Sleep during pregnancy is hugely important. It takes a lot of energy to grow a baby, not to mention carry it around with you everywhere you go. Nothing is more comforting when pregnant than crawling into bed, but unfortunately, it’s never quite as easy as simply hopping under the covers.
When pregnant, your heart works four or five times harder than normal to keep enough blood flowing through your body and your baby’s body. Your kidneys are working harder to expel waste products too. And then, to top it off, you have a surge in the hormone progesterone, which contributes to fatigue and can leave you feeling more exhausted than you ever could have imagined.
Of course being exhausted doesn’t automatically mean you’ll sleep. In fact, a host of pregnancy issues can make a good night’s sleep seem like the trickiest thing in the world.
Sleep is elusive during pregnancy for a number of reasons. These reasons include:
- A constant need to urinate
- Indigestion or heartburn
- Leg cramps
- Hormonal changes
But most of all, sleepless nights are caused by lack of comfort.
Getting comfy when pregnant, especially in the later months, is no easy task. On the rare moments you do get comfortable, your baby decides it’s the right time to start doing acrobatics. But don’t give up hope – a comfy and safe night’s sleep can be achieved with these handy hints.
1. Prepare yourself
When you find out you’re pregnant, prepare yourself for what’s about to come. If you anticipate sleepless nights, you can be better equipped to handle them.
The key here is to make your bedroom as comfortable as it can be. If you have an old mattress that’s seen better days, consider getting a new one. Treat yourself to some plush bedding and add a few cushions, take a look at the feng shui layout, install dimmer switches to better control the light, get rid of clutter and apply cool and warm hues. Make your bedroom a haven for sleep, so that as you grow, you stand a better chance at being comfortable.
2. Know the don’ts
The first thing to remember about pregnancy sleep positions are the don’ts.
Don’t sleep on your back: When you lie on your back, your belly pushes down onto your intestines, leading to tummy troubles. As your belly grows bigger, the weight of your uterus can compress a major blood vessel, called the vena cava, disrupting blood flow to your baby and leaving you nauseated, dizzy and short of breath.
Don’t sleep directly on your stomach: In the early stages of pregnancy it is perfectly safe to sleep on your tummy. In actual fact, sleeping on your tummy is generally safe for as long as you feel comfortable. Your baby is inside a protective little bubble and while it’s protective walls grow thinner the longer into the pregnancy, your baby is unlikely to ever be effected by you choosing to sleep on your stomach. That said, it is recommended that pregnant tummy sleepers invest in a donut pillow to take some of the pressure off your growing belly and breasts.
3. Offer incentive
For pregnant women, sleeping on your left is best. Sleeping on your left side improves circulation, giving nutrient-packed blood an easier route from your heart to the placenta to nourish your baby. It also helps keep your expanding body weight from pushing down too hard on your liver. While your right side is better than your stomach or back, your left side is always best, so look for ways you can remind yourself of this.
One good way to remind yourself to sleep on your left hand side is to hang a beautiful piece of art on the left side of your bed. You’ll have more incentive to stay on your left side if you know you will open your eyes to something beautiful. Some women also find placing the bassinet on the left side of the bed a good incentive.
4. Use pillows
For more belly or back support, prop a pillow under your tummy or between your knees. Use an extra-long pregnancy pillow, and position it under your body to help keep you on your left side. Even a normal pillow can help prevent you from rolling onto your stomach or back during the night.
If you find yourself with shortness of breath, put a pillow under your side to raise your chest. If you find yourself with heartburn, pop another pillow under your head to angle yourself, keeping acids down in your stomach. If you don’t like the feeling of another pillow under your head, consider propping the head end of the bed up a few inches using books or blocks.
5. Calm yourself
If you’re a tosser and turner, do everything you can to calm yourself before climbing into bed. Take a warm bath, drink a cup of Rooibos tea and choose a good book to read rather than stare at the blue light of technology. If you’re suffering from leg cramps, aches and pains, perhaps ask your partner for a massage.
Sleep deprivation can lead to preterm labour and longer labour, so apply these tips and start sleeping better. Not only will this keep baby safe, but it will ensure you are well rested and ready for your baby’s arrival.