As a woman's pregnancy progresses, sleeping can become more and more of a challenge. Trying to find a comfortable position, having to get up to go to the bathroom, and having to endure back pain
are just some of the obstacles that get in the way of that much-needed shut-eye during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is associated with hormonal, physical, and psychological changes in a woman's body -- all of which can affect how well you sleep. Each trimester comes with its own unique sleep challenges. However, there are a number of tips that you can use during your pregnancy to help keep you comfortable enough to sleep.
Trying to Sleep in the First Trimester (Months 1 to 3)
The first trimester
is a time when there are many hormonal changes in your body. In particular, progesterone hormone levels rise during the first trimester to help sustain the pregnancy. This hormone causes increased sleepiness, fatigue, and changes in sleep patterns. Many women find that they need to take lots of naps during this time because they feel so exhausted.
Another common problem during this first trimester is morning sickness. Contrary to what the name implies, morning sickness can occur during any time of the day or night. These symptoms can also cause you to wake up during the night or make it difficult to fall back asleep and stay asleep. Some of the other physical symptoms of pregnancy during the first trimester may include:
- Frequent urination
- Nasal congestion
- Back pain.
The pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) seems to be the culprit for an increase in urination during these first three months. Also, your kidneys work harder during pregnancy, which results in the production of more urine. Unfortunately, this need to use the bathroom often does not let up during the night, depriving you of even more sleep. Later in your pregnancy, the need to go to the bathroom more often will be largely due to the baby and uterus compressing the bladder.
You may also start experiencing some breast changes during this time, which can make it difficult to sleep on your abdomen (stomach). This is a good time to start training yourself to sleep on your left side. Lying on your left side with your knees bent will likely be the best and most comfortable position you will find during your pregnancy. This position also serves another purpose -- it improves blood flow to your baby.
If you sleep on your back or right side through the progression of your pregnancy, the baby will start to put pressure on a large vein that carries blood back to the heart from your legs. Sleeping on your left side, however, will help relieve that pressure on the vein and make it easier to keep that blood flow strong for the heart and your developing baby. Sleeping on your left side will also keep the pressure off your liver and improve the effectiveness of your kidneys to remove waste and fluids.
Other tips for using this left-side sleeping position include using lots of pillows. Pillows will become essential during your pregnancy and as your baby grows bigger and bigger. Pillows under your belly, pillows between your legs, pillows at the small of your back -- pillows, pillows everywhere!
If your left hip starts to hurt from sleeping on that side all the time, you can try using an egg-crate type of mattress to help relieve the soreness. You can also try to switch positions, sleeping occasionally on the right side. However, try to avoid sleeping flat on your back. The sooner you start learning how to sleep in this left-side position, the easier it will be to sleep as your belly gets bigger.
However, don't obsess about left-sided sleeping unless your doctor specifically requests that you sleep on your left side (typically, this is done in certain high-risk situations). Usually, if you're sleeping in a position that is limiting blood flow, you'll feel uncomfortable and will change your position long before your baby would suffer from any lack of blood supply.
Some other helpful sleep tips for the first three months of pregnancy include:
- Sleep when you can. It will be more difficult for you to get that good, deep sleep during pregnancy because of things that may wake you up. Therefore, take naps and get that extra bit of sleep whenever you can.
- Eat bland snacks to help quell the nausea. If you wake up in the middle of the night, make sure you have some crackers on your nightstand to help relieve the nausea.
- Although you need to drink lots of water, try to avoid drinking large quantities before bedtime to help minimize the number of bathroom trips you have to take during the night.
Nasal congestion is also a common pregnancy symptom
that may keep you from getting that good quality rest. Also referred to as "pregnancy rhinitis," nasal congestion can develop during pregnancy due to hormonal changes that cause the lining of the nose to swell. This causes congestion and, in some cases, it can be so severe that is similar to having a bad cold 24 hours a day for months in some women. This can make it quite difficult to sleep. This congestion often begins in the first trimester, but can occur at any time during pregnancy.
Be careful about how you treat nasal symptoms. You should avoid using nasal sprays or drops, except saline spray or drops. Decongestant sprays or drops can lead to even worse congestion if you use them for more than a few days. Also, do not take cold or allergy medications that contain antihistamines without your doctor's approval.
Some other tips to help treat nasal congestion during pregnancy to help you sleep better include:
- Using a cool mist humidifier or breathing in steam from a hot shower.
- Placing warm, damp towels on your face.
- Massaging your sinuses on the bony ridge above your eyebrows and under your eyes.
- Using saline spray or drops. It's safest to buy a prepared nasal saline solution instead of making your own at home.