Wondering how you can get a good night’s sleep when you’re pregnant?
It’s so frustrating when you’re completely exhausted, and you know you need to sleep, but you just can’t get a decent stretch at night.
There are many things that conspire against you when it comes to trying to get to sleep during your pregnancy. The third trimester, when you’re most exhausted, tends to be even harder annoyingly.
I can remember tossing and turning in my first pregnancy trying to prop myself up and support my bump. Looking back now I wish I had been able to enjoy those last few weeks of freedom, when I could go to bed and sleep without the prospect of being woken up at all hours by my kids.
And that’s what can make lack of sleep in pregnancy even harder. Because you know that when the baby arrives sleep will be hard to come by!
Plus everyone loves to remind you that you had “better sleep now, before the baby comes”. It can be pretty infuriating. I remember having to bite my tongue a few times, when all I wanted to do was say: “I would love to get some sleep right now but every time I get into bed it’s like my body refuses to cooperate.”
So if you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep during pregnancy, know that you are not alone. This is a guide to help you get proper sleep, with tips for how to get comfortable and whether you should be napping before the baby arrives.
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How much sleep should you be getting when pregnant?
Do you need more sleep when you’re pregnant? The general consensus is that you should be trying to get some extra zzzz during your pregnancy.
Pregnant ladies need at least seven hours of sleep a night, according to a University of California nursing professor.
Rest is not only important because you feel tired, it will also help your mental and physical health.
Pregnant ladies who do not get enough sleep may be at higher risk for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Being too tired may also lead to irritability and difficulty concentrating, which might be a huge issue if you’re trying to keep your pregnancy secret from people at work in the first trimester.
Your body is going through a lot during pregnancy, and while exercise and keeping active is important, it’s about balancing that with proper rest too.
Why can’t you sleep when you’re pregnant
So why can’t you get to sleep when it’s all you can think about? Tiredness may be an issue throughout pregnancy but it’s particularly difficult in the first and third trimesters.
During the first trimester, this is due to hormonal changes occurring in your body to support the beginning of the pregnancy including the growth of the placenta.
These hormones can also cause certain bodily functions to slow down, such as your bladder. This means you may wake up in the middle of the night needing to use the toilet despite having tried not to drink too much in the evening.
You may also feel a little mentally restless during the first trimester. That might be because of excitement, anxiety and/or thinking over all the things you need to do to get ready for baby.
In the third trimester your body is not only struggling with those pregnancy hormones still, but you’ve got all of the additional weight of your nearly fully grown baby.
The baby will put pressure on your bladder, which lead you to be up and down all night long even if you don’t have much in your bladder to empty.
And that big bump means that getting into a comfortable position is tough. An aching back, muscle cramps and pregnancy headaches may also stop you from getting a good night’s shuteye.
What’s the best position to sleep in when you’re pregnant?
Doctors recommend that pregnant ladies sleep on their left-hand side during the third trimester of pregnancy.
Sleeping on your back can be dangerous, as you may restrict blood flow to the placenta and the baby. Research has shown sleeping on your back during the third trimester may increase the risk of stillbirth.
It’s not known exactly what the cause of the increased risk is, but it may be to do with the flow of blood to the baby and womb. When you sleep on the back, you may restrict this flow.
Sleeping on your left-hand side has been shown to help your kidneys get rid of waste fluids.
Some people favour sleeping on their stomach, which during pregnancy is fine for the first trimester. However after this it is recommended you sleep on your side.
Should you nap during pregnancy?
Yes, napping during pregnancy is a great idea.
Getting into the habit of napping before the baby arrives is a really good, because it will help you adjust to your newborn’s crazy schedule.
Once your body is used to napping during the day, you should find it easier to squeeze in cat naps once the baby arrives.
It’s also good for you to get extra sleep when your body demands it. Don’t feel bad about curling up for a nap in the middle of the day!
Remember to use the same sleep position, on your side, as you would in the night.
Tips for sleep when you’re pregnant
Now that we’ve talked about why you’re struggling to sleep, and why it’s important to find the right position, let’s talk about how to get to sleep when you’re pregnant.
Try these top tips for getting to sleep and having a good night’s sleep when you’re pregnant:
Use a pregnancy pillow
A pregnancy pillow can provide optimal support to your back, front and legs, giving you the very best chance of getting a good night’s sleep.
There are loads of pregnancy pillows on the market, so it’s really down to you to pick the one that you feel works best for you.
Some are huge and will surround your entire body like a little nest for maximum support. Others simply prop up your bump or give you something to put between your knees, which can help to keep your spine comfortable.
So should I sleep on my left or right side
Some research has suggested that left-hand sleeping is better for your health and your baby’s during pregnancy.
But research by the charity Tommy’s found that it makes no difference whether it is your left or right side. Both are better in terms of lowering risk of stillbirth compared to sleeping on your back.
Get some decent exercise
Gentle exercise that gets your heart rate going every day can be a huge help when it comes to getting to sleep.
Fresh air especially will improve your chances of getting to sleep when it comes to the evening.
You don’t have to spend hours exercising for it to make a difference, just 45 minutes a day is much better than nothing.
Don’t skip the fluids
If you’re up 10 times a night needing the toilet then you might be tempted to cut back on your water consumption. But you definitely should not do this!
It’s an unfortunate fact of pregnancy that you may be up and down at night needing a wee.
You could try to make sure you stretch your fluids out over the entire day, so you aren’t guzzling loads of water in the evening because you’re thirsty.
However in the first trimester when your hormones are going crazy and the third trimester when your baby is playing your bladder like a bongo drum, it’s hard to do anything about the frequent toilet trips.
Keep up with the fluids, and maybe go to bed a little earlier so that you can get some extra hours of sleep.
Tie your hair up
If you are usually a back sleeper and your body always naturally rolls back to that position, try this handy trick with your hair.
Tie your hair into a low bun at the nape of your neck. You will find this uncomfortable for sleeping on your back and hopefully will stop you lingering in this position when you are asleep.
Practice mindfulness and meditation
Sometimes switching your brain off and stopping yourself from thinking about everything that happened that day is the best way to help yourself get to sleep.
Mindfulness and meditation can help you to focus on relaxation and switching off from stress that may stop you from falling asleep.
What to do if you wake up on your back
Do not panic if you shift position at night! This does not mean you have done your baby any damage. Research has shown it’s about the position you use for most of your sleep cycle that makes a difference.
If you wake up on your back, simply shift back onto your side and rearrange your pillows to support you.
Try a pillow spray
A scented pillow spray can help to relax you when you get into bed. Most are lavender scented and you just spray it onto your pillow before laying your head down.
The aroma is so relaxing and it can help ease you to sleep. This one is suitable during pregnancy.
Listen to a podcast
Screen time just before you go to bed has been shown to hinder your efforts to get to sleep.
Try reading a book or listening to a podcast so that you can mentally switch off a little, and give your eyes a rest from TV screens or computer screens.
You could try a maternity or baby podcast that gives you some ideas or tips. Or you could go for something like a true crime theme or comedy, to help you take your mind off of the pregnancy, which is probably all you’re thinking about these days.
I hope these tips have given you some great ideas for how to get a good night’s sleep during your pregnancy.
If you want some more pregnancy tips, you may want to check out these posts:
To do list for the final month of Pregnancy
Things you need to know about the third trimester