Ah, bed. There’s nothing more inviting than the feel of a soft pillow when you’re ready to snooze. But when you’re pregnant, sound sleep doesn’t always come easy. Still, you don’t have to stress over getting some shut-eye. Here are some common blocks to sleep during pregnancy, along with surefire slumber solutions.
Pregnancy Sleep Stealer: Your growing belly, tender breasts and aching back
Slumber Solutions: It’s difficult to sleep on your back and tough to sleep on your stomach, but you can sleep on your left side. It’s more comfortable when you’re a mama-to-be, and that particular position helps improve the flow of blood and nutrients to your fetus and uterus too.
To get the best sleep during pregnancy, bend your body at your hips and knees, and place pillows between your knees, under your abdomen and behind your back. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this may help relieve pressure on your lower back. You might also find those long pregnancy pillows (sometimes called “body pillows”) helpful as well.
Pregnancy Sleep Stealer: Heartburn
Slumber Solutions: Heartburn (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD) is a reality for many expectant mamas, but it doesn’t have to ruin your sleep during pregnancy. The National Sleep Foundation suggests sleeping with your head elevated on pillows, avoiding sleeping on your back and eating small meals throughout the day. Also, ask your OB-GYN if she recommends any over-the-counter medications.
Pregnancy Sleep Stealer: Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
Slumber Solutions: RLS is characterized by the “sensation that you need to get up and move your legs, mainly when you’re at rest, mainly at night and movement helps the feeling to temporarily [go away],” explains Dr. William Kohler, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute, adding that “up to 19 percent of women report RLS during pregnancy.”
If you suspect you’re experiencing RLS, speak to your OB-GYN. RLS is “often associated with low iron,” says Kohler, so if your doctor finds anemia is contributing to your symptoms, he may prescribe that you take extra iron along with vitamin C to help your body absorb it. Kohler also suggests avoiding caffeine and antihistamines, which can potentially aggravate RLS. Warm baths and “relaxation techniques -- massage, acupuncture and biofeedback -- have all been found to be beneficial” in helping to relieve the symptoms of RLS, says Kohler. “Medication may be prescribed at a point when a woman can’t sleep at all.” Talk to your doctor to determine whether the medicine poses any risks for you.
Pregnancy Sleep Stealer: Bathroom breaks
Slumber Solution: Pressure on your bladder and increased levels of the pregnancy hormone progesterone make you want to get up and go frequently in the middle of the night, making sleep during pregnancy all the more difficult. While you should be drinking plenty of water during the day, Kohler suggests cutting down on how much you drink a couple of hours before bed. You don’t want to restrict overall fluid intake, though, so be careful. If you find you’re going to the bathroom too much at night, talk to your doctor about how much to reduce your fluids before bedtime.
Pregnancy Sleep Stealer: Sleep apnea
Slumber Solution: Expectant women often develop sleep apnea (i.e., when breathing stops for more than 10 seconds at a time while sleeping) because of the weight they gain. As Kohler explains, any time you gain weight, “you potentially have narrowing of throat, and anything that narrows the throat makes it more likely for apnea to occur.” Sleep apnea should be taken seriously, warns Kohler, because it’s highly associated with risk of preeclampsia (a leading cause of fetal complications). He adds that sleep apnea during pregnancy can also lead to a number of harmful conditions, including heart attack and stroke, along with elevated cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.
If you suspect you may have sleep apnea -- either because someone tells you you’re snoring loudly, or because you wake up with headaches, have dry mouth or feel tired during the day -- contact your doctor, who may recommend a treatment called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). With a CPAP mask, Kohler explains, “air is forced through the nose all night to keep your airway open.”
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