Are you pregnant and can’t sleep at night? While pregnancy is one of the most magical times in one’s life, sleeping during the nine months of pregnancy might not always be the easiest. Sleepless nights can be caused by many factors like growing bellies, aches, pains, and heartburn. During pregnancy, the quality of the mother’s sleep can affect her health as well as the process of labor and delivery.
Sleep deprivation during pregnancy is linked to several complications, including preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. This can have a negative impact on the pregnant woman’s emotional and physical well-being. In addition to affecting her memory, concentration, and mood, it also increases her chances of contracting depression. Those in the third trimester of pregnancy who sleep less than six hours per day are more likely to encounter longer labors, heightened pain and discomfort during labor, and have a 4.5 times higher chance of requiring a cesarean section than those with a seven-hour sleep schedule1.
Is Poor Sleep Bad For The Developing Fetus?
The unborn child can also be affected by the mother’s lack of sleep. There is an increased risk of premature birth, growth restriction, and potential health problems in newborns2.
An inadequate amount of sleep or a fragmented deep sleep may result in a decrease in growth hormone release. Thus, growth or developmental problems may occur in the unborn baby.
Oxygen is one of the most essential nutrients for a developing fetus. Blood flow to the fetus peaks when the mother sleeps. Disruption of sleep, especially in sleep apnea, can cause oxygen levels to drop and potentially compromise the blood flow to the placenta.
The fetus can be seriously endangered even if the mother’s oxygen levels decline slightly. The fetus’s heart rhythm slows and acidosis occurs when the mother’s blood oxygen level drops even mildly. This can have grave consequences for the fetus.
Related Reading: Excessive Sleeping During Pregnancy – Causes, And Remedies
What Causes Sleepless Nights During Pregnancy?
Many factors can contribute to sleepless nights during pregnancy. In fact, sleep problems can occur as early as the first trimester. The risk increases as the pregnancy progress. Being pregnant and can’t sleep 2nd trimester and the third trimester is quite common. The onset of sudden insomnia in early pregnancy occurs often as a result of hormonal changes.
Here are a few of the most common reasons women can’t sleep at night while pregnant:
- Increased urinary frequency
- Growing belly
- Pressure on the diaphragm
- Leg cramps
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Low back pain is a common symptom among pregnant women.
- Fetal movements may contribute to nocturnal arousal in some pregnant women as their pregnancy progresses
11 Things You Can Do When Pregnant And Can’t Sleep At Night
One of the most stressful times in a woman’s life is during her pregnancy. Pregnancy is often accompanied by sleep disturbances. Learn how to sleep well while you are pregnant with these 11 tips. However, if you often have trouble sleeping, you must speak with your doctor.
1. Find a comfortable position
The larger the unborn child becomes, the harder it is for a pregnant woman to find a comfortable sleeping position. Having many challenges, like not sleeping on the back, must sleep on the side that is too preferably the left side, etc, can make it hard for pregnant women to find a comfortable position. It’s also important to follow these guidelines to promote healthy blood circulation. If you habitually sleep on your back and you’re pregnant, there’s no need to worry.
You can make side sleeping more comfortable by rightly using pillows, mattresses, and blankets:
- Put a pillow between your legs (preferably in between bended knees) or under your baby bump while sleeping on your side
- Roll up a blanket at the lower back to relieve pressure
- You may also find that an egg-crate foam mattress pad placed on top of your mattress helps you sleep better if your hips hurt when you sleep on your side
- You can use extra pillows or a body pillow to support your body. Body pillows come in different sizes and shapes. The market offers body-length pillows, C-shaped pillows, and wedges that support your belly when you lie on your side or help to prop yourself up to a semi-reclined position while sleeping
- To properly elevate the head, an extra pillow would be helpful. This will relieve heartburn
Do not panic if you end up sleeping on your back. The majority of pregnant women sleep in this way at least some of the time. When you sleep on your side, place a wedge pillow behind you if you are prone to end up sleeping on your back. In this manner, you can roll back, but at least you’ll be tilted, so that sleeping on your back will be less problematic.
Related Reading: 11 Common Complications During Pregnancy And Delivery
2. Make smart choices when it comes to food and drink
Pregnant women are prone to constipation, indigestion, and heartburn. All these directly or indirectly affect the quality of sleep. Likewise, the pressure exerted by the growing babies on the mother’s bladder also increases. This increases the frequency of urination.
You can get quality sleep during pregnancy by consuming pregnancy superfoods, making some wise food choices and changing your eating habits:
- The following foods should be avoided: carbonated beverages, citrus, peppermint, tomatoes, and spicy or fatty foods. They can cause acid reflux
- It is advisable to drink more fluids in the morning and less in the evening. Do not consume any fluids for one or two hours before going to bed. By doing this, you will be less likely to wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom
- Eat no less than three hours before bedtime
- Reduce your caffeine intake. Stimulants like this can keep you awake, and they can be harmful to developing babies. There is strong evidence that caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime disrupts sleep3
- Drinking a glass of warm milk before bedtime is one of the home remedies for good sleep during pregnancy
- You should eat bananas after dinner. Bananas contain melatonin and potassium, which can make you sleepy
- Consume cheese. Tryptophan, found in cheese, stimulates the body’s production of melatonin4
Related Reading: 10 Drinks To Avoid During Pregnancy
3. Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation works on the principle that when muscles are relaxed, it is difficult to feel tense. Each muscle group is tensed and relaxed one by one during this exercise. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique (PMRT) has been shown to reduce fatigue levels and optimize sleep quality5.
Generally, one must tense and then relax tight muscles in order to release them. Alternate between your right and left side, focusing on one muscle group at a time. Initially, tense your forearm and hand muscles and release them. Likewise, contract the muscles in your upper arm, face, jaw, shoulders, back, and thighs until you reach your feet. Pregnant women can really sleep better once they master this technique.
4. Guided mental imagery
Guided mental imagery is a focused relaxation and meditation technique. The goal of focused relaxation is to calm your mind by focusing on an object, sound, or experience. You can drift off to sleep easily by using guided imagery to ease restlessness or anxiety6.
Here’s how to do it:
Make yourself comfortable and lie down. Keep your eyes closed. Imagine yourself relaxing in a beautiful, serene environment. Say, for instance, that you are walking through endless fields of flowers, or through a forest full of greenery, along with a majestic mountain range, or imagine you are amidst a calm, tropical beach. Alternatively, you can imagine you are watching clouds of different sizes and shapes float one after another. You should be able to imagine every aspect of the scene, including the sounds, smells, tastes, and textures. Guided imagery requires practice. However, when you master it, you can easily fall asleep.
Note*: Visualizing movement engages your mind more than imagining a still scene.
5. Improve your sleep hygiene
Practicing good sleep hygiene involves a series of habits and behaviors that ensure quality sleep. Everyone needs good sleep hygiene, but it is especially important during pregnancy. Below are some tips.
- Consistency is key. You should try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning
- Cut down on caffeine before bed
- At night, stay away from blue light. Blue light from electronics also stimulates our bodies in the same way that the sun does. Inhibiting melatonin production and raising cortisol levels are the results of blue light exposure. This hinders sleep
- Towards the end of the day, minimize your use of screens and completely avoid it two hours before bedtime. Although it may seem difficult, it will have a huge positive impact on your sleep quality!
- Sleeping best occurs in a room that is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Sleeping in a hot room makes a pregnant woman feel restless and wake up. The cooler the temperature, the better our chance of getting uninterrupted sleep. When you’re sleeping, you should lower the air conditioner. Alternatively, open windows to ensure there is enough airflow
- Try not to lie in bed when you are not sleepy. Tossing and turning can delay sleep. You can do a relaxing activity until you become tired, then go to bed
As much as 68 percent of stress levels can be reduced by reading a good book before going to bed7. Reading makes you feel more ready for sleep. Most of us read in a comfortable position, usually lying down or sitting down – in a quiet place, usually at night or after more energetic activities, which is why we feel sleepy afterward. The act of reading reduces stress hormones in the body and calms the brain, thereby improving your sleep quality. Pre-bed activities like reading books can ensure a good night’s sleep during pregnancy.
Related Reading: 7 Natural Remedies For Anxiety During Pregnancy
7. Take steps to relieve leg cramps
It has been reported that pregnant women are more likely to suffer from leg cramps at night as a result of changes to their bodies’ ability to process calcium. Pregnant women are more likely to experience restless legs syndrome, a condition characterized by the urge to move their legs constantly.
You can prevent your pregnancy leg cramps from keeping you awake at night by using these techniques:
- Before going to bed, stretch your legs gently
- Engage in physical activities during the day
- Get enough calcium in your diet
- You can ease sudden cramps by flexing your feet or pressing them against the bed’s foot
Exercising during pregnancy is the best science-supported method to improve sleep and overall health. There have been studies suggesting that it can enhance all aspects of sleep, including reducing symptoms of insomnia.
The benefits of exercise for people with severe insomnia were greater than those of most drugs. In addition to improving sleep time, exercise reduced total night wakefulness by 30%, anxiety by 15%, and time to fall asleep by 55%9.
Note: Exercise is an important part of getting a good night’s sleep, but exercising too late in the day may interfere with it. The stimulant effect of exercise increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline in the body. Consequently, sleep is impaired.
A massage can relax tired or tense muscles. A massage during pregnancy can be extremely beneficial. There are more choices than just professional massages. Before you go to sleep, you might find it helpful to have your partner massage your feet, hands, or neck.
10. Try aromatherapy
Aromatherapy dates back hundreds of years. Aromatherapy massage oils are one of the best ways to use essential oils to promote sleep. They work quickly and effectively to get you to sleep faster. You can relax and relieve stress by using aromatherapy bath salts. Aromatherapy diffusers are another option. These are small ceramic discs that contain essential oils and emit a pleasant scent. Several electric diffusers can be programmed to turn off at a specific time. These are safer alternatives to aromatherapy candles. After you fall asleep, aromatherapy candles will keep burning and could cause a fire hazard.
Check with your doctor before reaching for any essential oils to learn which oils may be helpful for pregnant women and which ones should be avoided. For example, during the first trimester of pregnancy, lavender oil may be harmful.
Make sure that you do not leave your vaporizer on for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. If a pregnant woman uses this product for too long, she may become nauseated.
Your partner can also massage your feet or give you a neck and shoulder rub using essential oils to help you sleep. To dilute the essential oil, add 4 drops to 2 teaspoons of base oil, such as olive oil or grapeseed oil.
Related Reading: 12 Best Movies To Watch During Pregnancy
11. Take a warm bath
It is proven that baths before bed can help relax your mind and body. Warm baths were taken an hour or two before bedtime was found to help regulate core body temperature and improve sleep10. It is not recommended to take hot baths while pregnant, although you can take a lukewarm bath. Sleeping better is possible if you add 2 cups of Epsom salt to your bathwater. The reason? By soaking in Epsom salt baths, your body can absorb magnesium through your skin, which helps your body produce melatonin.
Some pregnant women experience insomnia due to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, chronic pain, and mental health disorders such as depression. Sleeplessness during pregnancy may be treated by treating these underlying conditions. You may need to consult a sleep specialist to figure out the cause and best treatment for insomnia. Speak to your doctor if you’re still having trouble sleeping.