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Healthy Pregnancy Series: Sleeping During Pregnancy

admin January 5, 2011

Sleeping during pregnancy is no easy task.  In the early months, you might wake because you’re hungry or feel sick.  Later, you constantly have to go to the bathroom, your back hurts, you can’t get comfortable.  You might even suffer from sciatica.  And what about sleeping positions?  Some recommend not sleeping on your back.  With all of these issues and worries, it’s no wonder you can’t sleep!

Take a deep breath.  It’s not as bad as it sounds. 🙂

First of all, prepare in advance for some discomforts.

Do these things before you sleep:

  • Have a small, protein-filled snack, like an apple with peanut butter or a few slices of cheese
  • Keep a small snack next to your bed (some crackers or nuts)
  • Keep plenty of cold water next to your bed
  • Make sure the path to the bathroom is clear (I fell once when I was pregnant and sprained my wrist…dizziness sure makes it hard to pick your way around obstacles!)
  • Use a dim night light or two to light your path to the bathroom and inside it
  • Try a white-noise machine to help you relax
  • Get a body pillow or two, or a special pregnancy pillow
  • Keep a low light and a book next to your bed (in case you have trouble sleeping)

Okay!  Now you’re ready to sleep.  The snack is so your blood sugar doesn’t drop and you don’t wake at night feeling sick and dizzy (it’s happened to me once or twice already when I ate refined carbs before bed…oops!).  The other snack is in case you do wake feeling sick or hungry anyway, or for first thing in the morning.

I am serious about a clear path to the bathroom.  You may not think and rise too quickly, and if you trip on something you could seriously hurt yourself.  Just make sure you can walk easily!  A night light or two will help also.

A white-noise machine is very helpful to relax you.  If you prefer, soft classical music is nice, or even a TV on low.  I don’t know what it is, but in the last few months of both my pregnancies so far, I had to have the TV on to fall asleep, and sometimes all night.  When I’m not pregnant I can’t stand that, I just can’t sleep with the TV on.  I watched Scrubs so often that I could tell from any given 5-second clip what season and episode was on, even if I was half-asleep.  It was good because I love that show, and because it’s generally even-volume and no laugh track.  It’s not a cartoon so no bright colors either.  I know, I’m weird.

Body pillows — what can I say?  They’re a pregnant woman’s best friend.  Look at this Snoogle.  I don’t have one (and I’m not affiliated with the company in any way), but I love this design.  It goes between your arms, under your belly, between your legs, and also tucks around your head and back.  You’ll like the extra back support when you are very far along, trust me.

I simply have two 4′ long body pillows, the type you can buy at any local store.  The first one joins me in bed sometime around the end of the first trimester to tuck between my knees and under my (tiny) belly, and the second one joins me midway through the second trimester, behind my back.  With these pillows, I sleep comfortably.  My husband hates them. 🙂  He actually volunteered to wear a straitjacket to bed if it meant I’d use him as a pillow instead of getting these out!

sleeping during pregnancy

With this “arsenal” of tricks, you can get much more comfortable in bed.  That will help you sleep!

What about bathroom trips?  You don’t want to limit liquids too much because you don’t want to get dehydrated.  It could give you headaches and make it harder to sleep.  Just make sure you go right before you go to sleep and make any trips as quick as possible!

Can you sleep on your back?  The truth is, if you are comfortable on your back, especially if you are tipped slightly to one side or another, you are safe.  The problem is when your nerves get compressed and you lose blood flow to the baby.  But if this were happening, you would be uncomfortable and feel pain and strangeness that would cause you to change position before there was any damage.  Let your comfort decide what position you sleep in.  I often sleep on my back but tipped slightly to one side, even very late in pregnancy, and it’s never been a problem.  If you are very heavy, it might be an issue, but again, it would be uncomfortable for you and you probably wouldn’t want to lie in that position anyway.

What about sciatica or other problems?  Truthfully, you want to see a chiropractor so that you can hopefully deal with these issues.  You can also use extra pillows (yes, even more pillows!) to prop yourself to a more comfortable position.  The same goes for heartburn sufferers — use extra pillows to prop up.  In that case, also try sipping lemon water or raw apple cider vinegar diluted in water (the problem is really too little acid, not too much).

How do you sleep during pregnancy?  What are your best tips and tricks?

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6 Comments

  1. I'm around 13 weeks, and one of my oddest sleeping problems is my hands and/or feet falling asleep! It's like if my hand is lower or higher than it's shoulder, it falls asleep! Or if my arm is under anything. I'm just starting to try being creative with hugging pillows or something to keep it from happening. It doesn't wake me up if I'm in a deep sleep, but it's very bothersome as I'm trying to fall asleep.
    Anyone else have this problem?

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  2. I am just ending my 1st trimester with my first baby and have had NO problems sleeping, whether it is at night or in the evening in front of the TV. But I have been rather symptom free so I guess I should not be surprised (does this mean that I am going to get it later?). I am a stomach sleeper with one leg pulled up to my side (and into my husband's back) though, and sleeping on my back or sides has never been comfortable for me. I have noticed that it is getting a little tighter when I do that, so I am going to dig out my old pillows and put them to good use. Thanks for the tips!

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  3. I use 3 pillows when I'm pregnant! Some day I'm gonna splurge on a pregnancy pillow so I can spend less time arranging all my pillows.

    The snack before bed is essential, but I also really recommend digestive enzymes with dinner. I didn't have nearly the heartburn issues with my last two pregnancies since I was on a really good enzyme (Enzymedica). Both those things helped from me having to think about food as I fell asleep – either what I was going to eat next, or what I had already eaten. 🙂

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  4. I am 29 weeks pregnant with my first, and I do not enjoy losing sleep. I have found that doing some basic exercises right before going to bed helps my back relax and keeps leg cramps away. Something simple like a cat/dog yoga series or pelvic circles. It has especially helped with sciatica.

    Love your blog, by the way!

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  5. April, come to think of it, yes my arms especially have been falling asleep more. I am rather well endowed to begin with so have always slept with my arms folded under me, and with the pregnancy they are getting larger and sore, so I have been noticing it it worse too! I am 11 week BTW

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  6. Interesting, I ran across this blog while "not sleeping" due to being 38 weeks pregnant! (had to get up to pee, lay back down and just couldn't go back to sleep, for no obvious reason) After lying awake for an hour, I decided to admit defeat and just get up. The sad thing, of course, is I'll be ready to go back to sleep in an hour or two, but of course my kids will be up by then.

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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