Sleep tips for pregnancy

Achieving good sleep when you are pregnant can really be a challenge. It is usual in the first trimester to experience extreme tiredness and then you have the promise of the second trimester when you should begin to feel vital and well.  However, this isn’t always the case and as your pregnancy progresses and you body increases in size, sleep can be very elusive and lack of sleep can prevent mums to be from operating at their optimum levels and also susceptible to colds, illnesses and depressive symptoms.  Getting a good night’s sleep whilst you are pregnant can be a difficult task, but not impossible.  I have put together some helpful tips that will help you get comfortable and feel better rested during your pregnancy.

  1. Finding a comfortable sleeping position. As you get larger, it can become more difficult to get into a comfortable position.  It is a good idea to try to get into the habit of sleeping on your side early on in your pregnancy.  Lying on your side with your knees slightly bent will be the most comfortable position you will be able to get into as you head into your third trimester.  If you become used to sleeping that way before you get big that can help.  Sleeping on your side has positive implications for your body: it makes your heart’s job easier to circulate blood.  Some experts specifically recommend lying on your left side as this prevents your uterus putting pressure on your liver and allows for the best blood flow to the baby, uterus and kidneys.  However lying on either side is useful.
    It may be worth experimenting with some pillows to aid comfort. You can use one to support your belly, or put one between your legs and also use one at your back to help prop you up.  Some full length body pillows can really assist with improving the quality of your sleep.
  2. Keep a regular wake up and bedtime. This will help to regulate your body clock and train your body to sleep and wake at certain times.  Make sure that you are getting enough sleep.  Most adults need 7-9 hours and during pregnancy mums-to-be sometimes need a little more.  Get into the habit of going to bed early as this is a great way of getting extra sleep.  This will be essential when your new baby arrives too.
  3. Try to cut down on caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee.  Too much caffeine affects sleep in general and during your pregnancy if sleep is an issue it may be worth restricting your intake to the morning or at least early afternoon.   Some experts suggest a caffeine ban after 2pm.  Pregnant mums are advised to restrict their intake to 1 cup a day anyway so it is a necessary change that will help your sleeping pattern.
  4. Avoid eating large meals or drinking fluids close to bedtime. Ensure that you are eating a balanced diet throughout the day but avoid eating a large meal within a few hours of bedtime. It is recommended that you finish eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. Some expectant woman will have their dinner as the smallest meal of the day to avoid discomfort during sleep-time.  Furthermore, ensure that you drink the recommended fluid amounts during the day but try to cut down as bedtime approaches in order to prevent your sleep being compromised by needing to use the toilet excessively throughout the night.  As your pregnancy progresses needing to use the bathroom frequently can be part of the package, but try your best to limit the distruption as much as possible.  When using the bathroom, don’t turn on lights and avoid over-stimulating yourself making the return to sleep challenging post toilet run.
  5. Prevent heartburn interfering with your sleep, avoid large amounts of spicy, acidic or fried foods. If you are already suffering in this department, consider elevating your head with pillows.
  6. Try not to do any strenuous exercise too close to bedtime. Regular exercise during the day will improve your circulation and reduce leg cramps, but doing this too close to bedtime will make it hard for you to go to sleep.  Avoid exercise in the final 3 hours before bedtime to make sure that you are not interfering with your ability to switch off.  Indulge in something relaxing like a warm bath or hot drink to help prepare your body for peaceful uninterrupted sleep.
  7. Manage leg cramps by pressing your feet hard against a wall, or standing on the leg and by also ensuring that you are getting enough calcium in your diet which can help reduce this complaint.
  8. Learn some relaxation and breathing techniques that you can use at bedtime. Take a pregnancy yoga class-be sure to consult your GP before undertaking a new activity.  Simple breathing exercises like breathing in through the nose for four counts, holding your breath for 4 counts and exhaling for four counts can help.
  9. Take a day time nap-if you feel like you need to sleep do. Pretty soon you will be having frequent night waking with your baby and it won’t be about you anymore! So grab some rest whenever your body indicates that it needs it.  Short 30-60 minutes sleeps during the day can help make up for lost sleep.  Avoid napping after 3pm to ensure that night time sleep is still easy to achieve.  After your baby is born, take naps and rest whenever possible so that you are looking after yourself.  This may be easier said than done, but those first few weeks and months can be very tiring-it will pass!
  10. For those times when you just can’t sleep, don’t just lay there tossing and turning and worrying about how little sleep you are getting. Get up and do something away from the bedroom.  Visit the nursery, read a book, listen to music and try again a little later.

Lucy Wolfe

I am a mum of four young children, founder and principle of Sleep Matters – Help Your Child Sleep, a private sleep consulting practice where I enjoy providing knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families across the country. I have completed extensive training and continuing professional development with leading sleep specialists and I am the European Director of the International Association of Professional Sleep Consultants.

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