Everyone tells you to get as much sleep as possible before your nocturnal new-born arrives. But it can be tricky to get asleep and stay asleep when you're pregnant.
From pregnancy pillows to helping your circadian rhythm - there’s lots you can do to getting your sleep back on track.
And getting rest is more important than ever when you're growing another life. Your body is putting in a lot of extra work, and it needs extra rest to recover and recharge.
But as your body gets bigger, it's also harder to change positions, and the extra pressure on your muscles and ligaments can be uncomfortable. Sleeping on your tummy is an obvious no-go, and everything can feel a bit unfamiliar.
Here are some of the other reasons it can be hard to sleep well, especially in your second and third trimesters.
- Pressure on your bladder
- Aches and pains
- Heartburn and sleep apnoea
- Trying to stay in a certain position
The good news is that you can do many simple things to sleep better while carrying your baby. But first, let's look at why sleep is so important for you and your wellbeing.
Why is it important to sleep well while pregnant?
Pregnant or not, sleep is always essential, and helps with all kinds of health outcomes.
It helps boost your immunity, increases your cognitive function, and can make you feel better overall.
And it becomes more critical when you're growing another human. You're extra tired from carrying the extra weight around, the pregnancy saps your energy and nutrients, and you might be extra busy organising antenatal classes and midwife appointments.
But don't underestimate the importance of quality sleep.
Here are some of the benefits you could have from sleeping well while pregnant.
- Better mood
- Increased energy
- Reduce common conditions like heartburn and leg cramps
- Improved mental health
- Reduce risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure
- Can help reduce your labour time and improve your delivery.
A major thing that keeps mums-to-be awake is staying in the best position. Here's how you should sleep while pregnant and some tips to stay that way.
What's the best position for sleeping while pregnant?
Bad news tummy and back sleepers – health experts recommend sleeping on your side while pregnant. This is because sleeping on your back can put a lot of weight on your back and spine muscles. It also helps with common conditions like heartburn and sleep apnoea and is sometimes linked with better health outcomes.
You shouldn't panic if you wake up on your back, but it's best to set yourself up, so you're less likely to do so too often, so you're not waking up and changing positions too often. You can set yourself up well by putting pillows behind your back and in between your legs. Otherwise, you can purchase a specialised pregnancy pillow to keep you well supported and comfy.
Quick note – is it better to sleep on your left side while pregnant?
Some doctors suggest sleeping on your left side helps to keep your uterus off your liver, which is on the right side of your abdomen. It can also improve circulation.
But don't worry – changing positions is always going to happen! It's a normal part of sleeping and not one you should avoid. So, don't beat yourself up for switching positions, the most important thing is to stay calm and stress-free.
You should also ask your doctor what they recommend, they'll have the best advice for you.
Five Tips For Sleeping While Pregnant:
From pregnancy pillows to a water drinking schedule - there’s a lot you can do. And remember that if you're pregnant and struggling with sleeping, you're not alone. Some research suggests pregnancy insomnia affects up to 78% of pregnant women.
So, how can you calm your mind and help your body get some well-earned rest?
Practice relaxation before bed
Sleeping when stressed is always tricky, and there's no doubt that the pressure of growing another life adds to that.
On top of work, money, family or social stresses, you may find yourself lying in bed worrying about labour, or finding space for your new family member. Instead, take some time to do something that calms you, whether it's reading a book or doing some gentle stretching.
Try a warm bath with essential oils, or listen to a guided relaxation meditation to ease your racing mind.
- Exercise during the day
Easier said than done, right? But even light yoga or a brisk walk around your neighbourhood each day is better than nothing.
Plenty of studies shows that exercise tires you out, can expose you to more daylight, and helps with stress and anxiety.
Aim for 30 minutes of gentle exercise each day, and try to make it something you enjoy, so it doesn't feel like a chore. Just avoid doing any exercise at least an hour before bed, as that can make it more difficult to sleep.
- Create a dark and peaceful environment
We all have a body clock, otherwise known as a circadian rhythm, which tells us when it's time to sleep and wake.
One of the external cues influencing our body clock is darkness or light. We associate dark and quietness with sleep time, so take some time to create a calm and quiet environment. Dim the lights, avoid screens (including your phone), draw the curtains, and light a few candles.
Drink lots during the day
Drinking plenty is crucial while pregnant, but the key is to stop drinking a few hours before you go to bed.
With the extra pressure on your bladder, many people find they end up waking up to go to the toilet every couple of hours, which can be a huge sleep disruptor. Drinking more water during the day will help you feel much better. You need extra hydration to form amniotic fluid, produce extra blood and tissue, aid digestion, and flush out toxins.
So, carry around a big bottle of water so you can keep extra hydrated during the day, and stop a couple of hours before you start your bedtime routine to keep the toilet trips at bay.
- Use a pregnancy pillow
Sleeping in your second and third trimesters is no joke. It's advised not to sleep on your back or tummy, it's difficult to change your sleeping position, and all those aches and niggles can keep you awake.
A pregnancy pillow keeps you well supported, in a side sleeping position, and well-cushioned. The right pillow will also ease the pressure on your hips, back, shoulders, and legs, so you can sleep restfully and wake up refreshed.
They're adjustable, three-piece pillow sets that ease your body and mind so you can enjoy a perfect nights' sleep. Unlike traditional shapes, you can change the shape and size of your set-up as your needs and body changes.
Sleeping Better As a Mum-To-Be
Remember, the most important thing you can do is relax and be easy on yourself. Take time to de-stress and look after yourself, whether that looks like an afternoon nap or an hour watching reality TV.
For more advice and guidance on sleeping while pregnant and choosing the best pregnancy pillow or best maternity pillow for you, check out our Sleepybelly blogs.