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How to Sleep Comfortably While Expecting

By: SleepScore Labs  |  January 3rd, 2021

Mothers-to-be understandably have concerns about getting enough sleep after the baby has arrived. However, getting enough sleep during pregnancy can be equally challenging, especially during the first and last trimesters. Whether it’s finding creative ways to help you fall asleep faster or new strategies for staying asleep longer, you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time with these tips. Read through for an in-depth look at how to sleep during pregnancy.  

How does pregnancy affect sleep? 

Understanding how to sleep during pregnancy begins with learning how pregnancy affects your sleep. Changes in hormone levels and the size of your stomach may make you uncomfortable while you’re trying to sleep, which may negatively affect sleep quality. You may find it difficult to sleep in certain positions, and it can be hard to suddenly change the way you sleep after all these years. 

In addition to the general changes your body undergoes during pregnancy, there are also several conditions that can affect how you sleep during pregnancy. Some of the sleep disorders and conditions commonly experienced during pregnancy include obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and gastroesophageal reflux disorder. If you’re experiencing any of these problems, it’s important to get treatment by speaking to a medical professional as soon as possible. 

Not only is sleeping harder when you’re pregnant, but it’s also incredibly important. You need to keep your body healthy during your pregnancy, and knowing how long you should nap and how to get a good night’s sleep is a big part of that. Sleep helps keep your immune system working at maximum capacity and helps regulate your blood sugar. Women who don’t get enough sleep during pregnancy are at a higher risk for preeclampsia, which is persistently high blood pressure during pregnancy that can be dangerous. 

Sleep during the first trimester 

During the first trimester, the desire to get comfortable and nap can make newly pregnant women wonder if they will ever be able to stay up long enough to watch their favorite evening show. Early on in pregnancy, the sleep-inducing hormone progesterone tends to kick in and cause a sudden craving to nap. To weather the effects of fatigue during the first trimester and ensure you are getting quality sleep at night, here are a few easy ways to feel more rested. 

  • Put sleep on the top of your priority list and schedule some time to take a nap during the day. Napping can be part of a healthy sleep-wake preference, as long as they’re short (less than 30 minutes) and not taken too close to bedtime.  
  • Stay hydrated during the day but limit the amount of liquids you consume before bedtime to avoid unnecessary trips to the bathroom. 
  • When you have to use the restroom at night, make sure to have a nightlight on in the bathroom – exposure to its dim light instead of bright light in the bathroom may reduce the negative impact of overnight bright light on sleep.  Pro tip: purchase a nightlight with motion detection, so the light will turn on only when you need it and then will automatically turn off to keep your room dark for sleep. 

Sleep during the second trimester 

During the second trimester, your belly begins to grow larger and may make it difficult for you to sleep in certain positions. If you sleep on your back, it’s important to make sure your mattress isn’t sagging down too much, so you have back support. You can place a board in between the mattress and box spring if your mattress isn’t firm enough. 

Aside from trying bedtime rituals for adults, you might also want to invest in a pregnancy pillow to help you sleep better. How you should sleep when pregnant depends on what position you like to sleep in, but a U or C-shaped pillow can help make it easier to sleep on your side if that’s what you prefer. As long as you’re supporting your back and getting plenty of sleep each night, you don’t have too much to worry about.  

  • Consider asking your doctor, “How should I sleep while pregnant?” 
  • Try hugging a pregnancy pillow that runs up your back and stomach and between your legs. 
  • Try a nighttime routine to calm yourself down and prepare yourself to sleep. 

Sleep during the third trimester 

The second trimester is usually the most restful, but sleep can become a distant memory when the third trimester begins. During pregnancy, the bladder is often under pressure, making it difficult to get comfortable. Other sleep stealers like heartburnrestless leg syndrome, leg cramps, and even snoring can become real issues too. Fortunately, there are a few techniques that may improve the quality of your sleep: 

  • Place a pillow between your legs to help support your lower back and make it easier (and more comfortable) to sleep on your side. 
  • If it’s comfortable for you, sleep on your left side with your legs slightly curled. Try to avoid lying on your back for extended periods of time. 
  • Run a humidifier in the bedroom to help combat dry mouth and swollen nasal passages that can lead to snoring and restlessness. 

Sleeping on your back while pregnant 

Early in your pregnancy, there’s nothing wrong with sleeping on your back. Sleeping on your back is considered safe during the first trimester, but some studies suggest it may increase the risk of stillbirth after that. Even if that’s not the case, there are several other issues that can arise from sleeping on your back while pregnant. Sleeping on your back can cause back pain, hemorrhoids, digestive issues, and circulation problems. 

According to the Sleep Foundation, while sleeping on your back during pregnancy is okay during the first trimester, it’s recommended to switch to a different position later in your pregnancy. If you’re going to sleep on your back, make sure you have a firm mattress that offers plenty of support. 

Sleeping on your stomach while pregnant 

Sleeping on your stomach when you’re pregnant may seem odd, but that’s the position of choice for some when it comes to how to sleep comfortably while pregnant. The good news is, there’s no worry about hurting the baby when sleeping on your stomach, thanks to the amniotic sac and amniotic fluid that act as shock absorbers to prevent the baby from injury. 

After about 16 to 18 weeks, most people have a big enough bump that they aren’t comfortable sleeping on their stomachs. You can find stomach sleeping pillows that make it a bit more comfortable, but you may want to try a new position if your bump is getting too big for stomach sleeping. 

Sleeping on your right side vs. left side during pregnancy 

You may have heard there’s a difference between sleeping on your right side and sleeping on your left side. So, how should you sleep when pregnant? Research suggests that sleeping on your left side during pregnancy is preferred compared to sleeping on your right side, as it allows for more blood flow to the baby. When compared to stomach and back sleeping, side sleeping is still the preferred position since it doesn’t put any strain on your back or pressure on your stomach. 

Tips for sleeping while pregnant 

While you may be experiencing sleep difficulties due to pregnancy, it’s important to lay the foundations for sleep. These tips can help you achieve a healthy night of sleep at any time.  

  • Decide what bedtime and wake-up time will allow you to get plenty of sleep, and then do your best to stick to that sleep schedule. Your body will appreciate the routine. 
  • Implement relaxation techniques into your nighttime routine to get ready for sleep. This might include taking a warm bath or shower before bed, reading or writing in a journal, or other practices that help you feel calm. 
  • Cut out the caffeine. Although your doctor may say it’s okay to indulge in a cup of tea or coffee occasionally, avoiding caffeinated beverages might help you to wind down more quickly in the evening. 
  • Try not to check email or social media before bed to help keep your mind clear and relaxed. 
  • Limit your use of electronics such as desktop computers, laptops, and tablets in the evening. This will reduce your exposure to blue light, which can interfere with sleep. 
  • If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help from loved ones or from health professionals. 

 If you still experience issues after trying these tips, there’s a chance you could be experiencing an underlying sleep issue. Be sure to talk to your OB/GYN or primary care doctor about your sleep health. You need all the quality sleep you can get before your little one enters the big world!  

Sweet dreams! 



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