8 Best Ways to Improve Sleep During Your Pregnancy

Pregnant women lacking sleep more likely to have complications

8 Best Ways to Improve Sleep During Your Pregnancy

Newborns have a certain reputation for keeping people up at odd hours with late-night feedings — but the sleepless nights can begin long before your baby arrives.

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Figuring out how to get better sleep during pregnancy is not just important for your energy and mood. Pregnant women who get less sleep are more likely to have complications, according to sleep disorders specialist Sally Ibrahim, MD.

Find out what sleep disrupters are common throughout your pregnancy, as well as ways to get better rest.

How stage of pregnancy affects sleep needs

Depending on the stage of your pregnancy, there are different sleep challenges to overcome.

In the first trimester, women tend to crave a significant amount of sleep. Don’t be surprised if you need to go to bed earlier, take more naps and feel sleepier overall. At this stage, the best thing you can do is to give into this urge, and get the rest your body needs.

In the second trimester, the need for sleep mostly returns to the way it was before you got pregnant.

But the pendulum generally swings again in the third trimester, when women tend to lose sleep.

Discomfort can come from:

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  • Back pain
  • Baby kicks
  • Leg cramps
  • More frequent urination urges
  • Substantial weight gain
  • Congestion associated with late-term pregnancy

RELATED: 5 Surprising Facts About Sleep Apnea

8 tips to help you get better sleep

Although it’s impossible for women to avoid many of the things that limit sleep during pregnancy, there are ways to get more (and better) rest:

  1. Develop a bedtime routine. It contributes to relaxation.
  2. Avoid electronics for at least an hour before bedtime. If that’s not possible, turn down the screen’s brightness.
  3. Limit caffeine in your diet.
  4. Relieve stress with yoga, mindfulness meditation or massage therapy.
  5. Don’t sleep on your back. It decreases the baby’s oxygen supply and puts pressure on your back.
  6. Sleep on your side. Use pillows to support your abdomen and hips.
  7. Limit breathing problems by elevating your head when you sleep.
  8. Stay well hydrated to help reduce leg cramping.

RELATED: Sleep Treatment Guide

Poor sleep opens door for ill health

Sleep problems during pregnancy are not inevitable. They can, and should be addressed.

Pregnant women who don’t sleep well are more likely to have:

  • High blood pressure (and related cardiac problems)
  • Poor sugar control (gestational diabetes)
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Postpartum depression (some research shows a link to this condition)

There are also some conditions that appear for the first time or worsen when you’re pregnant, Dr. Ibrahim says.

“These conditions can certainly rear their ugly heads in pregnancy and progress at a faster rate,” she says. “Someone might not have these conditions before pregnancy, and they might develop during any trimester.”

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RELATED: What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

Restless leg syndrome: If a woman has restless leg syndrome (RLS), it may get worse during pregnancy. The condition also may appear for the first time.

Once RLS shows up, it is more likely to recur in later pregnancies. However, symptoms return to normal (for pre-existing cases) or disappear (for new cases) moments after the baby is born, Dr. Ibrahim says.

Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is particularly dangerous for pregnant women.

Research shows negative effects for both mother and unborn baby. The effect isn’t major, Dr. Ibrahim says, but the full extent of the problem isn’t yet known.

Women with pregnancy-related sleep apnea also tend to have:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension)
  • Smaller babies

Talk to your doctor if you continue to struggle to get enough sleep. He or she can help pinpoint the cause and offer more tips to overcome it.

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