Getting enough quality sleep is important for a healthy pregnancy. And yet, being pregnant often makes it difficult to sleep. Insomnia is not uncommon during pregnancy, and it’s a real problem for many women. Lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep increases the risk of complications and other health issues. Learn what you can do to get better sleep for your health and that of your baby.
Why Sleep Is So Important When You’re Pregnant
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, good sleep hygiene is crucial for a healthy pregnancy. Lack of sleep can increase the risk of several health problems and pregnancy complications. These include preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, long and more difficult labor, preterm delivery, and postpartum depression.
Exactly why poor sleep can cause all these issues is not well understood. It may be an increase in inflammation, for instance. Pregnancy is energy-intensive. While your body is working at growing new life, you need sleep to recover and promote healthy development.
Why Insomnia Occurs During Pregnancy
Insomnia and general difficulties with sleep are typical during pregnancy. The many changes occurring in the body, from hormonal shifts to weight gain, understandably disrupt sleep. Some of the common reasons you may find it hard to sleep during pregnancy include:
- Changing body. Shifting hormones and the change in the size of your body can impact sleep. The physical growth inside the body moves organs and requires a change in sleep positions. Finding a new way to sleep can be a challenge. Weight gain can also increase the risk of developing sleep apnea.
- Restless leg syndrome. Pregnant women have higher rates of restless leg syndrome than the general population. It’s a common impediment to good sleep during pregnancy, triggering an urge to keep moving the legs while resting in bed. Restless legs may be linked to anemia, so taking the right vitamins and eating a healthy diet can help.
- Frequent urination. The pressure of the growing baby on the bladder and increased blood volume during pregnancy leads to an increased need to urinate or feel as if you need the bathroom. This doesn’t stop during the night, so you may find yourself waking often.
- Pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, some of the side effects of being pregnant are painful. Muscle cramps, back pain, breast tenderness, heartburn, and stomach upset can make you uncomfortable and interrupt sleep.
- Stress and anxiety. The idea of becoming a mother is exciting and joyful, but it can also be stressful. You may be experiencing anxiety about motherhood or even about labor and delivery. These thoughts can keep you up at night.
You’re likely to find that the first trimester is the most difficult for sleep as you adjust to the changes in your body. This is true even as shifts in hormones make you generally sleepier and fatigued. By the second trimester, hormones level out, and sleep is usually more comfortable. By the third trimester, uncomfortable symptoms often increase, once again interrupting sleep.
How to Get Better Sleep
Sleep is essential, and the potential risks of not getting enough good sleep are serious for pregnant women and their babies. The paradox is that being pregnant makes it more difficult to sleep, but you can take steps to increase hours of sleep and their quality:
- Try sleeping on your side with a maternity pillow. These people are specially designed to support the back and knees so you can rest more comfortably and with less pain. Sleeping on your back while pregnant can increase back pain because of the pressure it puts on the spine.
- Get some exercise every day. Make it a habit to get outside once a day for a light walk. The fresh air, sun exposure, and gentle exercise promote sound sleep at night.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine that prepares you for restful sleep. Use Relax Melodies to try guided meditations, gentle exercise, and peaceful sounds to get you in the right frame of mind and physical relaxation for sleep.
- Address your specific pregnancy side effects. For instance, if heartburn keeps you up at night, stop eating a few hours before bed and eat smaller, more frequent meals. Your doctor can help you find solutions to the problems that keep you awake.
If you experience insomnia during pregnancy, you are not alone. This is a problem expectant mothers have long dealt with and overcome. If you try these strategies, and still struggle to get enough sleep, talk to your doctor about solutions.