think sleep deprivation won't be an issue until after your baby is born. Hah!
Depending on how pregnant you are, everything from “morning” sickness
to scary dreams to restless leg can take their toll on your nightly shut-eye.
Our trimester-by-trimester guide will help you get the rest you need now and
even in the the "fourth trimester," when you'll face a brand-new
sleep challenge: your baby!
trimester: Drowsy all the time
don’t know what’s in store for them [in terms of sleep] during pregnancy,” says
Kathryn A. Lee, R.N., Ph.D., a professor of nursing at the University of
California, San Francisco, who researches the topic. “Women who’ve had kids
know how low-energy they’re going to feel during pregnancy and plan for that by
sleeping more.” Lethargy and overwhelming fatigue are common due to the
dramatic rise in progesterone; necessary for maintaining pregnancy, the hormone
is also a soporific. Another culprit: the metabolic changes your body is going
through. “A lot of calories are going into the gestation process,” explains
Lee. “The growing fetus is taking every bit of your energy.”
bathroom visits. Your
high progesterone level, along with a growing uterus that’s pushing against the
bladder, means more frequent urination.
aches. Swollen breasts
and pelvic cramping can make it harder to fall and stay asleep.
Nausea. “Morning” sickness can and often does
strike during the evening and wee hours of the night.
sleep. Plan your snooze
time just like you do your meals or your day at the office, and nap as often as
possible. “It’s best to nap between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.; otherwise you’ll have
trouble falling asleep at night,” advises Teresa Ann Hoffman, M.D., an OB-GYN
at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “And take one or even two 30-minute
catnaps rather than one long, two-hour sleep.” Nap on the floor of your office
or in your car if you need to.
on fluids after 6 p.m. This will help curtail nocturnal bathroom runs. “If you drink caffeinated
beverages, do so only in the morning,” says Hoffman.
saltines on your nightstand. Crackers will quell midnight queasiness—and you won’t have to
trudge to the kitchen to get them.
activity in the morning, afternoon and early evening will promote sounder
sleep. Late-evening workouts, however, tend to encourage insomnia.
trimester: burning issues
their second trimester tend to sleep better,” says sleep researcher Meena Khan,
M.D., a professor at the Ohio State University Medical School in Columbus.
(Your body undergoes its most dramatic metabolic changes in the first
trimester.) Still, you might not be sleeping like a baby yet.
Heartburn. Queasiness usually subsides, but
reflux, um, rises. “The growing uterus places pressure on the stomach, forcing
acid up into the esophagus,” explains Hoffman. Lying down in bed aggravates the
cramps. Though worse in
your third trimester, disquieting cramps (usually in the calf) that can startle
you awake and keep you up in the wee hours begin now.
dreams. “As the
pregnancy progresses, some women get more anxious,” says Hoffman. Stressing
about the baby’s growth, your parenting abilities, finances—or anything
else—can produce some disturbing dreams, which will almost certainly interfere
with your good night’s rest. Forgetting the baby somewhere is a classic one.
upright for four hours after eating. The digestive process takes a lot longer during pregnancy, and
sitting up will help keep stomach acids where they belong. “Lying down and
watching TV after dinner is not a good idea,” Hoffman says. You may want to
start eating bigger breakfasts and lighter dinners if heartburn is keeping you
Avoid heartburn-inducing foods These include spicy, fried and acidic foods, including tomatoes, citrus fruits and juices and coffee.
avoid carbonated drinks. “A calcium imbalance can lead to leg cramps,” Lee says. The phosphorous in
bubbly beverages (including soda water) decreases the amount of calcium you’re
able to metabolize, so stay away from them. In addition, make sure you’re
getting enough calcium; good food sources include dairy products; dark-green,
leafy vegetables; and canned salmon with bones.
cramp in the bud. If you
do get a painful leg cramp, flex your foot (extend your heel and point your
toes toward your head; do not point your toes).
relaxation a priority. Easier said than done, but a quieter mind will ensure a better night’s sleep.
Experts suggest meditation, prenatal yoga or other relaxation techniques;
soaking in warm baths; eating tryptophan-rich foods such as turkey, milk and
bananas (this amino acid turns into mood-soothing serotonin in the brain);
enrolling in a parenting class now so that you feel better able to care for a
newborn; and seeing a counselor if you’re losing sleep due to anxiety-riddled
trimester: sleepus interruptus
By the end
of pregnancy, a large percentage of expectant women report waking up at least
three times per night. Two-thirds are awakened five or more times. But it’s
vital to make sleep a priority now: Research has shown that pregnant women who
average less than six hours of sleep a night have significantly longer labors
and are 4.5 times more likely to have Cesarean sections than those who get
seven hours or more nightly.
Back pain. A Yale University study found that nearly
60 percent of pregnant women say that lower-back pain causes sleep disruptions.
like in the first trimester, the urge to go at night increases, as your uterus
grows larger and the baby drops lower in your pelvis.
congestion in the nasal passages and abdominal weight gain can partially close
your airways, leading to snoring. In 6 percent of women, snoring can progress
to obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops for at least
10 seconds. This is more common in women who were overweight or obese in prepregnancy and can be very serious: Sleep-disordered breathing is linked with
an increased risk for preeclampsia and low-birth weight babies.
Leg Syndrome (RLS). About 20 percent of pregnant women experience the truly weird sensation of what
feels like ants crawling inside their legs. Studies have shown that women who
have lower levels of iron and folate are at higher risk for sleepless nights
due to RLS.
back. Sleep on your
left side; this will take stress off your lower back, help prevent snoring and
increase circulation to your baby. Put pillows between your knees, behind your
back and under your belly or use a pregnancy pillow. Stretch and do abdominal
on liquids in the evening. And don’t drink for two hours before you go to bed. Whenever you urinate,
lift your belly to allow your bladder to empty completely.
certified sleep specialist. If snoring and apnea become severe, you’ll need to have your
airflow monitored. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine may be
prescribed to keep your airways open and ensure that you and your baby are
getting enough oxygen. “It will also help you sleep through the night,” adds
Khan. Find a specialist at absm.org.
pre-bedtime light leg massage and warm bath. Evening walks also help foil RLS.
fortified grains and leafy greens. “Eating foods rich in iron and folate can reduce the severity
of restless leg syndrome,” says sleep researcher Meena Khan. Avoid caffeine,
too, because it inhibits absorption of iron and folate.
get turned on their head after your baby is born. Instead of the nightly
disturbances and insomnia you experienced during pregnancy, you’ll be so tired
at the end of the day that you’ll find it more difficult to stay awake! “I
always warn women, ‘Your baby is going to be awake every few hours, maybe even
every hour,’ ” says Baltimore OB-GYN Teresa Ann Hoffman, M.D., who sees many
pregnant women with sleep problems. Here are some tips for more—and better—slumber
to baby. Running down the hall in the wee hours to attend to your crying
baby is much too arousing. So use a bedside bassinet that attaches to your own
bed or put the baby’s crib in your room.
Breastfeed. Prolactin, the hormone that
promotes lactation, is also a soporific.
when baby sleeps. Don’t do chores or return phone calls, texts or e-mails. Stay off
nighttime duty. If you’re nursing, prepare bottles of pumped breast milk so your partner
can feed the baby.