Get a Good Night's Sleep During Pregnancy

pregnant woman in bed"

The effect of pregnancy on your sleep schedule may be less than dreamy. The growing belly, the aches, the pains, the heartburn —sleepless nights can happen long before there’s a hungry, crying infant in the picture.

Having trouble sleeping is common during pregnancy, say the experts. A growing belly, pressure on the diaphragm, increased urinary frequency, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and restless legs syndrome (RLS) are just a few of the hurdles standing between you and a restful night.

Changes can begin as early as the first trimester, when you may feel drowsier than normal due to a spike in progesterone, a hormone made by the ovaries and the placenta during pregnancy. The second trimester often brings some relief. But by the third trimester, it can become hard to find a comfortable sleeping position. At this stage, high levels of estrogen can also cause some women to develop rhinitis (swelling of the nasal tissue), which can be associated with snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

How Lack of Sleep Affects Pregnancy

Lack of sleep is more than an inconvenience. New research suggests that women who don’t get enough sleep during pregnancy may have higher risks of developing pregnancy complications including:

  • Preeclampsia, or high blood pressure
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Longer labors and higher rates of cesarean section , particularly among women who get fewer than six hours of sleep over the course of 24 hours

Restless Legs Syndrome and Pregnancy

Restless legs syndrome (RLS), an uncontrollable urge to move the legs while at rest, is usually associated with older adults. But it’s also one of the most common reasons for sleeplessness during pregnancy.

RLS typically occurs in the evening, often when you get into bed. Though it’s uncomfortable, there is a silver lining: It doesn’t last forever. For most people, RLS does ease up within the first week or so after delivery.

RLS is often linked to anemia , which is common in pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about taking prenatal vitamins and supplements, such as folic acid and iron, to keep anemia under control.

How to Get Enough Rest While Pregnant

You’ll probably endure plenty of sleepless nights once the baby arrives, so it’s important to get enough sleep while you can. For occasional help, over-the-counter remedies containing diphenhydramine are fairly safe.

For more chronic sleep problems, lifestyle changes like abandoning television and electronics before bed are helpful. Pregnant people should not underestimate the effect of stress on their sleep. Stress reduction techniques are essential.

Experts understand that pregnancy is a time when there are a lot of biological changes going on, but, in addition, expectant parents may be moving to a different home or just trying to figure out the logistics of welcoming and accommodating a new family member. Sometimes the first chance that people get to think about such stressors is when the lights go out.

One solution is to make to-do lists for the next day before bedtime to avoid taking stress to bed with you.

Once the baby comes, make sure to prioritize sleep, even though your lifestyle will change.

People may want to visit, but new parents shouldn’t worry about making sure that the house is clean and orderly. Set priorities around getting enough sleep and know that it’s going to take a few months.

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