If pregnancy glow was real, then sleep deprivation is too—and it's a lot less glamorous. It's no secret that pregnancy can make you feel dizzy, clumsy, and exhausted. It's all part of the journey—but sometimes that exhaustion turns into something more: troubles getting to sleep and staying asleep.
No matter how hard you try to keep your eyes open during the day, once the sun goes down, you can't seem to catch up on Zzzs—and everything from your snoring partner to your own racing thoughts is keeping you wide awake all night long. But what exactly is causing those pregnancy sleep problems?
We talked about what's keeping you awake at night in a previous post, but throughout this article, we'll unpack the most common sleep disturbances experienced during pregnancy, so you can create a plan of attack and get some much-needed rest. Ready? Let's dive in!
Causes of Sleep Disturbances During Pregnancy
Ah, pregnancy! It's an exciting time, but it can also bring with it a host of...less-than-desirable things. One of those is trouble sleeping. If you are pregnant and struggling to get a good night's rest, you're not alone! There are a lot of common issues that can make resting at night difficult.
Let's take a look at some of the potential causes:
Hormonal Changes: Hormonal changes in early pregnancy can cause daytime sleepiness and fatigue. This means that by bedtime, you may be exhausted and yet unable to sleep.
Primary Sleep Disorders: Primary sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and restless legs syndrome (RLS) are more common during pregnancy due to weight gain, hormonal changes, and physiological stress.
Other Causes: In addition to hormonal changes and primary sleep disorders, there are other common causes of sleep disruption during pregnancy—including frequent visits to the toilet, nausea and vomiting due to morning sickness, leg cramps or musculoskeletal pain due to ligament laxity or postural shifts brought on by weight gain.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Problems
As the pregnancy progresses, you may start to experience some signs and symptoms that your sleep is being affected. One of the most common sleep disturbances is difficulty falling or staying asleep, or feelings of tiredness throughout the day. You may also experience frequent awakenings or difficulty breathing while sleeping. These can be attributed to increased pressure on your chest due to the weight of your baby as well as frequent trips to the bathroom.
In addition, other physical changes that come with pregnancy may lead to sleep disturbances. As your body releases hormones during pregnancy, your metabolism and body temperature shift, causing night sweats that can disrupt your slumber. Heartburn can also keep you up at night and make it hard for you to get into a restful state. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, take a moment to look into more ways to make sure you're getting enough quality shut-eye during this important time in your life.
Tips to Sleep Better During Pregnancy
Being pregnant can make sleeping difficult. Not only do you have the normal worries of an adult—work, paying bills, etc.—but now you have another little human to worry about too. That's a lot to process! There are things that you can do, however, to help get a more restful night's sleep while pregnant.
Create a Sleep Routine
To support yourself through your different trimesters, set yourself up for success: go to bed and wake up at the same time each day and practice relaxing activities like reading or listening to calming music before bedtime. Make sure your bedroom is designed for sleep. It should be cool in temperature and free from distractions such as TV or your laptop.
Getting enough exercise and activity during the day can help tire you out so that you’re ready for sleep at night. Exercise creates a natural release of endorphins throughout the body that can put you into a better mood—and an improved mood can also lead to improved sleep quality as well.
Eat Well and Smartly
What we eat makes a huge difference in how we feel throughout the day, so try your best stick with nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables throughout the day rather than processed junk food. Eating late at night is also known to contribute to inefficient sleep so try cutting down on those late-night snacks!
What Is a Maternity Pillow and How Can It Help?
One of the most common sleep disturbances during pregnancy is body aches and discomfort due to awkward sleeping positions. A maternity pillow is designed to support a pregnant woman's body during sleep, which can significantly improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.
A maternity pillow typically is made out of soft foam or other materials. It's also different than your average regular pillow, so it can support your hips, neck and shoulders. The idea is that you don't have to rearrange the pillow multiple times throughout the night as it provides both sides-ways and front-ways support. Even your back is well-supported!
Benefits of a Maternity Pillow
The benefits of using a maternity pillow are numerous:
Supports your back, hips, neck and bump for better alignment when sleeping on your side
Helps provide relief from sciatica pain by keeping your hips aligned when you’re lying on your side
Gives support for babies that shift position while in the womb
Makes breastfeeding while lying down much easier
Can be used as a leg or arm rest while reading or watching TV (so, yes, you can use a maternity pillow after pregnancy!)
Using a maternity pillow can not only offer physical relief from pregnancy discomforts but also more restful sleep, giving mom-to-be one more way to feel more comfortable during her pregnancy journey!
Managing Stress and Anxiety for Better Sleep During Pregnancy
It's normal to feel a little worried or anxious when you're pregnant but when it interferes with your sleep, it can become a real problem. To help manage these feelings and improve your sleep, here are a few suggestions:
A light exercise routine is always recommended for pregnant women. Low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or doing yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety levels and improve sleep quality.
Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, and visualization can also be helpful in calming your mind and body. They help to clear your mind of the worries that can keep you up at night.
Talk to Someone
An extra benefit of talking through your worries with someone else is that it can take the pressure off of you. Which brings us to our next point...
Join a Support Group
If you're looking for more than just someone who will listen to you vent, there are plenty of online resources such as blogs and support groups dedicated specifically to helping pregnant women cope with the physical and emotional changes they feel during pregnancy.
Pregnancy can be an incredibly exhausting experience. Add in all the sleepless nights and it can really take its toll. Beyond the physical exhaustion, lack of sleep can also contribute to other issues such as depression, anxiety, poor immune health and poor concentration.
At the end of the day, sleep during pregnancy is an individual experience. Everyone is unique and will require different strategies to get a good night of sleep. Some may find that using a maternity pillow, using light exercise, and other relaxation techniques are the best solutions.
Others may find that changing their sleep environment, reading self-help books, or seeking counseling are the best way to keep your pregnancy sleep issues at bay. Regardless of the strategy you chose, the goal is always the same - to get a good night of rest so that you, and your growing baby, can stay healthy and happy.