Getting a good night's sleep while pregnant can seem almost impossible. As your pregnancy progresses, your belly will get bigger, your baby's kicks will get stronger, and you'll feel like you have to urinate every 20 minutes. That adds up to a lot of time spent awake at night and not a lot of sleeping.
But if it's any comfort, as you toss and turn, you're in good company: It's a rare pregnant woman who sleeps through the night, leading some folks to conclude that this is nature's way of training a mother for her hectic life with a newborn.
Read our tips to get a better and more comfortable night's sleep, and the critical rest your body and mind need during this time.
#1 Drink up!
Drink plenty of fluids during the day, but cut down before bedtime to minimize frequent nighttime urination.
#2 Keep moving—even if you don't want to.
Get some exercise. We know it's tough these days, but even a walk can improve circulation and help reduce nighttime leg cramps. Active women tend to sleep more soundly than couch potatoes.
Just don't work out too close to bedtime (wrap it up at least two hours before) because exercise releases adrenaline that can keep you awake at night and actually make it even harder to doze off.
#3 Go to bed with a clear head.
Stress and anxiety are key culprits in preventing a good night's sleep. Remember that worrying won't help you, but talking about your problems will. Find a friend or a professional who can listen and help you if there are issues in your life that are causing you to worry or feel upset.
Another trick: To unload any worries before you turn in, keep a notebook on the night table. Much insomnia among preggo women stems from unresolved stresses — especially with issues about the baby (labor, how you'll be as a mom, balancing work and fam, etc.).
#4 Get into a new bedtime routine.
If you establish a consistent, soothing, and comforting evening routine, you'll be able to relax and drift off to sleep with more ease.
As bedtime approaches, try a few of these soothing rituals to see if one sticks:
- Drink a cup of caffeine-free tea or a warm cup of milk with honey
- Have a small snack. Try a handful of peanuts and a few crackers or whole-grain cereal with skim milk. These combos of carbs and tryptophan are known sleep-promoters.
- Read a chapter of a pleasant book
- Take a warm shower
- Get a shoulder massage or having your hair gently brushed
#5 Stack those pillows.
After 20 weeks, doctors recommend you sleep on your left side only to allow for the best blood flow to the fetus and to your uterus and kidneys. That means getting comfortable is the hardest thing about going to bed in the second half of your pregnancy.
Try using pillows to support you, one under your knee and another under your belly, or invest in a special (extra long) pregnancy body pillow. You can also just build a little wall with a couple of regular pillows, roll onto your side, and throw a leg over one of them. Same idea.
#6 Keep heartburn at bay.
To prevent heartburn, don't recline for an hour or two after a meal. If heartburn is a problem, sleep with your head elevated on pillows. Also, avoid spicy, fried, or acidic foods (such as tomato products), as they may worsen symptoms.
#7 Nap during the day.
If you're not getting enough rest at night, take a nap to help reduce fatigue. Try snagging 20- to 30-minute catnaps on the weekends and if you get home from work on the early side — but don't snooze for much more than this. Long naps can actually make you feel more tired than you were before you started.
#8 Keep a food journal.
If your baby reacts to spicy or sugary foods by becoming more active, don't eat them at dinner. Otherwise, your baby's dancing shoes are likely to wake you up at night.
In general, it's a good idea to completely eliminate caffeine to prevent insomnia. If nausea is a problem for you, try eating frequent bland snacks (like crackers) throughout the day. Keeping your stomach slightly full helps keep nausea at bay. Eat a well-balanced diet. Not only is this crucial for your health and that of your baby, but getting the necessary nutrients will help keep you feeling satisfied — which will help you sleep more soundly.
#9 Chill out. Literally.
Your body temperature is higher now that you're pregnant, so it may help you sleep better if you lower the thermostat in the bedroom. (Yes, even if it's winter — you're never going to rest well if you're boiling!)
Tend to go hot-and-cold? Tuck an extra quilt at the foot of the bed to pull up if you start to feel chilly.
#10 Revel in the quiet.
And when all else fails? Embrace the awake, mama.
If you wake up and have trouble falling back to sleep, practice some deep breathing with your hands cupped over your belly and imagine your baby sleeping inside you.
Another sweet trick: Try singing a lullaby. Your baby can hear you now, so if you sing him to sleep, you may find yourself feeling drowsy too. It's a great way for your baby to get to know your voice.