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Sleeping While Pregnant

 

Sleeping when pregnantCongratulations on your pregnancy!   What a wonderful time for you! This is an exciting time but also brings many challenges to the expectant Mum from finding nice, fashionable and comfortable clothing, driving with your expanding tummy, climbing stairs, heartburn, tiredness and so on.  One of the areas that can be difficult during pregnancy is sleeping.  Many women find getting comfortable and going to sleep at various stages of pregnancy can be hard.  In early pregnancy your hormones are racing and this can cause you to need much more sleep.  As your pregnancy progresses, your baby grows and various common discomforts can occur.  In this article, we will look at sleeping positions, common problems and what you can do to help yourself. 

 

Sleeping Position 

Professionals recommend that you sleep on your side when you are pregnant.  If you are a back sleeper or a tummy sleeper, this can be a challenge but you should try to practice side sleeping as early as possible in your pregnancy.  Sleeping on your back while pregnant can create pressure on a major vein, the inferior vena cava, which is the vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart.  Putting pressure on this vein could cause you to feel light-headed and may also lead to feelings of numbness.  It can also, as your baby grows, cause pressure on your back and intestines.  

Likewise, sleeping on your stomach is not recommended as this causes pressure on the foetus. 

 

The best position in which to sleep while pregnant is on your side, preferably your left side.  Sleeping on your side allows for maximum blood flow to your baby and also helps with kidney function.  Sleeping on your left side is also beneficial because your liver is on your right side of your body so sleeping on your right side reduces pressure on your liver.   Use pillows to help you be comfortable.  Many baby and pregnancy shops sell special sleep-aiding pillows for pregnancy but ordinary household pillows can be just as effective.  Place a pillow between your knees and sleep with your knees slightly bent.  Also try placing a pillow under your tummy to help to support your growing womb. It can also be helpful to place a pillow at your back to help to support your lower back.  Try out different positions for pillows to find what works best for you. 

 

There are many other challenges to sleeping during pregnancy.  Let’s look at some of the common ones and what can be done to help. 

 

Frequent Bathroom Visits 

Yes ladies, we need to urinate more frequently during pregnancy.  Your kidneys are working harder to filter the increase in the volume of blood during pregnancy and this leads to more urine and more bathroom visits for you!  Also, as your pregnancy progresses and your baby grows, this can place pressure on your bladder which again, leads to more bathroom visits.  So what can you do?  Firstly, reduce the number of drinks that you have in the lead up to bedtime.  Make sure that you get sufficient drinks throughout the day to ensure you are well hydrated but avoid too many drinks before bedtime.  Another tip is to place a nightlight in your bathroom.  If you can find your way to the bathroom without having to place a full light on, it can help to reduce waking you up too much and so help you in falling back to sleep. 

 

Restlessness and difficulty falling asleep 

This can be common especially as pregnancy progresses.  There are some simple routines that you can follow to help.  Firstly, try to get into a routine of a 'winding down' period before bedtime.  Perhaps a warm bath or a warm (caffeine-free!) drink such as herbal tea or milk.  Avoid caffeinated drinks and physical exercise before bedtime.  Turn off the laptop at least 30 minutes before you go to bed to allow your brain to relax and reduce activity.  Listen to relaxing music, meditate, read, apply relaxing body lotions – whatever helps you to unwind and relax before bedtime. 

 

Nausea 

The feeling of nausea can be very uncomfortable, especially as we try to sleep.  The best tip is to avoid large meals late at night.  Try to develop a habit of eating little and often throughout the day to help to cut down on  symptoms.  Eat crackers or small but bland snacks when you feel nauseous.  Keep crackers and a drink beside your bed for when you feel nauseous and especially for morning times. 

 

Heartburn 

Oh the dreaded heartburn!  During pregnancy, your digestive system slows down and therefore food can remain in your intestines for longer.  Add to that the pressure that your ever growing baby places on your system which can cause reflux of tummy acids back into your oesophagus - you can see why heartburn is a common discomfort suffered by pregnant mums.  Common sense prevails on this one!  Avoid eating large meals late in the evening.  Avoid spicy, fried or fatty foods as these are hard to digest.   You can also sleep with your head and neck elevated to keep the stomach acid down – try one or two pillows to help.  You can also take medication to help with heartburn.  Talk to your pharmacist about antacids that are safe to take during pregnancy and have these at hand. 

 

Leg Cramps & Backache 

During pregnancy, you are more prone to leg cramps for two reasons.  Firstly, pains in your legs and back are partly due to the extra weight that you are carrying.  Secondly, your body produces a hormone called Relaxin, which helps to prepare your body for childbirth.  Relaxin loosens ligaments throughout the body which makes you a little more prone to back injury. 

For backache, support your back and tummy using pillows.  Supporting your knees can also help with backache.  Be careful not to strain your back through exercise, lifting heavy weights, and prolonged periods of standing.  Try to take time to sit down regularly throughout the day and ensure you support your back while sitting using cushions and/or pillows. 

If you wake up with leg cramps, stretch your foot outwards and rotate your ankle and wiggle your toes.  This may be enough to help your cramp pass.  If this doesn't work, stand on something cold with that leg.  Perhaps the tiles on your bathroom floor or lie on your back and press your foot against a wall.  This should reduce the cramp.  Make sure that you are getting enough calcium in your diet – calcium can help to reduce leg cramps.  Increase your intake of calcium rich foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli and so forth.  You could also try gently massaging your legs with warm water before bedtime.  Remember, you can also talk to your midwife for more tips. 

 

The list above is common problems only but there may be other reasons for you finding it difficult to sleep.  You can probably help with these problems using your own common sense and intuition however, it the problem continues or is causing you on-going problems talk to your GP, midwife or obstetrician.  Don't be afraid to ask these professionals, they have dealt with hundreds of pregnant women and are well aware of the problems and challenges facing you.  Also be careful of your own health – eat well, cut out fatty and processed foods, drink plenty of fluids (avoid caffeinated drinks) and try to get exercise and rest. 

 

Remember also that after your baby is born, your sleep will be interrupted for many months so make sure that you try to get as much restful and comfortable sleep while you can!  Sleep tight!   

  

 

 

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