Sleep in pregnancy

Sleep in pregnancy is critical, but it isn’t always easy to come by. Physically, sleep helps your body recover from the hard work of pregnancy. Equally important though is that sleeps helps you to maintain your emotional wellbeing and handle the stressors in your life.

Often, however, getting a good night’s rest is easier said than done. Sleeping well isn’t just as simple as telling your body it’s time to go to sleep. This is especially so during pregnancy when sleep can be disrupted and comfort more difficult to achieve as you (or your partner) gets bigger.

If you find yourself struggling to get a restful night, the tips below may help you to better prepare your mind and body for sleep.

Strategies to support healthy sleep patterns in pregnancy

Establish a proper sleep environment - Make sure your sleeping area is dark, quiet and comfortable.  Also make your room cool if possible, as it is easier to sleep in a cool environment and as your body temperature rises in pregnancy you may need to use fans or air-conditioning.

Establish a proper sleep routine – Get up regularly the same time each morning so that your body can get into a rhythm.

Go to bed only to sleep - Don’t use your bed as a place to do other stimulating activities such as studying, watching television or surfing the internet. Also, allow yourself time to wind down before going to bed.

Try relaxation techniques – You may find that employing certain relaxation techniques help your body and mind to de-stress and feel calm, which can help you to fall or go back to sleep quicker.

Try multiple pillows  -  As your pregnancy progresses this may involve using multiple pillows in different positions around your stomach, legs and neck to pull your baby away from your diaphragm so you can breathe easily.

Exercise in the late afternoon or early evening – This will help to tire your body and release tension, promoting a relaxing state for your body later in the day.

Don’t drink after 6pm – This will reduce your need to get up during the evening.  Try making your last drink for the day a warm glass of skim milk.  The lactose in milk helps proteins enter the brain—and that can help people fall asleep.  If you develop lactose intolerance (which many women do during pregnancy) you can try soy milk or rice milk.

Avoid alcohol, caffeine or nicotine – As these are stimulants which don’t support relaxation.

Go to bed early when you are sleepy - If you do not fall asleep within 15 minutes, get up and go to another room, and stay up until you are sleepy.

Lie on your side - You’re not going to lie on your stomach as you enter the second trimester and your belly grows, but you do need to avoid lying flat on your back to prevent the weight of your uterus compressing the blood vessels that are feeding the placenta. Lying on your left side is better than lying on your right side as this allows more blood to flow to the uterus. Either side is better than lying on your back, so if you are not used to lying on your side, try getting used to this in the early months of pregnancy.

Using all or a combination of these strategies can assist greatly in getting a much needed, good night’s sleep.  

If you try these strategies but are still having difficulty sleeping, or experiencing other pains that are interfering with your sleep, your doctor may recommend some sleep medications that are safe to use in pregnancy. If you are considering complementary or alternative medicines (such as homeopathic or herbal remedies) to help with your sleep, talk with your doctor first as some supplements may have ingredients with unknown effects.