It’s no secret that struggling to catch nightly shut-eye is part of the deal when you have a new baby. But who could have guessed that catching good sleep during pregnancy would also present itself with its trials and tribulations too?!
Hormonal changes bring on serious fatigue most often in your first trimester and later in the third trimester, but that fatigue doesn’t guarantee peaceful sleep throughout the night. With 3am, and 4am… (and 5am…) bathroom runs, the aches and pains of nocturnal baby kicks, drive-you-crazy leg cramps, and tossing and turning to find that elusive comfortable position – it can be tough to grab some serious, restful shut-eye.
But there is hope! We’ve compiled a list of our best 5 tips that will help you get some well-earned rest before your little one arrives.
5 Tips for Better Sleep During Pregnancy
1. Make pillows your new best friend! Sorry to your partner, but they’ll have to move over for just a bit! You might be lucky enough to cruise through your first and second trimester without one, but by the third trimester, you’ll definitely need a good body pillow. They are definitely worth the investment as they’ll support your bump and keep your knees parallel to each other – preventing pesky back pain. A good body pillow is the base for a good night’s sleep – the sooner you get one the better!
Do a little research before you hit checkout on a body pillow purchase. The classic C-shape or U-shape pillow is a great option to keep you comfortable at all angles as it supports your neck, bump, back and knees. Of course, these pillows take up a good amount of room, so a standard long pillow but might be a better option if you’re tight on space. However, if you’re one to move around in the night a long pillow might not offer the support you need.
If you’re prone to heartburn, you might want to look for a wedge pillow that will help keep your upper body at a slight incline, to reduce the discomfort from acid reflux. Whichever pillow (or pillows!) you go for, make sure it properly supports your neck – you don’t want to wake up with unwanted and painful stiffness.
Lastly, there are lots of different filling options (everything from polyester to memory foam) but to keep things natural we definitely recommend checking out wool pregnancy pillows. They offer an organic and naturally hypoallergenic filling that’s resistant to dust mites and bacteria and the material is breathable to help you stay cooler and more comfortable through the night.
2. Get your sweat on! Regular daytime exercise can help you fall asleep more quickly at night, and stay asleep longer. As you’re pushing through that workout, just keep thinking about how good that sleep will feel! However, that doesn’t mean working out right before bed is the way to go. You’ll want to give at least two hours between your workout ending and bedtime. Generally, even if you’re physically tired after a workout, exercise gives our brains an energy boost that lasts for 1-3 hours after you finish, which can make it harder to fall asleep.
Keep in mind that with prenatal exercise you don’t want work yourself to a fatigue, and a great way to do that is by 1) listening to your body and what feels like too much and 2) using the talk test during workouts – where you should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising to ensure you aren’t out of breath and over-exerting yourself.
3. Make sure your dinner time habits support good sleep. Even with those cravings in full swing and increased water needs, you’ll want to keep your meals (and liquids) on the lighter side the closer you get to bedtime. For one, it will help reduce the intensity and occurrence of heartburn and will limit those nightly runs to the loo. It’s also a good idea to limit spicy and acidic foods at night as they’re top triggers for heartburn. If you’re dealing with nighttime nausea, a few dry whole-grain crackers before bed are believed to stave off night time nausea. When it comes to water, try to have your last full glass about an hour before going to bed so you’ll be less disrupted by needing to pee in the middle of the night.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps with so many pregnancy symptoms – sleep included! Many women find magnesium supplements helpful come nighttime, but you’ll definitely want to talk to your doc before taking any supplements yourself. You can also get magnesium through your food, particularly from these options: Swiss chard, spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and dark chocolate (um – yes please)!
4. Become the queen of the power naps. Depending on your work situation and what your day looks like, you may or may not be able to work in some power naps. If you are able to catch some midday rest – we say embrace it. If you do take power naps, there is a trick to doing them right. Power naps are most successful when kept to under 20 minutes, as it allows our brain time to rest without going into a full REM cycle. Naps can be counterproductive when you wake up in the middle of the cycle (usually from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours in) because you just end up groggier – and likely crankier – than you were before the nap.
Ultimately, you want your body on a healthy circadian rhythm which is established with regular sleep cycles – so good nighttime sleep is always the best bet, especially if you can aim for a full 8 hours. But don’t knock the naps if you need them!
5. Get the little things right. The final piece to a truly blissful night’s sleep during pregnancy is to make sure you’ve got the little things going for you. Things like your positioning, the temperature of the room, and ambient light all play a part. For positioning, try sleeping on your side. In fact, by week 20 it’s recommended that you sleep on your side as often as possible. Research shows that the left side is your best bet because it maximizes blood flow to the fetus, uterus, and kidneys. For temperature, try to keep your bedroom on the cold side – around 18˚C or 65˚F. This will help signal to your body that it’s time for rest and help you stay asleep more effectively. For ambient light, the darker the better! Pick up some blackout curtains and try to limit the use of electronic light as much as possible.
Building healthy habits around sleep and learning what your body needs now will be so helpful once baby arrives and those sleep schedules are thrown off cycle. Finding little ways to improve sleep can really add up, and it will be sure to have a significant impact on both your psychological wellbeing and physical health. So go get your sleep on!