Whether you’re a first-time mother or are expecting your third (or tenth!) sleeping when pregnant can be a challenge. Not only is it difficult to get comfortable, but other things accompanying pregnancy can make it difficult to get restful sleep. And at the back of your mind, there’s always that concern about what’s best for the baby.

If you’re a few months into your pregnancy and are finding it difficult to sleep, here are some solutions.

Why is Sleep So Important When Pregnant?

Sleep is crucial for our overall health and well-being and becomes vital during pregnancy. That’s due to all the physical and hormonal changes in a woman’s body during that time. 

These changes can begin as early as the first trimester when progesterone and hCG levels spike. That’s why you might find yourself suddenly needing naps during the day, yet have insomnia at night. Sleep during pregnancy can be challenging, but it’s crucial to get it whenever and however you can. 

Here are some reasons why getting enough sleep is essential during pregnancy:

Physical and Emotional Health of The Mother

Pregnancy places additional demands on a woman’s body, and sleep helps to support her physical and emotional health. Lack of maternal sleep can lead to mood swings, irritability, and increased stress levels. The emotional rollercoaster isn’t good for mother or baby. 

Sleep deprivation can mess up hormones, harm the brain, and increase inflammation in the body. So, even if you’re wanting to become pregnant or between pregnancies, don’t neglect your sleep!

Healthy Growth and Development of The Baby 

A mother’s sleep plays a vital role in the growth and development of the baby. While a woman sleeps, her body produces growth hormone, essential for developing the baby’s organs and tissues. Sleep disorders in the mother have been linked to a higher risk of pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, and low birth weight.

Getting enough sleep can positively impact the baby’s health as they develop each organ and system. 

Hormonal Balance

Pregnancy involves significant hormonal fluctuations, and sleep helps regulate these hormones. Adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining a balance of hormones like cortisol, insulin, and growth hormone. Each of these plays a significant role in pregnancy.

Immune Support

Sleep is also critical for maintaining a healthy immune system. Pregnant women can already be more susceptible to illnesses as their immune systems shift. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of chronic inflammation. It’s also linked to a higher risk of autoimmunity, cancer, chronic illness, and acute infections.

Getting enough rest supports a healthy immune response in the mother. This is critical in reducing the risk of infections and other immune complications.

Reduced Discomfort 

As the baby grows, the mother may experience discomfort due to weight gain, changes in posture, and hormonal shifts. Sleep problems are known to increase pain sensitivity, making the situation worse. Proper sleep can make it easier for women to tolerate these shifts and reduce feelings of pain and discomfort.

Lowering The Risk of Preterm Birth

Each year, over 10% of births worldwide are preterm. Many studies suggest that women who get inadequate sleep during pregnancy are at a higher risk of preterm birth. Researchers are finding that insomnia increases the risk of preterm birth by 30%. Sleep apnea increases the risk of preterm birth by 40%. 

As you can see, getting enough rest is crucial for an optimal pregnancy length and a healthy baby. Here’s how to create an environment that supports restful sleep.

How to Create a Healthy Sleep Environment

To get restful sleep when pregnant, it helps to create a healthy sleep environment. While a cool, dark, quiet room is a good start for anyone, pregnant mamas may want to consider a few more adjustments to their bedrooms. Here are some ideas: 

Reduce EMF Exposure

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can make getting a good night’s sleep difficult. Some studies suggest EMF exposure at night might interfere with melatonin production. Other studies suggest it also could negatively affect the health of the developing baby. To create an EMF-free sleep environment, keep electronic devices away from the bed. You may also want to consider turning off Wi-Fi routers and other wireless devices at night.

Remove Artificial Light

Remove all artificial light from your bedroom, including your phone, the LED light on the alarm clock, the TV, and all other devices. I use blackout curtains to block out the artificial light outside my window. I also cover my alarm clock light with a towel. To ensure perfect darkness, you could also add an eye mask.

Switch to Organic Bedding

Ideally, switch to all natural/organic bedding materials, including your mattress, mattress toppers, sheets, pillowcases, and anything else surrounding you while sleeping. The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that emanate from synthetic fabrics, sprayed cotton, and other materials can create inflammation, altering the natural rhythms of the body. 

Using natural materials, like organic cotton, linen, and wool, can even alter the electromagnetic frequency around you to be more in line with nature. Any time you align with nature and the frequency of the earth, you’re going to improve your health. 

Try a Pregnancy Pillow

Sleeping can get more complicated in the second trimester as the baby hits a growth spurt and you really start to show. Specialized pregnancy pillows are designed to support specific areas of the body. So, they come in all shapes and sizes. They can be a great help in finding a comfortable sleeping position. 

Keep it Cool 

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can bring on night sweats and make it difficult to get good sleep. Try to keep your bedroom temperature around 65-68 degrees. Definitely keep it below 70 degrees for better sleep.

Get Grounded

Try an earthing (grounding) sheet or even pillowcase. Sleeping while grounded may reduce your exposure to EMFs and improve sleep quality by connecting you to the earth’s frequency. Research shows grounding reduces inflammation and normalizes cortisol levels. It promotes a healthy circadian rhythm for restful sleep.

What Are The Healthiest Pregnancy Sleeping Positions?

This is THE biggest question most mamas have about sleep. It’s not just a matter of comfort. Women are also concerned about what’s best for the health of the baby. Experts typically recommend side sleeping after the first trimester. They also caution women to avoid sleeping on their backs in the third trimester (after 28 weeks of pregnancy). 

That’s because sleeping on your back can compress major blood vessels like the inferior vena cava and aorta. That reduces blood flow (and oxygen) to the heart and uterus. Because the baby isn’t getting as much oxygen and nutrients, it can increase the risk of stillbirth. 

If a woman lies on her back in late pregnancy, the baby noticeably becomes less active. There are also changes in their heart rate patterns, which may be due to reduced oxygen levels.

Left Side Sleeping

Sleeping on the left side is usually considered the best sleeping position during pregnancy. This position helps improve blood circulation to the heart and the baby. That’s because it prevents the uterus from pressing against the liver, which is on the right side. The increase in circulation can help the ideal amount of blood and nutrients reach the placenta, nourishing your baby.

The second trimester of pregnancy is a good time to begin side-sleeping. If sleeping on the left side becomes uncomfortable, try the “SOS” position. This is where you sleep on your left side with your knees bent. Placing a pillow between the knees can provide additional comfort. The SOS position helps lessen pressure on the lower back, making sleeping more comfortable with an inflated belly.

Elevated Upper Body

Many women experience heartburn or sleep apnea when pregnant. In those cases, propping up the upper body with pillows can help reduce feelings of indigestion and improve breathing. Just place a pillow under your mid to upper back or use a wedge-shaped pillow.

Experiment with different positions and find what works best for you. Some women find relief sleeping in a reclining chair. Others prefer propping themselves up on multiple pillows. You can never have too many pillows!

Common Pregnancy Sleep Complaints and What to Do

Getting Up Frequently to Urinate

Getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night is a given during pregnancy. That’s largely because of the extra blood volume and strain on the kidneys. It may also be due to the baby pressing against your bladder. Unfortunately, this can be another reason it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep.

To limit the bathroom trips at night, reduce your liquid intake after 3 pm. But be sure to drink plenty early in the day to avoid dehydration!

Using an earthing sheet at night may also help. I noticed the first night of using one that if I had to get up at night (in that case, for breastfeeding), it was much easier to fall back asleep.

Heartburn 

Pregnancy can increase your chances of having heartburn. If your stomach acid is low and your food is fermenting rather than breaking down, it can cause excess gas. The pressure from the gas can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to open, allowing stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. 

Pregnant women have less space around their stomachs, so they’re easily compressed. As a result, the stomach contents more readily regurgitate, causing heartburn. Hormones like progesterone during pregnancy also slow down digestion and relax the esophageal sphincter.  

Since low acid is part of the problem, adding an acidic substance like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice can help. Lemon juice was helpful for me during pregnancy. I just added at least 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice to a small amount of water to avoid or remedy heartburn.

It can also help to finish eating earlier, at least 3 hours before sleeping. It’s best not to eat past 6 or 7 pm at the latest to avoid heartburn and other digestion-related sleep disturbances. 

Back Pain

Back pain or discomfort can also contribute to sleeplessness. Regular massage and chiropractic care can improve skeletal alignment for more comfortable sleep. Look into acupuncture, myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, and other body work to support posture and mobility. 

You can also check out this podcast with Dr. Turner Osler. He talks about his posture-supporting chairs that have received excellent reviews from pregnant women.

Leg Cramps and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Leg cramps and RLS can also make it difficult to sleep, and they’re more common in pregnancy. In one study, pregnant women with low folate levels were more likely to have RLS. Folate is a B vitamin found in liver and green leafy vegetables. However, you may need higher amounts during pregnancy. 

I took a folate supplement (not synthetic folic acid) when pregnant to be sure I had healthy levels. Deficiencies in minerals like iron and magnesium may also be to blame. However, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before adding any supplements. Even stretching before bed may better help you sleep when pregnant.

What About Pregnancy Insomnia? 

What you do before going to bed makes a real difference. A big part of avoiding pregnancy insomnia is creating a bedtime routine. Sipping an appropriate tea, reading a novel, taking a bath, or listening to soft music can all work as relaxation techniques. Lavender is a safe essential oil to use during pregnancy. Try diffusing it in the room to promote sleep.

As part of your wind down routine, make a small cup of chamomile tea. Chamomile is safe for pregnancy and is known to promote relaxation before bed. It calms an upset stomach, soothes anxiety, and has antihistamine properties. The most important thing is that it helps to promote sedation. 

Using over-the-counter sleep aids is generally not recommended during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you need additional support to sleep when pregnant.

Final Thoughts on How to Sleep When Pregnant

Sleep problems during pregnancy are real. The best advice I can give is to set yourself up for success. Create that inviting natural sleep sanctuary. Find a relaxing bedtime routine that works for you. Order those pregnancy pillows and stock up on novels and chamomile tea.

Talk to those who have gone through it and find out what worked for them. Maybe it’s time to set up a lunch or phone call with a family member or friend. Make self-care a priority and the sleep will follow. 

Have you found solutions for pregnancy-related sleep issues? What’s worked for you? Share with us below!



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