone to bed, but you may be surprised how relaxing it is without the constant pings and notifications. It's worth a try, as this could serve as a great way to establish your sleep foundation.
Take (and Time) Naps
Allow yourself a nap whenever possible, but try to have one earlier in the day and time how long you want to lie down. An extended late afternoon nap can leave you feeling groggier than before and will cause problems come bedtime. Start with 30 minutes and see how you feel. It’s always important to listen to your body, even more so when you’re pregnant.
To maintain good health, stay as active as possible under the approval of your doctor. This may include going for long morning or evening walks, taking up yoga, or performing simple stretches throughout the day. By continuing to take care of your body with regular healthy habits, it creates a sense of routine. You’ll feel more energized during the day and ready to sleep at night.
As healthy as it is to keep your body moving, it’s just as healthy to keep your mind still. Pregnancy meditation is popular for women who want to relax, find balance, and create a more peaceful state of being while pregnant. There are several meditation techniques, including guided meditation, sound meditation, and simple breathing exercises, all of which can be customized to each person’s specific preferences and needs.
In addition to a wind down routine, pamper yourself every so often to remember what is beauty sleep and how to make it a priority. Schedule a prenatal massage. Take a warm bath* and sit with a cooling mask over your eyes. Or, give yourself an at-home facial. Soak in a bubble bath and use the face and body lotion from the Truly Calming Bathtime Routine and follow up with the Deep Hydration Face Cream. It’ll feel nourishing and soothing to the skin and leave you feeling calm and refreshed.
Anything that feels relaxing and brings you joy can help you better prepare yourself for a good sleep. Self-care has never been more important than when it means taking care of your baby, too.
*Pregnant women should avoid hot baths. If pregnant, aim for a warm bath so you can easily lower your body into the tub all at once. If you begin to sweat, your skin turns red, or you feel lightheaded or dizzy, safely exit the water.
Make Sleep a Priority
There is an endless stream of things to do in preparation for the baby. This can trigger stress and a sense of anxiety that may prevent you from sleeping well. Make a list of all the things you’d like to get done and prioritize them. You may realize you’re putting undue burden upon yourself to make everything perfect before the baby comes. Remember to give yourself a break when it comes to doing what’s best for your body.
Of all the priorities, your health is number one. Good sleep benefits your physical health, which is important for avoiding complications and furthering the development of the fetus. It puts you in a more clear-headed mindset, which is beneficial to your mental well-being. Plus, you can reap all the benefits of sleep for skin as a bonus!
As your lifestyle begins to change, try to stay as consistent as possible with your sleep habits. It’ll serve you well throughout your pregnancy and benefit your baby’s development. When you find what works for you, stick with it. Do the best you can and go to sleep dreaming about your beautiful baby-to-be.
Sources: https://aasm.org/pregnant-women-good-sleep-is-one-of-the-best-ways-to-assure-a-healthy-baby/; https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/pregnancy-and-sleep; https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/staying-healthy-during-pregnancy/get-a-good-nights-sleep-during-pregnancy;