Five of the Most Common Sleep Challenges Pregnant Women Experience and How to Manage Them

Mothers are warned plenty about the sleepless nights they will experience with a newborn, but what about during pregnancy? Most women will experience one or more sleep disturbances during pregnancy, but the difference is, they are usually not prepared for it!

Sort of unfair, right? Growing a human is hard enough and takes a lot of energy, so adequate sleep is essential. And while some sleep disturbances are not entirely preventable, there are steps you can take to minimize the sleep challenges you might experience during pregnancy. 

These are five of the most common sleep challenges pregnant women experience and how to manage them.

1. Pregnancy Insomnia. Insomnia during pregnancy will often mean that you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or less restorative sleep. You can blame this on pregnancy hormones and the changes happening in your body when you're pregnant. 

What you can do: Prepare a calming routine every night. While this seems like a pretty simple thing to do, most adults don’t follow a bedtime routine which is essential for proper sleep. You can do this by dimming the lights about 1 hour before bedtime, taking a bath, reading a light book, turning off electronics, and quiet your mind. Anything that stimulates your brain, like screens, bright lights, heated conversations, etc., can prevent you from being able to fall asleep or stay asleep. Hence, it is important to prioritize a routine.

2. Waking frequently to use the bathroom. It is essential to drink plenty of liquids during pregnancy, but we all know that when you’re pushing fluids, you also have to go to the bathroom more frequently, especially when pregnant. Drinking plenty of liquids can cause problems at night if you wake up one to three times to go to the bathroom and then have trouble falling back asleep.

What you can do: Do your best to get the majority of liquids in during the day, and stop drinking water and other liquids a minimum of 1.5 hours before bed. If you find that you still need to get up throughout the night to use the bathroom, try to use a small night light in the bathroom instead of turning on the lights which can be very overstimulating.

3. Restless leg syndrome. Restless leg syndrome is one of the most common but strange sleep disturbances that women experience during pregnancy. Many women describe this syndrome as burning, itching, tingling, heaviness, or a constant need to move their legs (which is very uncomfortable).

What can you do: Low iron levels can sometimes cause restless leg syndrome, so it is vital to ensure your iron intake is adequate along with your folate/folic acid. You also want to limit caffeine intake close to bedtime (and in general during pregnancy) and exercise regularly. If these things don’t seem to help, some medications might be an option, so I suggest speaking with your doctor to discuss what is available to you.

4. Trouble getting comfortable. As your baby grows, so does your belly, which can get in the way of finding a comfortable position for sleep. Pregnancy is also not great for tummy or back sleepers once you enter your second and third trimester since we know that the safest position for women to sleep during pregnancy is on their side.

What to do: Invest in a pregnancy pillow which is a game-changer during pregnancy. There are many different options when it comes to pregnancy pillows, from U-shaped to full-body pillows. You can also prop pillows up behind you and in between your legs to help you stay on your side and support your lower back and hips.

5. Heartburn. Heartburn is often triggered as soon as you lie down, making it feel impossible to fall asleep at night. Even if you aren’t eating spicy foods, you can still experience heartburn, especially as you near the end of your pregnancy. 

What to do: Try to eat dinner several hours before you go to sleep to give your food plenty of time to digest before you lay down. You can also try to eat smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day rather than substantial meals, especially before bed, and do your best to avoid overly spicy foods, foods high in citrus, and foods heavy in garlic. 

Not getting enough sleep during pregnancy can be frustrating, especially when you already feel exhausted, so do your best to prioritize sleep, and you have my permission to take all the naps! In addition to the tips above, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about possible sleep solutions. They know your history best and can provide some additional options to help you get the much-needed sleep you need!

Rachel Mitchell

Rachel Mitchell is the founder of My Sweet Sleeper. She is a certified Pediatric & Maternity Sleep Consultant, former night nanny, and mom of six. Since starting My Sweet Sleeper nearly ten years ago, she has worked with thousands of families worldwide and has had the rewarding experience of helping both children and their parents sleep better. My Sweet Sleeper - Pediatric Sleep Consultants

IG handle: @mysweetsleeper

Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.

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