While you may have planned for less sleep when your little one arrives, you might not have expected to experience so many issues related to pregnancy and sleep. Trouble sleeping while pregnant can be caused by many things and result in a number of different issues.
If you are struggling with sleeping during pregnancy, don’t worry.
We are going to cover the most common issues related to pregnancy and sleep, and teach you everything you need to know to kick sleepless nights to the curb.
But let's start with the basics first...
How Much Sleep Do Pregnant Women Need?
You should be shooting for at least 7 hours of sleep per night, but the more the better.
During the first trimester, you will likely have no problem getting 7 hours a night or more, as you will feel very tired all the time due to your changing hormones. As your pregnancy progresses into the second trimester and third trimester, you will likely struggle to hit this number.
This is not just problematic because you will be even more tired, but because it can affect your delivery. Studies have shown that mothers who got less than 6 hours of sleep during pregnancy were 4.5 times more likely to need a C-section, with their average length of labor being 10 hours or more!
Why Sleeping While Pregnant is so Difficult
Issues related to pregnancy and sleep can be caused by many things, but there are a few that are more common than others.
While pregnant, your progesterone increases. Progesterone is crucial for maintaining pregnancy, but it is also a soporific. This means it induces drowsiness, which is why expecting mothers experience constant daytime sleepiness. High progesterone levels can also cause frequent urination, heartburn, and nasal congestion.
Another essential hormone, estrogen, can also cause problems with your sleep patterns. Estrogen can enlarge blood vessels, known as vasodilation, and lead to swelling or edema in your feet/legs. It can also increase nasal congestion, a frustrating foe when it comes to sleep loss.
And it doesn’t stop there - oxytocin, melatonin, and prolactin levels all go through changes while you’re pregnant. These will further compound sleep issues while you are pregnant.
Changes in Your Body and Metabolic Function
An obvious reason many pregnant women struggle to sleep are the physical changes their body is going through. Pregnancy-related discomforts can make finding the sweet spot to fall asleep seemingly impossible, whether it be back pain, sore breasts, or your emerging bump.
On top of this, you are now eating for two. The extra calories before bed can make you feel bloated, and disrupt your sleep.
Changes in Sleep Patterns
During pregnancy, you are going to experience inevitable changes in your sleep pattern. Your sleep efficiency is likely going to decrease. This means that the amount of time you are actually asleep while in bed decreases. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the quality of sleep will decrease as well. You will spend far less time in a deep, restful sleep.
Common Issues With Pregnancy and Sleep
As mentioned earlier, sleep related to pregnancy and sleep can take on many forms. Some of the most common ones you will run into are:
- Sleep apnea
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
- Leg Cramps
- Nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn)
- Frequent nighttime urination
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that affects your breathing. It is characterized by heavy snoring, followed by lengthy pauses. During these pauses, those who suffer are unable to breathe, and they wake up choking or gasping for air.
Sleep apnea is especially common for women who are pregnant and overweight, and doesn’t just affect your good night's sleep. Women who suffer from sleep apnea while pregnant can birth babies predisposed to preeclampsia and low birth weight.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
This frustrating problem is characterized by uncomfortable feelings in the legs, including sensations such as tingly or achy. Restless leg syndrome affects around 20% of pregnant women, and gets worse late at night.
It can be remedied by getting up, stretching, and walking around a bit. Women have also reported success stopping RLS by pressing their feet firmly into a wall.
This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you are being awoken by restless leg syndrome multiple times throughout the night. Another fix could be to increase iron and folate levels, which can become lowered during pregnancy.
The best way to battle restless leg syndrome is to actively prevent it, by avoiding caffeine, eating a diet rich in iron or folate, and trying to massage your legs with our magnesium lotion. We will cover this more when we get to the treatment section!
Although both leg cramps and restless legs syndrome tend to strike after the sun goes down, restless legs syndrome doesn’t typically cause severe, agonizing pain. Rather, it is an uncomfortable crawling sensation that makes you want to move and wiggle your legs. When you move your bottom half, the restlessness subsides, but you may still feel some discomfort.
On the other hand, nocturnal leg cramps are painful, involuntary contractions or spasms of muscles in the legs. This pain usually involves the calf muscles, although muscles in your thighs or feet might cramp as well.
Both restless legs and cramps can surely keep you from getting enough sleep. Fortunately, our organic magnesium lotion works wonders to combat both of these common pregnancy symptoms.
Nocturnal Gastroesophageal Reflux (Heartburn)
Heartburn is something we all experience at some point, usually due to something we ate. Unfortunately, heartburn can frequently prevent expecting mothers from sleeping. It is a normal part of pregnancy, as the growing baby places pressure on your stomach, sending acid up your esophagus.
Heartburn can be incredibly unpleasant and potentially damage your esophagus in the long term. Try staying upright a few hours before bedtime, discouraging acid from traveling up from your stomach.
You can also try to decrease your food intake in the evening and compensate with larger portions throughout the day. Avoid any foods considered spicy, fried, or acidic. You are just asking for trouble if you eat these!
If all else fails, you can talk to your doctor about over-the-counter medicine. You may not qualify due to your specific stage of pregnancy, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Frequent Nighttime Urination
During pregnancy, your kidneys are working double time to filter all the extra blood moving around your body. This process creates more urine.
Coupled with the fact that your uterus is growing, and applying more and more pressure to your bladder, it is no surprise you wake up throughout the night to pee. The obvious solution is to cut down on fluid-intake after 6pm, but you can also try decreasing caffeine.
Thanks to hormones, anxiety, and any of the sleep problems that we’ve listed above, many moms-to-be struggle with pregnancy insomnia. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), insomnia during pregnancy is quite normal, affecting almost 80 percent of pregnant women.
Super common and super frustrating, insomnia can make you feel even more tired, irritable, moody, and unable to function during the day. Although many culprits can be behind insomnia, a lack of sleep may be the result of one or more of the following:
- Waking up frequently during the night
- Trouble drifting off to sleep
- Difficulty returning to sleep
- Unrefreshing sleep
How to Improve Sleep During Pregnancy
Now that we’ve told you all the problems you may run into trying to sleep during pregnancy, we have some tips for you on how to combat insomnia:
- Pregnancy Pillow: Many pregnant women have had great results from pregnancy pillows, as they make sleeping on your right side or left side more comfortable.
- Reduced Caffeine: Cut out caffeine, especially before bed. It may be tough to ditch your morning coffee if you experience regular sleepless nights, so just try to limit it.
- Timely Eating: Avoid eating or drinking before bed. This will prevent any energy spikes, heartburn, and nighttime urination.
- Proper Routine: Get a routine and stick to it. If you know you need to be asleep by 10pm every night, get into bed at 9 and read a book. Do this consistently so your body recognizes this as bed time.
- Exercise: Exercise often, but not before bed. Regular exercise will wear you out and make sleeping easier, decrease stress and anxiety, and more.
- Stretching: Stretch your legs before bed, especially if you deal with restless leg syndrome.
- Avoiding Screens: Stay away from screens (yes, this includes your smartphone) for at least one hour before it’s time to hit the hay to practice good sleep hygiene. Why? Because the light they emit can mess with your natural levels of melatonin — the snoozy hormone that regulates sleep and sleep quality.
- Warm Bath: What better way to wind down and relax before bed than with a warm, soothing bath? Toss in a few sprinkles of our Therapeutic Bath Salts to make your time in the tub an extra indulgent experience.
- Prenatal Yoga: To help relax your overly-anxious mind, try doing some prenatal yoga and relaxation techniques such as meditation before hopping into bed.
If you are experiencing stress or anxiety due to becoming a mother, try mediation, yoga, and more. This will help you cope at bed time.
Using 8 Sheep Organics Pregnancy and Sleep Products
If you want to supercharge your sleep during pregnancy, you should check out our Organic Sleepy Body Lotion.
The organic sleepy body lotion has long helped pregnant women get deeper, more restful sleep. It calms your body, relaxes your mind, and prepares you for better and more restful sleep. It is a must have for any expecting moms dealing with restless leg syndrome, just massage it in before bed.
PS: Also check out this blog post from Labor of Love Doulas for extra tips!
What to Do if You Can’t Sleep While Pregnant
If you don’t have our products yet, and have tried everything and yet you're still struggling with pregnancy and sleep, just relax. There may be nights where you just don’t sleep, and that is part of the journey.
Instead of getting frustrated and stressing about tomorrow’s responsibilities, try being productive. Catch up on a book, a tv show, emails, or do some work around the house. You will likely end up getting tired and being able to sleep sooner or later.
You can compensate for this lost sleep by taking naps throughout the day. The best time to nap while pregnant is between 2-4pm. Sleeping much later than that will only affect your nighttime sleep again. Try taking a few 30 minute catnaps in that time range, and gain some of those lost hours back.
Pregnancy Insomnia: Snooze Or Lose! | American Pregnancy
Interventions for leg cramps in pregnancy | PMC.