The Importance of Sleep During Pregnancy - Phoenix Neurology & Sleep Medicine

The Importance of Sleep During Pregnancy

By Troy
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January 2, 2019
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Sleeping while Pregnant

According to sleep scientists, up to 80 percent of pregnant women experience insomnia associated with pregnancy. It is characterized by difficulties in falling asleep or staying asleep at one point or another during their pregnancy. Pregnancy insomnia is a significant issue for about 1in five expectant moms.

Fatigue is a normal part of pregnancy, and expectant mothers usually experience it in the first trimester. Pregnancy insomnia is a different issue altogether, and it typically occurs towards the end of the pregnancy term. The causes for this type of insomnia include increased frequency of the need to urinate at night, difficulties finding a comfortable position due to the expanding belly, and anxiety associated with worries about everything the mother has to do once the baby arrives.

Regardless of the causes of your pregnancy insomnia, the following tips can help improve the quality of sleep you get at night and ensure you get much-needed rest throughout your pregnancy.

Stay up Longer at Night

Counter-intuitive as it may sound, it’s not a good idea to go to bed early. If you’re having difficulties falling asleep, start going to bed later than you usually do. Waiting a little longer before going to bed increases the body’s desire to sleep. As a result, you’re more likely to fall asleep within a few minutes of getting in bed.

Your brain then associates the getting into bed with sleeping. Sleeping later at night makes it easier to drift off whenever you get into bed.

Just be sure to use that extra time awake to engage in quiet, restful activities such as taking a soothing warm bath or reading a few more pages of your favorite book. Avoid staring into your phone, laptop or TV at this time because the blue light the screens on these devices force the brain to stay awake by suppressing the secretion of melatonin, a sleep hormone.

Be Strategic about your Nap Times

According to sleep specialists, naps are not a good idea for people suffering sleep difficulties and insomnia. However, pregnant women who feel fatigued during the day are the exception to this rule. It is important, though, to take naps between 1 pm and 3 p.m. because this is the period when the body’s circadian rhythm naturally takes a dip.

Taking a brief afternoon nap may not be an option if you’re at the office. If your home is not far from your place of work, you can get squeeze a few minutes out of your lunch break to take a quick siesta. If this isn’t possible, the alternative is going for a leisurely stroll. Research has found that taking a walk at lunchtime eases the tension that accumulates throughout the morning.

You’ll feel more relaxed and ready to cope after the walk.

If you’re having difficulties sleeping, one thing you should avoid is taking a nap on the couch as soon as you get home from work. The body’s circadian rhythm naturally rises around 6 pm and sleeping at this time will disrupt your sleep cycle.

Watch what you Consume before you Sleep

Reduce or eliminate your caffeine intake. Caffeine can be found in tea, coffee, soda, and chocolate. Steer clear of caffeinated drinks in the evening and afternoon. Taking a lot of water is good for your body, especially when you’re pregnant. However, limit your high fluid consumption to the morning hours. Drinking a lot of water and fluids a few hours before going to bed when your pregnant will cause you to wake up frequently at night to empty your bladder.

Similarly, avoid eating a heavy meal close to bedtime. As well, stay away from spicy and acidic foods that can cause heartburn and other problems with digestion. If you have acid reflux and are prone to getting heartburn, eat lighter foods and do it as early in the evening as possible, giving yourself at least three hours to digest the food.

Also important to avoid going to bed on an empty stomach. Having a light, healthy snack before bedtime helps prevent morning sickness.

Don’t Toss and Turn in Bed

When suffering pregnancy insomnia, there are many times when you’re in bed, but you’re struggling to find sleep. When this happens, don’t try to force yourself to fall asleep.

People experiencing this problem usually toss and turn in bed trying to compel themselves into sleep, but that doesn’t work. You’re better off getting out of bed and getting back in only when you feel sleepy. Tossing and turning in bed makes your brain associate your sleep environment with the anxiety of being unable to sleep.

As mentioned in the point about sleeping later, it is important that you engage only in restful activities like reading when you get out of bed. Watching TV or doing something on your laptop will only make things worse.

Seek Professional Help

Some women experience heightened anxiety during pregnancy. If the feelings of anxiety continue to persist and have a serious impact on your sleep, it is advisable to talk to your doctor. You can relieve mild anxiety and worries through practices such as meditation and yoga. The activities help you relax and get into a frame of mind that is conducive for sleep.

In addition to mind and body relaxation, light exercises such as swimming and brisk walking during the day can also be useful. Just make sure you consult your doctor before starting exercise routines. In case you experience moderate to severe insomnia for extended periods, it is imperative that you talk to a healthcare professional to find out if you may be suffering from serious sleep disorders or other conditions for which insomnia is a symptom.