How to sleep better during pregnancy, guest blog from Rennie Downes


leachco snoogle body pregnancy pillow

guest blog from Rennie Downes www.pregnancypillows.org

Finding optimal quality rest is crucial during pregnancy, yet a 1998 poll by the National Sleep Foundation shows that 78% of women find it harder to sleep now than at any other time during their lives (even given the disturbed rest likely to follow in the near postpartum months). Why is this, and why is rest so important when we are expecting a baby? What can we do when poor sleep / sleeplessness strike?

Poor sleep during pregnancy

There are many factors that can contribute to inadequate quality or duration of sleep during pregnancy. Anxiety over the birth and our new role as mother – sometimes manifesting as 3am list-making! – can often become a factor in the development of insomnia. Difficulty getting comfortable thanks to changing curves and aching joints may also play a factor to disturbed rest, as can back pain – the latter affecting 50-80% of pregnant women (spine-health.com).

Many expectant mothers will experience vivid or disturbing dreams during their pregnancy, and some could be woken up by the movements of their unborn child. A tendency to feel “overheated” is common, and we are likely to require more frequent night-time bathroom trips as our trimesters progress. 30-50% of pregnant women will also experience heartburn and 26% will suffer from RLS (Restless Legs Syndrome), so it’s really not surprising when the quality of sleep plummets in pregnancy.

Risk of complications

Nevertheless, expectant mothers are “sleeping for two” and as such it is doubly important for the health of both mother and child that adequate rest is acquired. A study by the NSF found links between poor quality slumber and elevated blood pressure in pregnancy (as well as an increased risk of preeclampsia) while other studies show that women who sleep less than six hours per night are more likely to experience longer labors and give birth by Caesarean section.

Poor sleep, depression and a weakened immune system are all inexorably related (poor sleep causes depression and vice versa) and each increases the risk of pregnancy complications (Science Daily). Unfortunately sleep medication is usually not an option during pregnancy, but there are many methods you can use to try to improve the quality of your sleep.

Five ways to better sleep

1) Try not to worry

As hard as it may sound, lying in bed worrying about the fact that you cannot sleep is only going to make your problem spiral. If insomnia strikes, don’t wait it out in bed – you are actually more likely to get back to sleep sooner if you get up and move about, engaging in mild, relaxing activity until your head is ready to hit the pillow.

2) Know your enemy

Insomnia has multiple symptoms, the most commonly known being the classic issue of going to bed only to find sleep impossible. Waking up early, finding it difficult to wake in the morning or regularly waking during the night are all other signals of insomnia, but then again you may feel sleepy for entirely different reasons altogether.

Daytime drowsiness can just mean you need more sleep – but sometimes it indicates underlying medical conditions like anaemia or sleeping disorders such as sleep apnoea, so it is very important to get your fatigue checked out and diagnosed accordingly. Even if your doctor confirms that it is just another symptom of pregnancy, it’s worth being able to rule sleep apnoea etc out as these can have a detrimental effect on your pregnancy and birth.

3) Relax through exercise

Whether you’re new to exercise or already have a regime in place prior to getting pregnant, moderate activity can be helpful to you during pregnancy for several different reasons. If you suffer a bad back, exercising can help strengthen your core and ease discomfort while well-timed aerobic activity – not too close to bedtime – can be an excellent cure for insomnia.

If you struggle to sleep during pregnancy, why not consider using exercise as a form of relaxation? Classes in prenatal yoga and aquatic exercise are both very popular and widely available, but there are many other possibilities too.

In contrary to what you may have been told by your family and friends, pregnancy is not normally a reason to give up your daily dose of cardio. In fact, cardiovascular exercise can help your body to build a larger, more efficient placenta for your baby – and there are many other benefits too. You will need to take things carefully, though, and avoid certain activities like contact sports; if you are unsure which activities are classified as safe, consult your physician.

4) Sleep well-supported

As your trimesters progress you are likely to be spending more time in bed sleeping (or at least resting) every week, so it’s really important that you find a way to get comfortable when doing so. Being able to achieve an optimal sleeping position in which your bump, back and legs can feel relaxed but well-supported goes further than just attaining a good night’s rest – it may also affect your level of discomfort throughout the day, particularly in the case of RLS, back pain or PGP (Pelvic Girdle Pain). If your hips are aligned into a neutral position it could even help baby get into position ready for the birth.

As your uterus expands it will become more and more impossible to lie comfortably or safely on your back, so doctors tend to recommend that you sleep on your left side – yet even this can put a lot of strain on your spine if unsupported. It is therefore recommended that you purchase a suitable maternity pillow to ease the increased weight and strain being placed upon your joints; such pillows are extremely versatile and can help you achieve the best sleeping position during pregnancy. What’s more, with such a huge amount of choices available on the market, you are sure to find the right size, shape and price for you.

5) Speak to your doctor

If all else fails, you are feeling very anxious or just cannot seem to get any sleep, don’t suffer in silence while everyone else dreams! Consult your physician about the possibilities that are open to you during pregnancy – he or she may be able to suggest a suitable medication or other avenues that you’ve not yet explored. Remember that however tired you may be feeling now, it is only temporary and soon everything will change again. Try not to despair, but don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Exercise important for new mums too

I have just come across this great article about exercise for new mums. It can seem like a real challenge to get back to exercise but there are so many benefits for you and your baby…..

It begins:

“If you are a new mom, the last thing on your mind is working out. The early months of motherhood can be overwhelming. Lack of sleep, lack of energy and general fatigue is a common complaint. The mere thought of even attempting to get in a workout makes an already tired new mum even more tired.”

And remember if you make exercise part of your lifestyle you dont have to beat yourself up about missing the odd session. Always try to make active choices.