"I feel good, I'm just tired." I uttered these familiar words (well, once I got past the morning sickness) many times during my pregnancies. Without a doubt, pregnancy often makes women feel tired. The body works around the clock to help your baby grow and also produces hormones that can bring on fatigue. A good night sleep is essential and helps you feel rested, energized, and prepared for your little one's arrival.
It sounds simple, but sleeping during pregnancy—particularly in the last few months—can be challenging. Sleep deprivation can frustrate you and make it difficult to survive the next day's work or caring for older children. And let's face it, in our society, most of us don't get (or take advantage of) the opportunity to rest during the day, so we will most likely not recoup our energy until the evening. This makes nighttime sleep that much more important. And despite being exhausted, many women still have troubles getting to sleep.
Finding a Comfortable Position
The end of the day nears and you change into your pajamas, eager to fall asleep. You line up extra pillows and battle with them before settling into a comfortable position. As your pregnancy progresses, your belly grows and your pelvis spreads to accommodate your baby. Your belly gets in the way, your hips hurt, and your back is sore regardless of your position. And if you were previously a stomach or back sleeper, you now must transition to side sleeping, which can be difficult.
Your changing body must be supported properly so you feel comfortable and avoid tossing and turning all night. This can be achieved by lying on your left side with a pillow between your knees and another placed under your belly. You can also tuck a pillow behind your back to help you stay on your side and take some pressure off your hip. Although the left side is preferred as it optimizes blood flow to you and your baby, you may alternate with laying on your right side. Some women find maternity sleep pillows more comfortable, less cumbersome, and less likely to end up on the floor in the middle of the night.
Pregnant women who suffer with heartburn may be more comfortable sleeping in a semi-upright position in bed or a recliner chair. You can prop yourself up in bed with several pillows supporting your upper back and head. Placing a pillow under the right side of your back will allow you to lie partially on your left side to promote improved circulation. You may also find that avoiding spicy food, eating several smaller meals throughout the day, and taking a chewable antacid can help relieve heartburn.
The Racing Mind
Congratulations, you've found a comfortable position! Now you start thinking ... that deadline at work, how you will afford child care, the best color to paint the baby's room. Pregnancy is an exciting time, and as the day winds down your mind may wander, causing anxiety and the inability to fall asleep. Pregnancy hormones can make you more emotional and sensitive, thus more affected by stressful events. High-sugar snacks and caffeinated drinks will also stimulate you, as will exercising too close to bedtime.
Relaxation exercises, deep breathing, or reading a book in bed might help quiet your mind at night. Try to avoid stressful conversations, checking email, and watching television before bed to reduce the likelihood of a racing mind. Although exercising too late in the day will likely keep you wound up, daily exercise a few hours before bed helps reduce stress and improve nighttime sleep.