Sleep During Pregnancy

By: Emma Forbes

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Pregnant woman laying in bed
Pregnant woman laying in bed

Pregnancy is a crazy time for everyone involved. There are mood swings, hormone imbalances, odd food cravings, and to top it off trouble sleeping. Sleep during pregnancy comes with its own set of challenges. This is true especially for women who naturally sleep on their stomachs.  Having never been pregnant myself, due to lack of necessary equipment (being a guy and all), I write this from an outsider’s perspective. Although, I do have fairly good sources, my wife and a co-worker. Being pregnant is a time of great joy but also can be a time of many obstacles.

The Bump

Early on in pregnancy, this part is not such a big deal. However, around the third month when that little miracle starts really making an appearance, sleep during pregnancy, among other things, can start getting uncomfortable. Women who naturally sleep on their stomachs start finding out that this may be impossible to do later on down the road. For some, they feel that with their natural sleeping position taken away they can not adapt to any other making sleep difficult. Luckily, there are now products available to help overcome this “bump” in sleeping habits. Using a very simple design, there are special pillows that you can lay on top of that have room for the baby bump. Some even have room for the other two articles of anatomy that may grow during this time. These specialty pillows can cost around $300. Luckily for me, my wife is very thrifty, so she just got used to sleeping on her side.

So does it matter which side you sleep on? Actually yes. Physicians recommend that you sleep on your left side. There are a few different reasons for this. Most of it has to do with the placement of organs and blood vessels. Our livers, for instance, are on the right side of our abdomen.  Therefore, lying on our right side during pregnancy can cause pressure on this vital organ.

What about your back? At first, sleeping on your back doesn’t really make too much of a difference. However, around the fifth month, sleeping on your back can cause pressure to be put on the diaphragm making it hard to breathe. Also, extra pressure is put on the inferior vena cava and the aorta. These two large blood vessels carry blood to and from your lower body. Pressure on these vessels may interrupt blood flow to your body and rob your baby of nutrient-rich blood.

So as the saying goes, the left is best. Some women swear by sleeping with body pillows. If you still have trouble getting comfortable enough to sleep during pregnancy try placing a pillow between your legs.

The Heartburn

If you are among the majority of women who get heartburn during your pregnancy, you will find that it gets much worse when lying down at night. Tums and Rolaids will now be your best friends. It’s helpful to keep some by your bed if you experience intense heartburn at night. However, be mindful that the active ingredient in Tums is calcium carbonate. Just like any other medication, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Calcium carbonate may also interact with other medications and may be an issue for people with calcium problems. So, as always, check with your doctor before taking them. Your doctor may also prescribe heartburn medicine.

Another remedy that may help with nighttime heartburn is to slightly elevate the head of your bed. This helps acid reflux by the use of gravity as all the stomach acid will have a harder time climbing up your esophagus. Elevating the head of the bed may also help with snoring. See: Best Mattresses for Pregnant Women

The Hormones

Being a human incubator means that sometimes you will be hot. I mean sweating, heat sticking, uncomfortably hot. This is your body’s response to the hormone changes that are occurring with pregnancy. While uncomfortable they are usually harmless. Dieticians recommend cutting caffeine, spicy foods, and carbohydrates to help with hot flashes. Other medical issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure may also cause hot flashes and should be monitored during your prenatal care.

There is no really good remedy for hot flashes. Hopefully, you have an understanding bed mate who does not mind the room temperature to be just above freezing.

Sleep Aids

There are a number of different sleep aids for the mom to be. It’s important to be very cautious of remedies that have not been tested for pregnant and nursing mothers. This includes herbal supplements. Most sleep aids are safe but first check with your physician before taking anything. Prescription sleep aids may have lasting side effects after waking up such as drowsiness and decreased alertness. You may also find it difficult to wake up in the middle of the night if you need to. For these reasons, follow the directions of the medication very closely.

Sleep During Pregnancy

If you think you’re losing sleep now, wait until the baby’s born! Just kidding. But seriously, look at this time as your body’s way of preparing you for the change in sleeping habits you’re about to

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encounter. It really sounds worse than it is. Of course, it will take some getting used to but embrace it. Take naps. Enjoy the time with the new member of your family. Don’t fight it. Your baby is going to have a sleeping schedule of its own for a while. He or she will want to hang out with you at all hours of the night. Enjoy these times now. For one day they will be teenagers!