Pregnancy Sleep Tips to Help You Finally Get a Solid Night's Rest
Doctor-backed tips on how to fall asleep, stay asleep, and rest better with a baby on the way.
As your belly grows during pregnancy, sleep becomes more and more elusive. Just about *everything* seems to impair your ability to catch some much-needed zzz's: being incredibly uncomfortable (hi, kicking baby/belly/other bodily and hormonal changes), having to go pee 24/7, nighttime acid reflux (ugh), stress, even a new snoring habit. (Related: Shop Everything That Got Me Through My First Trimester of Pregnancy)
"Overall, more than 70 percent of all pregnant women will complain of some degree or another of sleep disturbances," says Leila Kheirandish-Gozal, M.D., a researcher and sleep expert at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. So if you can sleep well, "you are one lucky lady," says Dr. Kheirandish-Gozal.
If you can't, fret not. Simply read on for experts' best tips for finally getting a good night's rest no matter where you're at in your pregnancy. It's possible, we promise!
Pay Attention to What Your Eat and Drink Before Bed
Waking up all the time to pee in the middle of the night? "Many moms are awakened due to vigorous fetal movement during the night. This often includes small hands or feet poking into the bladder, causing the urge to urinate," says Regan Theiler, M.D., Ph.D., an ob-gyn at the Mayo Clinic. "Given that the bladder is already squeezed by the uterus and baby, many women wake to urinate every hour in the third trimester."
While there's not much you can do about that, there are some diet changes you can make that can help. Avoiding bladder irritants such as caffeine, carbonation, citrus, and spicy foods can stretch out the time between bathroom trips overnight, says Dr. Theiler. Skip sugary foods and beverages before bed, too (a good idea for everyone trying to improve their sleep)-it could decrease how much your baby moves when you're trying to fall asleep, she says.
Rethink Your Dinner Timing (and Your Bed Setup)
During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone relaxes the valve between your stomach and your esophagus, making heartburn a thing. To keep it at bay before bed (it can kick up big-time when you're lying down and don't have gravity on your side) eat a smaller, earlier dinner and consider an antacid, suggests Joanne Stone, M.D., division director of maternal-fetal medicine at the Mount Sinai Health System. (As a bonus, TUMS has calcium which pregnant ladies need more of.)
And instead of propping yourself up on pillows, which can compress your stomach (aggravating reflux), consider placing risers/blocks under the top legs of your bed, she suggests.
Create an Über-Relaxing Bedtime Routine
The stress of-well, you know-can easily keep you up at night, yet another reason why insomnia is common in late pregnancy. That means mamas-to-be can benefit big time from a pre-bedtime relaxation routine to calm the mind and body. Consider a warm bath, drinking a glass of milk (it contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps induce sleep), and meditation as well as cutting devices an hour before bed, says Amy L. Stephens, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Cleveland Clinic. (To add to the relaxing vibe, consider a calming, peace-inducing aromatic spray safe for pregnancy.)
Put a Pillow Between Your Knees
You can't sleep on your back (that could compress blood vessels to the uterus, limiting blood flow to your baby), and sleeping on your stomach is out (a bump makes that pretty tough). But you don't want to be on your side with one knee up in a figure-four position either, says Lauren Peterson, D.P.T., owner and clinical director of FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City. "This forces the hips forward, putting pressure on the peripheral nerves; it ends up lengthening the muscles in one leg and shortening the muscles of the other, all the while leading to uncomfortable sleep and more pain while awake." (FYI, these prenatal yoga moves can help relieve pain naturally.)
The solution: placing a pillow between your knees. This supports proper alignment of your low back and hips, which will make for a more comfortable night's sleep, she says. Or, try a pregnancy pillow, suggests Marianne Ryan, P.T., a Manhattan-based physical therapist with a specialty in prenatal and postnatal care.
Keep an Eye Out for Noise
"Body weight changes that happen naturally during pregnancy can facilitate the onset of snoring, and in many cases can even lead to sleep apnea-a condition that can harm both you and your baby," says Dr. Kheirandish-Gozal. "Sleep apnea has been associated with increased blood pressure and other pregnancy problems that are commonly called pre-eclampsia." But more generally, snoring and sleep apnea can tank your sleep quality, leading you to feel even more zonked during the day than you already do (thanks to a rise in the hormone progesterone).
Notice you're a new snorer? Talk to your doc to rule out sleep apnea-and keep sleeping on your side, a position that can lessen the likelihood of snoring. Adding a nasal strip and a humidifier to your nighttime routine can also help.
Try to Keep Things Dark
Exposure to bright light can disrupt your body clock, making it harder to fall (back) asleep, says Dr. Kheirandish-Gozal. So if you get up to go, try to keep things as dark as possible, guiding yourself via a nightlight (try Casper's new bedside light, which has a sensor that guides you with a gentle glow) or keep the bathroom light off. (Related: The Best Light-Blocking Sleep Masks, According to Amazon Reviews)
Sit Up from Bed Sideways
OK, so this won't quite help you sleep better, but if you're getting out of bed frequently during the night, it *will* help with back pain. Instead of getting out of bed like you're doing a sit-up, roll over onto your side and then sit up sideways, Ryan says. The same goes for getting into bed-sit on the bed, swing your legs up, lean back sideways, and then roll over, so you're not overworking your ab muscles or aggravating your back.