Sleeping for Two

By Rizwana Fareeduddin, MA, FACOG

Dr. Fareeduddin is a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist in Gainesville, Florida. Follow her on Twitter @rizwanafl

Any new parent will tell you that getting sleep is almost impossible. But did you realize that sleep difficulties start during pregnancy?

A poll by the National Sleep Foundation showed that almost 80 percent of pregnant women have difficulty sleeping. New mothers and pregnant women are more likely to suffer from insomnia than at any other point in their lives.

Why is it so hard to sleep when you’re pregnant? Well, pregnancy is uncomfortable! Here are some common reasons why pregnant women lose sleep and possible remedies.

Aches

Pregnancy-related physical changes and weight gain cause lots of aches and pains. Using a maternity belt during the day can decrease discomfort at night. You should also create a sleep ritual to help you get a better night’s rest. Avoid any technology an hour prior to bed, set a comfortable temperature in the bedroom and use a supportive bed or recliner. A warm bath, yoga, meditation, stretching and deep breathing can prepare the body for rest. Many women find relief with a full body pillow or by placing a pillow between their legs to provide support. Although occasionally sleeping on your back will not harm a fetus, it is recommended to sleep on either your right or left side not only to help improve blood flow, but also to help support your growing belly.

Heartburn and reflux

Heartburn can also keep pregnant women awake at night. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t get heartburn because your baby has hair. Heartburn and reflux can occur due to a growing uterus pushing up on the stomach along with slower transit time through the G.I. tract. This causes acid buildup and slower movement through your intestines. Treat heartburn as it happens with over-thecounter antacids and by sleeping with an additional pillow.

Nighttime bathroom trips

Pregnant women urinate more frequently because their kidneys are filtering twice as fast as when they’re not pregnant. The enlarging uterus can push on the bladder and also increase the sensation of having to go. Limit the amount of fluid you drink before bed to help this.

Congestion

Increased progesterone causes nasal congestion, which can disrupt sleep. Using nasal strips to widen your nasal passages and elevating your head may help. Snoring is also common during pregnancy. Overweight or obese women who become pregnant, women who gain excessive weight and women who report heavy snoring or gasping awake should be evaluated for sleep apnea. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a safe and effective treatment for sleep apnea during pregnancy.

Did you know?

RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME

Restless leg syndrome can affect up to 30 percent of pregnant women. Although it is poorly understood, culprits may include deficiencies in iron, folate or calcium. Walking, stretching and improving your intake of green leafy vegetables and calcium may help relieve this.

One of the best ways to improve sleep quality is exercise. Regular exercise during the week will help you sleep more soundly at night. And don’t hesitate to take a short nap! Follow these tips to help you rest and have the energy to care for your sweet newborn.