Why Pregnancy Makes It So Hard to Sleep

February 18, 2015 Health & Fitness Reverie Staff

As soon as you have a tiny human being growing inside of you, your life becomes a whole lot less about you. Most women know this, of course, but many don’t know just what changes are in store for their daily habits. An expectant mom usually knows to avoid alcohol, yes, and she’s pretty sure that she should avoid too much fish, and second-hand smoke becomes extra risky… but what about her favorite cheeses? Is she still allowed to hit the gym? Can she even still enjoy a cup of coffee?

Because it’s not just about you anymore, every single decision of the day suddenly becomes more significant. And unfortunately, all of the conflicting information about pregnancy can make expectant moms lose a lot of sleep – literally. But while the occasional cup of coffee is unlikely to do any real harm, sleep is the last thing a mom should lose. In fact, it might be one of the most important components of a healthy pregnancy.

How much sleep do you need?

Nine hours per night is recommended for pregnant moms; too little or too much sleep may be detrimental for systolic blood pressure. Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco also found that women who slept fewer than 6 hours per night endured longer labors and were 4.5 times more likely to require cesarean deliveries. Unfortunately, being pregnant can also come with a whole host of sleeping difficulties.

Why pregnancy makes it so hard to sleep

Why are you so tired?

Creating a person may be the most taxing act a human being can undergo, and the body expends a tremendous amount of energy protecting, nurturing, and growing the fetus. Mothers-to-be aren’t just building muscle; they’re building flesh, brain cells, and bone from scratch. As a result of the extra blood surging to the uterus, pregnant women usually experience the kind of heightened heart rate and occasional shortness of breath that make it hard to fall into the blissful, untroubled sleep that those without child so readily enjoy.

When those factors combine with the nausea, the hormonally heightened risk of sleep apnea, increased urination frequency (the kidneys work up to 50 percent more than usual to filter the increased volume of blood), and the not-unusual stress brought on by impending birth and parenthood, a good night’s sleep often becomes a distant memory for expectant moms.  In fact, a study from the National Sleep Foundation found that over 75 percent of women sleep much worse when they’re pregnant, particularly during the first and third trimesters. What’s more, most over-the-counter sleep aids are off the table during pregnancy.

Five easy-to-implement tips

So what’s a mom-to-be to do? These tips should help ease the burden:

1. Sleep on your left side.

It may be easier on the heart, as it prevents the baby’s weight from putting pressure on its largest vein (the inferior vena cava), and a New Zealand study suggested this may even reduce the risk of still births. 

Why pregnancy makes it so hard to sleep

2. Choose a mattress that accommodates your body’s changing shape.

The mattress you needed when you bought it is probably not the mattress your body needs now that there’s a bun in the oven. Fortunately, Reverie’s Sleep Systems allow you to customize the firmness of your mattress at any time. By reconfiguring the DreamCells, you can create the perfect sleeping support for your pregnant body (without disturbing your partner’s firmness preferences), which often means added support around new pressure points, particularly the hips and shoulders. What’s more, once your body returns to its pre-pregnancy form, your mattress can adapt with you once again.

3. Manage your fluids.

Keep caffeinated beverages to a minimum, and avoid too much fluid at night. Some women find it helpful to eat large breakfasts and lunches and to keep their dinners small.
Heartburn plagues many moms-to-be, because the growing uterus crowds the stomach and forces acid into the esophagus. Conquering heartburn has a lot to do with moderation in eating: in addition to standing or walking after a meal, it’s important to eat slowly, not overeat, and sip liquids instead of guzzling them. Exert control over those wild pregnancy cravings – your esophagus will thank you!

Why pregnancy makes it so hard to sleep

4. Put your feet up.

If leg cramps are causing insomnia, Reverie’s adjustable foundations allow moms-to-be to elevate their legs, which can provide welcome relief from persistent cramps. It’s also helpful to press the feet hard against a wall or to stand on the offending leg. Pregnant women should also increase their intake of calcium (1200mg per day) and folate (600mcg per day), partly because these nutrients may reduce leg cramps as well.

5. Take a class.

If fear or stress is making it difficult to sleep, think about enrolling in a childbirth or parenting class. Meeting other pregnant women and learning more about the experience is truly empowering, and may ease the anxiety that’s keeping you awake.

In any event, open communication with loved ones and healthcare providers is essential for solving the myriad causes of insomnia while pregnant—this is no time to second-guess. While trouble sleeping is indeed a hallmark of the pregnancy experience, if it’s profoundly disrupting your day-to-day wellbeing, make an appointment with your prenatal caregiver as soon as possible.

Listen to your body, heed the tips above, and remember that the challenges of pregnancy are no reason to sacrifice rest—after all, you’re sleeping for two!

Pregnant? New parent or have small kids? Tired? Get tips and info on our special site for exhausted moms. 

Ready to start sleeping better?

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