When you’re pregnant, you need your rest more than ever. Growing a new life inside you is both physically and emotionally draining.
Why is it then that sleep while you’re pregnant can be so difficult, when you need it the most?
In this guide, we’ll show you nine actionable tips for getting the rest you crave.
How Sleep During Pregnancy Affects Childbirth
Childbirth is the one part of having a baby that every mother would gladly pass on. While it’s wonderful to feel our babies kicking in our bellies, labor pains are much less welcome.
But moms who make great sleep a priority during pregnancy will also find it can help the childbirth process as well.
Moms who are well-rested going into the delivery room will have a greater pain tolerance (1). They also tend to have quicker labors, which moms everywhere should welcome with open arms.
In addition, they’ll have greater concentration to focus on anything that goes wrong in case they have to make a big decision quickly.
With my first child I was lacking a tremendous amount of sleep. I stayed awake through the whole labor process despite having an epidural. I pushed for an hour and a half. With my second child, I was well-rested and got a full night’s sleep since I had an epidural in and ended up pushing for 20 min
Editor's Note:Jennifer Schlette, MSN, RN
Tips to Help You Sleep Better During Pregnancy
Here some workable tips to help you catch some much-needed zzz’s.
1. Create a Solid Nighttime Routine
When your baby is born you’ll understand the power of a good nighttime routine for your child — it can be soothing and can signal to their body and mind that it’s time to sleep. A nighttime routine is good for you as well.
Your nighttime routine might be taking a warm shower to relax your muscles and ease tension, sipping on a cup of tea, and having a snack while you let your mind unwind with your favorite television show.
2. Activities That Can Help You Fall Asleep Faster
The key to picking an activity that will help you fall asleep is to not make it super exciting. You don’t want to watch a movie you’ve been dying to see for months.
You should find something that might naturally be snooze-inducing, like reading some boring scientific journals or watching an old black and white movie you don’t think will hold your interest.
Another thing you could do is take a warm shower while you’re listening to relaxing music.
3. Try These Foods and Drinks To Help You Sleep Better
When looking for a way to sleep better, don’t ignore your food and drink choices. Some act like a magic sleeping potion. And when you eat several for dinner before bed, it’s even better.
Here are some great choices:
- Soy products.
- Tart cherry juice, and as a side perk, it can be great at relieving aches and pains — runners use it for that purpose.
- Whole grains.
- Warm milk.
4. Avoid or Cut Back On These Things
There are certain things you should stay away from if you’re trying to fall peacefully to sleep at bedtime.
Too many drinks in the hour or two before bed will have you racing to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Unless you relish the idea of taking more night time bathroom breaks than your grandma, limit the after-dinner drinks and try to get most of your hydration during the day and early evening.
Electronics are too stimulating for many people. Whether you’re playing that hard-to-reach level of Candy Crush or you’re catching up on your work emails, it’s too easy to get sucked into electronic devices and all the drama that can come with them.
Napping while pregnant
Naps are a great idea for pregnant women because they can help make up for some of the sleep they don’t get at night. But the key to napping is to not let it work against your night sleep schedule.
The last thing you want to do is nap so long you suffer from insomnia at night. So if you’re taking an afternoon nap, you should keep it short enough it won’t interfere with your bedtime.
Even when you’re napping in the morning, shorter might be better. A 20-minute nap is enough to recharge your batteries without making you feel overtired (2).
But if you’ve had a few terrible nights of sleep in a row, you may want to pencil in a longer nap during the morning if you can. It should still be far enough away from your bedtime that it won’t sabotage your upcoming night of sleep.
5. Get a Bedtime Massage
Nothing can feel as good on tired, sore muscles as a massage. And the best kind of massage is one you don’t have to pay for.
If you can talk your partner into giving you a rubdown each night, you’ll feel much more relaxed and sleepy. With some shea butter, you’ll almost be able to close your eyes and picture you’re at a spa.
Here are some great areas to focus on:
- Belly, but make sure to use a gentle touch.
- Lower back.
- Lower legs.
6. Use Pregnancy Pillows
Pregnancy pillows are oversized pillows made to be used by pregnant women who are looking for a more comfortable position.
There is a wide variety of pillow shapes — U-shape, total body pillows, inflatable pillows, and wedges.
Here is what each one can do:
- Total body pillows: These are best for when you have a large number of aches and pains spread throughout your body.
- U-shaped: These are good for back sleepers who are trying to learn to sleep on their sides. They can prop you up on your side.
- Inflatable pillows: This is the biggest pillow you can find and stomach sleepers seem to love this kind.
- Wedges: When you don’t want to share your bed with a big pillow, but you need some extra support for your belly or your back, you can opt for a wedge.
- C-shaped: If you don’t have as much room in your bed, you can go with this shape. This kind is best for plus-size women.
If you’re using a wedge, get in your desired position and place it wherever you need support. If you’re using a bigger pillow, it might be easiest to put the pillow in place and then climb onto it, adjusting it as you figure out which position feels best.
You can wrap it around your head and neck, legs, and belly however it feels best.
7. Make Your Bedroom More Conducive For Sleeping
If your bedroom is a place that feels relaxing to you, you might be better able to sleep there.
Here are some ideas to help you turn your room into a place that will lull you to sleep.
- Find the right temperature: You’ll sleep better in a cooler room. Consider turning your thermostat down to 68 degrees or lower.
- Keep the lights down: Put up blinds or shades over your windows to block out any street lights or the sun in the morning.
- Consider white noise: Sometimes white noise, like from a fan, can be enough to relax you into going to sleep. If you love the sound of the ocean, consider a machine that makes wave sounds.
- Get comfy sheets and blankets: Pregnancy is a great time to upgrade to that thread count you’ve always wanted for sheets. With all you’re going through, you deserve a little pampering.
8. Wear a Belly Band
Some women swear by the comfort a belly band provides. It can help with pelvic, hip, and back pain.
Some women like to sleep with it, but others feel that’s too much and would rather sleep without it. By controlling your pain throughout the day — a belly band can help you sleep at night even if you don’t wear it at bedtime. It will help keep your daily aches and pains at bay.
If you don’t like wearing it in bed, find your most comfortable pajamas and slip between the sheets.
9. Apps to Help You Sleep Better
Sleep apps can play relaxing sounds or music when you sleep. Others can track and analyze your sleep patterns.
There are even adult coloring book apps meant to help you fight your anxiety so you can sleep.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to apps — you can find ones that use hypnotherapy and meditation recordings.
The Best Sleeping Position for Pregnant Women
Let’s look at all the popular sleeping positions and how they stack up during pregnancy.
Back Sleeping During Pregnancy
Back sleeping may have been your go-to position before you got pregnant, but unfortunately, you’re going to have to stop doing it, at least until your baby is delivered.
Which trimester it’s safe for: You can continue to sleep on your back until you reach 20 weeks, although it might be a good idea to wean yourself off of it a couple of weeks early to make sure you’re ready when the time comes.
Advantages: While you should avoid this position in the second half of your pregnancy, some women have a hard time remembering not to roll onto their backs in the middle of the night because it does feel pretty comfy.
Disadvantages: It can aggravate back pain and hemorrhoids.
Risks: Your blood vessels will be negatively impacted by the pressure of your abdomen when you’re in this position, which means you could lessen the flow of blood to your baby. But if you wake up on your back, don’t panic. You would feel sick and out of breath before your baby felt the effects of it (3).
Sleeping On Your Stomach During Pregnancy
Stomach sleeping may present a challenge for moms-to-be as their growing bellies get in the way.
Which trimester it’s safe for: This position is safe for any trimester, but it will get increasingly uncomfortable as your pregnancy moves along.
Advantages: If you like this position, you may be able to continue it even in late pregnancy — there’s a chance you might not have to find an alternative. By using a donut-shaped pregnancy pillow, you’ll be able to extend the amount of time you can sleep like this.
Disadvantages: At about midway through your pregnancy, it really starts to get uncomfortable. You might end up with back pain that might have you scrambling for a new position.
Risks: There really aren’t any risks — it’s safe to keep doing it as long as it feels comfortable for you.
Side Sleeping During Pregnancy
This is the best sleeping position for pregnant women.
Which trimester it’s safe for: This is safe for any trimester.
Advantages: It’s regarded as the most comfortable position when you’re pregnant. Pillows can also be used to offer support anywhere you need it in this position.
Disadvantages: While no position ever feels terrific in late pregnancy, there are no disadvantages to this one.
Risks: There are no risks to sleeping in this position.
The Benefits of Sleep and Rest During Pregnancy
Although it can be a challenge getting good sleep while pregnant, the benefits are big if you can manage it. Here are some of the benefits you’ll see:
- It can reduce stress: You’re going to have stress in spades as an expectant mother. You’re going to have a lot to juggle — aches, worries, doctor’s appointments, preparing for your baby and more. Sleep will help you relax and feel calmer.
- It can help your baby gain the proper amount of weight: Moms who had less sleep when they were pregnant — both regarding quality and quantity — tended to have babies with lower birth weights. While you don’t want to set a world’s record for the heaviest baby, you also want to make sure it’s at a healthy weight.
- It may help you obtain a full-term delivery: When a woman isn’t getting enough sleep, she tends to have increased inflammatory responses that can lead to preterm birth. Making sleep a priority can be enough to calm or avoid that inflammatory response, to begin with.
- You’ll have less depression: The link between lack of sleep and depression is strong — whether you’re pregnant or not (4). But add your changing lifestyle and body to the concerns about your baby’s health and depression can easily creep in if you’re feeling overtired.
- A healthier immune system: A good night’s sleep can give your immune system a boost. That can help moms-to-be fight off any viruses or bacteria they are exposed to (5). The ability to fight off illnesses is going to keep both you and your baby healthier during your pregnancy.
- You’ll have less pressure on your cervix: During pregnancy, the cervix stays closed, so your baby stays in. Relaxing and resting will help your cervix stay in place.
- There will be better circulation of blood to the uterus: More blood to the uterus means a better supply of oxygen and nutrients to your baby.
- It helps fight high blood pressure: High blood pressure can strike during any pregnancy, and because the consequences can be severe, you have to take it seriously. One of the most common orders a doctor will give a woman who has high blood pressure is bed rest. That’s because resting helps ease the pressure from the heart.
- You’ll have more energy: You’ll likely feel tired during pregnancy — it’s bound to happen at some point. But you don’t have to feel exhausted for the full nine months. With enough sleep, you might find, especially during the second trimester, that you feel downright energetic.
- It may help keep placenta previa at bay: Placenta previa is when the placenta blocks part of the uterus, which is a dangerous situation for both a mother and her baby (6). To combat this condition, your doctor will order plenty of rest for you.