There’s no doubt that pregnancy changes all aspects of your life, including sleep. Women who get more than seven hours of sleep per night during pregnancy experience shorter labors, less labor pain, and are less likely to get a C-section. If you know what to expect with each stage of pregnancy, you’ll be better able to adjust your diet, work, and sleep habits to meet you and your growing baby’s needs.
First Trimester: Unexpected Disturbances
During the first trimester, the body floods itself with progesterone to help prepare and maintain the pregnancy and prevent the production of more eggs. High progesterone levels lead to daytime fatigue and sleepiness and can contribute to disturbed sleep at night.
To help your body keep up with the daily demands, make time for a regular 15 to 30-minute nap every day. Not only can short naps help you battle fatigue, they can also reduce stress levels and boost the immune system.
Though the fetus is still small during the first trimester, you should expect more nighttime bathroom visits due to the uterus pressing on the bladder. Cut down on your liquid intake after 6 PM to reduce your number of nighttime bathroom trips.
Despite its name, many women experience morning sickness in the evening or during the night. An empty stomach can often make the symptoms worse. Keep a stash of your favorite crackers next to the bed for a light, late-night snack.
Second Trimester: New Changes and, For Some, Better Sleep
For many women, the second trimester brings some relief from fatigue and morning sickness. (However, there is a small percentage of women for whom the discomforts of the first trimester will continue.) While fatigue and morning sickness decline, heartburn and leg cramps often take their place.
Now, not only is the uterus pressing on your bladder, it’s pressing on your stomach and forcing acid into the esophagus. You can reduce heartburn by avoiding spicy and acidic foods, caffeine, and heavy fried foods. After dinner, try to stay upright for three or four hours to give your body extra time to digest.
The exact cause of pregnancy-related leg cramps isn’t fully understood. Many physicians theorize that the rapid weight gain associated with pregnancy over taxes the muscles while others blame a calcium imbalance. No matter the cause, take your prenatal vitamins to make sure you’re getting enough calcium and potassium, which can alleviate muscle cramps. To increase your potassium even more, make bananas one of your favorite pregnancy snacks.
Third Trimester: A Difficult Resting Period
By this time, the bladder is pressed, the back aches, and it can be hard to breathe. Your energy will come in bursts, which means you’ll be able to get the crib set up but afterward you’ll feel like you ran a marathon. You can help your back (and baby) by sleeping on your left side. Sleeping on the left side reduces stress on the lower back, reduces snoring, and increases circulation to your baby.
Like you did in the first trimester, slow down on liquids four hours before bed. Stop them altogether two hours before bed and be sure to go to the bathroom before calling it a night. Try lifting your belly while you urinate to fully empty the bladder.
Though sleep can be a struggle with an ever-changing body, good daytime habits like a scheduled nap and a healthy diet can help you get the rest you need. It might take some behavioral changes but it’s worth it for you and your baby.