How to Sleep Better During Pregnancy

You’re tired. You also have a bit of heartburn. Your back hurts, your legs are cramping. Maybe you feel restless, anxious about the future, overwhelmed with so many things going on at once. You might feel short of breath, and find it hard to get comfortable. And then, as you finally start to drift off, you get that uncomfortably-full feeling in your bladder and up we go to the bathroom yet again!

In your first trimester, you’ll find that you feel extra sleepy all the time, which is brought on by high levels of progesterone. Your second trimester might bring a period of peaceful sleep, but don’t get to used to it because when the third trimester comes along, with that beautiful belly getting bigger every day, sleep may seem like a distant memory.

You’re exhausted, but you can’t sleep! Help!

Sleep Position:

Lying on your side with your knees tucked in is likely to be the most comfortable position. It also take some stress off your heart, because it keeps the baby’s weight off of the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood back to the heart from your feet and legs. Also, if you sleep on your left side, it helps take the pressure of your uterus off your liver. It also helps with digestion and improves circulation to the heart, fetus, uterus, and kidneys.

Pillow Relief:

Some women feel more comfortable with a pillow under their tummy, between their legs, or at the small of your back may help to relieve some pressure. This is something you’ll have to experiment with a bit, and maybe try one of the various “pregnancy pillows” on the market.

maternity pillows

Watch what and when you eat:

Take it easy on the caffeinated drinks like soda, coffee, and tea. If you can’t give up your caffeine, try to restrict it to earlier part of the day.

You need to get plenty of fluid and nutrition during the day, but try to avoid eating and drinking a lot within a few hours of bedtime. Eat larger meals for breakfast and lunch, and a smaller meal at dinner. If you’re bothered by nausea, a few crackers before you go to sleep may do the trick.

Relief for Heartburn:

The first step is to avoid foods that trigger heartburn. Some common culprits are carbonated drinks, alcohol, caffeine, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, mustard, vinegar, mint products, processed meats, and any foods that are spicy, highly seasoned, fried, or fatty.  Again, eat small, frequent meals, and chew your food slowly and thoroughly. Don’t eat for a few hours before bedtime.  Elevating your head and upper body may help keep stomach acids where they belong.

Create an inviting sleep environment:

If you can get into a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, it will help you fall asleep at night. Try to do something relaxing just before you get into bed, like taking a warm bath, drinking something soothing, like tea with honey, or ask your partner for a little foot massage. Exercising during the day may help your body release pent up energy which will help you sleep at night, but don’t exercise right before bedtime.

Leg Cramps:

No one can sleep through a leg cramp! To make it go away, try pressing your feet hard against the wall or to stand on the leg.  Also, make sure that you’re getting enough calcium in your diet, which can help reduce leg cramps.

Reduce Stress:

If your days are always spent on the go, consider a prenatal yoga class or some other relaxation exercise to help you unwind. If you are worried about the birth or how you will cope with a new baby, a childbirth or parenting class will help you feel more confident about the future. Knowledge, and the company of other women in a similar position, may be comforting and help you sleep better at night.

Take Naps:

Regardless of everything you do, there are times when you just can’t sleep. In these cases, short naps during the day can be a life-saver. Instead of tossing and turning, get up and do something: read a book, catch up on letters or email, put in a load of laundry, wash the dishes. Eventually, you’ll probably feel tired enough to get back to sleep.  Then, you’ll have cleared up some space the next day for a nice hour’s nap!

Pregnancy without Heartburn: Is it possible?

Heartburn (also known as acid indigestion or acid reflux) is an uncomfortable but common pregnancy complaint. It may be that up to half of pregnant women experience heartburn, which may occur for the first time while they are pregnant. It feels like a burning sensation in the chest and throat, and a sour, acidic taste in the mouth, often after eating.

Heartburn is caused by some of the hormonal and physical changes in your body. During pregnancy, the placenta produces the hormone progesterone, which relaxes the smooth muscles of the uterus. Unfortunately, this hormone also relaxes the valve separating the esophagus from the stomach, allowing gastric acids to seep back up, which causes that unpleasant burning sensation. Progesterone also slows down digestion so that later in pregnancy, as your growing baby crowds your abdominal cavity, stomach acid is pushed up into the esophagus. If you have a short torso, this may exacerbate heartburn.

Foods to Avoid

Though you may not be able to eliminate heartburn entirely, you can take steps to minimize your discomfort.  Avoid food and beverages that cause you gastrointestinal distress (take a look at this chart for a complete list). The usual suspects are:

  • carbonated drinks
  • alchohol
  • caffeine
  • chocolate
  • acidic foods like citrus fruits and juices
  • tomatoes
  • mustard
  • vinegar
  • processed meats
  • mint products
  • spicy, highly seasoned food
  • fried or fatty foods

In addition to this, follow these guidelines to further eliminate discomfort from heartburn:

•  Don’t eat big meals. Instead, eat several small meals throughout the day. Take your time eating and chew thoroughly.

•  Avoid drinking large quantities of fluids during meals — you don’t want to distend your stomach. It’s important to stay hydrated, but sip in between meals instead.

•  Try chewing gum after eating. Chewing gum stimulates your salivary glands, and saliva can help neutralize acid.

•  Don’t eat close to bedtime. Give yourself two to three hours to digest before you lie down.

•  Sleep propped up with several pillows or a wedge. Elevating your upper body will help keep your stomach acids where they belong and will aid your digestion.
•  Watch your posture. Putting pressure on your stomach can cause heartburn in pregnancy. Sit in an upright position to keep the pressure off your stomach. When you stand or walk, keep your posture erect for the same reason.

•  Gain a sensible amount of weight, and stay within the guidelines your health care provider suggests.

•  Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Avoid any tightness around your waist and tummy.

•  Bend at the knees instead of at the waist.

•  Don’t smoke. In addition to contributing to a host of serious health problems, smoking boosts stomach acidity.

An over-the-counter antacid that contains magnesium or calcium may ease discomfort, but check with your prenatal caregiver before taking one, because some brands contain aluminum or aspirin or are high in sodium. Some heartburn relievers such as Tums, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, or Gaviscon may also prove helpful.  If these measures don’t help, talk to your caregiver about prescription heartburn medications that are safe during pregnancy.

Yoga has proven to be great help for some people in coping with heartburn. Yoga helps to reduce stress and anxiety, promotes relaxation, and stabilizes digestion.  Click here or here for some simple prenatal yoga instructions that may provide some relief.

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