Sleep & Pregnancy
Getting the right amount of sleep is vital, but just as important is the quality of your sleep. Conditions unique to women, like the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause, can affect how well a woman sleeps. This is because the changing levels of hormones that a woman experiences throughout the month, like estrogen and progesterone, have an impact on sleep. Understanding the effects of these hormones, environmental factors and lifestyle habits can help women enjoy a good night's sleep.
- Exercise regularly, but finish your workout at least three hours before bedtime.
- Exercise may relieve some PMS symptoms and increase the amount of deep sleep.
- Avoid foods and drinks high in sugar (including honey, syrup), and caffeine (coffee, colas, tea, chocolate), as well as salty foods and alcohol before bedtime. Caffeine and alcohol disturb sleep.
- Try to have a standard bedtime routine and keep regular sleep times. Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool and quiet and that your pillow, sleep surface and coverings provide you with comfort.
- Consult your healthcare professional, if needed.
First Trimester (Months 1-3)
High levels of progesterone are produced, increasing feelings of sleepiness. Also, the number of times a woman wakes up during the night to urinate increases. Disturbed sleep patterns may begin. Interrupted sleep can cause daytime sleepiness. Women tend to sleep more during this time than before they were pregnant, or later in pregnancy.
Second Trimester (Months 4-6)
Progesterone levels still rise, but slowly. This allows for better sleep than during the first trimester. The growing fetus reduces pressure on the bladder by moving above it, decreasing the need for frequent bathroom visits. Sleep quality is still worse than it was before pregnancy.
Women experience the most pregnancy-related sleep problems now. They may often feel physically uncomfortable. Heartburn, leg cramps and sinus congestion are common reasons for disturbed sleep, as is an increased need to go to the bathroom. (The fetus puts pressure on the bladder again.) One recent study reported, that by the end of pregnancy, 98% of the women were waking during the night.
Restless Legs and Poor Sleep
Medications used to treat RLS may cause harm to the fetus and should be discussed with a doctor.
Sleep Tips for Pregnant Women
- In the third trimester, sleep on your left side to allow for the best blood flow to the fetus and to your uterus and kidneys. Avoid lying flat on your back for a long period of time.
- Drink lots of fluids during the day, but cut down before bedtime.
- To prevent heartburn, do not eat large amounts of spicy, acidic (such as tomato products), or fried foods. If heartburn is a problem, sleep with your head elevated on pillows.
- Exercise regularly to help you stay healthy, improve your circulation, and reduce leg cramps.
- Try frequent bland snacks (like crackers) throughout the day. This helps avoid nausea by keeping your stomach full.
- Special "pregnancy" pillows and mattresses may help you sleep better. Or use regular pillows to support your body.
- Naps may help. The NSF poll found that 51% of pregnant or recently pregnant women reported at least one weekday nap: 60 % reported at least one weekend nap.
- Talk to your doctor if insomnia persists.