Some of the most noticeable and common discomforts in pregnancy center around sleep. It’s disorienting as much as it is uncomfortable, because just as you get used to one sleep disturbance, your body and your baby shift and another sleep pattern or problem emerges. Today, let’s look at as many of these problems as possible in the form of a complete pregnancy sleep guide.
It’s easy to say that the sleeplessness is only preparing you for long nights adjusting to new sleep expectations for baby, but losing sleep is not easy to deal with. Being proactive about sleep patterns in pregnancy can help you to cope with each coming change, and at the very least will help you to not be surprised when you are sleepless for yet another reason. Use this pregnancy sleep guide to help prepare yourself or a loved one for the sleep challenges they are likely to face, or as a quick reference to know you’re not alone and that there are ways to cope.
Pregnancy Sleep Survival in the First Trimester
There is no exhaustion like that of the first trimester of pregnancy. It’s a feeling of being so drained and tired that you’re slogging through mud just to get basic daily tasks accomplished. You might find yourself napping or falling asleep early, struggling to wake up or losing energy throughout the day. The good news is that by the time these effects really set in, you’re usually around halfway through the first trimester. But how do you function when you’re that sleepy?
Just as you’ll have to adjust sleep expectations for less sleep when baby comes, you’ll need to give yourself some room for extra sleep during the first trimester.
- Plan to go to bed earlier than normal in the evening, and keep some crackers or trail mix by your bedside to restore your blood sugar in the morning after all that sleep and perhaps head off some nausea.
- Good food throughout the day, as much as is possible if you are experiencing morning sickness, can help prevent an energy bottom-out.
- Allow yourself naps, and cut out any unnecessary tasks and obligations.
It’s only a month or two total, then most mamas regain some of that energy during the shift to the second trimester.
Pregnancy Sleep Survival in the Second Trimester
While it’s true that the second trimester does shed some of that terrible exhaustion you experience in the first trimester, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be sleeping like a log. Daytime energy might last you longer, but nighttime still accounts for much growing and changing between you and the baby.
As soon as baby starts kicking and moving and pressing on your bladder, expect to wake at night to use the bathroom. You might also find leg cramps wake you, or uncomfortable restless legs. And when you do sleep, vivid dreams could make it restless, staying with you throughout the day and making you feel foggy and lost in the dream world. All of these are normal and related to your body and brain processing the shifts in everything from your organs to your nutrients to your very life changing.
- Prioritize nutrients like iron and calcium/magnesium during this stage - your blood volume is increasing and everything is changing so rapidly.
- Cut back on water just before bed, and when you do need to get up, keep the lights low and everything quiet so you can transition back to sleep easier.
- Give yourself some time to process dreams in the morning and let them go so that you can get on with your day; you might also find that journaling before bed helps your brain to process rather than emerging in the form of vivid, restless dreams.
Enjoy any energy that you’re given in this stage of pregnancy, but don’t neglect personal care. These weeks are among the most dramatic for change and development. Be good to your body as it makes these great strides.
Pregnancy Sleep in the Third Trimester
By the time you make it to the third trimester, you feel more baby than mama, round and full with the growing little one within you. You’ll likely get energy bursts in the form of nesting, but everything is beginning to slow down in preparation for the baby’s arrival.
You might find yourself waking more at night and cat napping during the day, which is good to lean into if you can in order to prepare for your new routine with baby. Discomfort is also a major obstacle, as you’ll be limited to side-sleeping from here on in. No room for belly sleeping and back sleeping tends to press baby against arteries, leaving you dizzy and uncomfortable.
- Use as many pillows as you need to get comfortable. Stretching the top leg out onto a pillow usually helps to relieve hip pressure and discomfort once your sleeping positions are limited.
- Take cat naps when necessary, just like you’ll need to do once baby is here. Your body is working hard and needs rest whenever you can get it.
- Allow yourself plenty of time to rest after bursts of nesting energy. Just because you are scrubbing tubs and organizing a nursery today doesn’t mean you’ll be ready to clean out the garage tomorrow. Listen to your body and move with its ebb and flow.
You’re nearly there by this point. Soon, you’ll have your little one to cuddle during those wakeful moments!
3 Tips for Pregnancy Insomnia
Understanding what to expect and knowing you’re not alone can be helpful, but what you really want out of a pregnancy sleep guide is to know how exactly to get to sleep and stay asleep, right? There are things that can help encourage better sleep, and there are things you can do to simply rest your body and mind when sleep evades you. Don’t expect to force your body to do anything. Instead, listen to what it needs and provide it as best you can.
- Take the times that you wake up early to enjoy the quiet. Journal, practice gentle yoga exercises, or take the time to meditate. Sometimes, quieting the mind will lead to sleep but the relaxing time for both mind and body will be restorative and restful even if you can’t actually sleep.
- Make your space as comfortable as possible. Pillows, pillows, pillows. A fan if you are hot and blankets if you are cold. Water or a snack nearby. A dim nightlight for going to the bathroom so harsh lights don’t need to be on. Music or an audiobook on a sleep timer can help, as well. Create a restful space so that you aren’t fighting both your body and environment for sleep.
- Supporting your body with vitamins and minerals can lead to better sleep and overall improved comfort. My favorites for these nutrients includes Good Night Tincture, which can be taken before bed, and Lady in Waiting tea, which can be enjoyed all day or warm in the evening.
Missing sleep can be frustrating if we allow it to be, or we can nourish our bodies and minds and simply take this journey into motherhood one day, one step, one catnap at a time.