Sleeping

Getting a good night's sleep during your pregnancy may be increasingly hard to achieve as your body works towards preparation for childbirth. Being able to get enough rest and sleep will be an essential part of your pregnancy. It could seem strange that when your body needs it most, sleep is not easy to come by. Trying to find an ideal, safe sleeping position and adjusting to the changes of each trimester can often be a challenge. As your tummy gets bigger, you'll find it's harder to find a comfortable sleeping position. And your baby's movements may also impact on your ability to relax.

Changes in your sleeping pattern

During the first trimester of your pregnancy, you may discover that you are sleeping more than usual as your body works to nurture your developing baby. This could mean not having a good night's sleep every night and feeling sleep deprived. Pressure from your growing uterus may also cause you to make countless trips to the bathroom during the night.

As nausea and fatigue subsides, the second trimester can be a good time to set a routine of going to bed and waking up at around the same time each day. This sleep-hygiene can also help to establish a pattern in preparation for the third trimester.

Many pregnant women find that they have the most trouble getting uninterrupted sleep during the latter stages of their pregnancy. As the growing baby increases in size, it is often harder to find a comfortable sleeping position.

Many pregnant women also report having vivid dreams, especially in the last trimester. These dreams can be related to changing hormonal levels and stress. Dreams are completely normal, often occurring just before waking up. Sometimes dreams can reflect concerns about the adjustments to parenthood which will need to be made.

Although it is common for pregnant women to experience interrupted sleep during the night, there are some options when it comes to getting as much sleep as possible. And to make sure that their sleeping position is the safest possible.

Sleeping positions for comfort and safety during pregnancy

Current research supports the recommendation that pregnant women sleep on their side from 28 weeks onwards. Back sleeping can place pressure on the major blood vessels which supply blood to the uterus and oxygen to the baby.

Either side is considered to be fine, what's important is that back sleeping is avoided. You may find one side is more comfortable than the other.

Remember to:

  • Start each night safely by lying on your side. This is the position you're likely to hold for the longest period overnight.
  • If you wake overnight, always reposition yourself on your side.
  • Sleep on your side for every sleep and every nap.
  • When you're lying down, avoid lying on your back, stick to your side.
  • Ask your partner to gently roll you onto your side if they see you sleeping on your back.
  • Sleep on your side from 28 weeks pregnant until your baby is born.

Experiment with using pillows to find comfortable sleeping positions. Try using a body pillow to support your top leg, or a rolled-up blanket under your belly to relieve pressure off your lower back.

When you are sitting up from laying down, remember to push up with your arms. This will help to prevent extra pressure on your abdominal muscles.

Ways to help you get a better night's sleep

It may help to know what is affecting your sleep and work towards changing what you can. Introducing small changes could help your body to adapt to a different sleeping pattern as it changes through each trimester.

  • Your baby may be more active at night when you are settling for sleep. This could be because your movement throughout the day has gently rocked them to sleep. Also, when you are lying down your baby can stretch out more and kick around. Gently massage over your tummy and enjoy the movement. Breathe deeply and let your mind rest.
  • You may find that you begin to suffer from night sweats . Keep a cool damp cloth next to your bed and wipe yourself over if this happens.
  • Try and establish a routine to help you wind down from a busy day. Introduce gentle, low impact pregnancy exercise into your lifestyle to help you unwind. Yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques could also be helpful.
  • Avoid rigorous exercise leading up to bedtime. Instead, try relaxing with a soak in the bath or reading a book.
  • Your sleeplessness may be related to your mind working overtime, trying to plan everything that you need to do before your baby is born. Keep a note pad and pencil next to your bed, write your thoughts down and then try to relax.
  • Do not take any drugs to help you sleep, natural or pharmaceutical as these could have an adverse effect on you or your baby. Always speak with your maternity care provider and/or a pharmacist before taking any medications.
  • Before using herbal teas, also check with a pharmacist or your maternity care provider. A warm cup of milk with honey before bed can be a safer alternative.
  • Minimise your caffeine intake by limiting coffee, tea and chocolate, particularly in the late afternoons and evenings. See Pregnancy diet for more information.
  • If you are experiencing issues with heartburn, try not to eat large meals just before bedtime and have more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day.
  • Try to avoid daytime napping if you're not sleeping well at night. Aim for an early bedtime if you're really exhausted.

There are bound to be nights where you just can t fall asleep. Instead of worrying about not getting enough rest, try occupying the time with something you enjoy, like reading a book or listening to music.

This article has been written and edited by Jane Barry, midwife and child health nurse on 11/05/2021

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