How Pregnancy Affects Your Sleep Each Trimester
If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably heard the same line of unsolicited advice: “you’ll never sleep well again!” Thanks for that. It’s true that you’ll have some upcoming sleep disturbances with your newborn. To prepare you for that, your pregnant body will throw you some nightly curve balls. From heartburn and nausea to lower back and hip pain, it’s going to be an adjustment getting to your beloved REM sleep. Prepare yourself with what to expect and how to respond without getting frustrated.
Surge of hormones: It’s all about the hormones during these first 13 weeks. By the time you realize you’re pregnant, you’re already four to five weeks in. Most women begin to feel the nauseating side effects between weeks seven to 11. Before that, your body is on overload producing lots and lots of mucus thanks to the surge in estrogen. Your immune system is weakened since your body is directing all of its efforts to these important developmental weeks. You might develop a sinus infection, which can be treated with hot compresses, steamy showers and saline drops. Of course, your sleep becomes affected any time you have head congestion.
Nausea and heartburn: As you progress through the first trimester, the hormones will begin causing you some digestive discomfort. You can expect to wake up in the middle of the night very nauseated. Put some saltines by your bed to quickly nibble down. The weird part about pregnancy nausea is that eating or sucking on a lemon drop seems to make you feel better whereas regular nausea doesn’t allow you to put anything in your stomach. You can expect heartburn to flare up when you try to lie horizontally, so try elevating your head and chest with extra pillows. If you’re over the saltines, click here for more tummy-friendly snack options.
Bathroom trips and insomnia: Hormones can also cause insomnia for you. This seems strange because your body is overworked right now trying to recruit all of your energy for this baby. At the same time, the increase in progesterone makes you feel drowsy all day. Yet, there you are staring at your ceiling at 2 a.m. This doesn’t happen to everyone. Just know that it will eventually fade. Try to spend your time doing breathing exercises (like the 4-7-8 breathing trick) versus turning on a light or scrolling through your phone. Even though your belly hasn’t “popped,” yet, your growing uterus is pushing against your bladder already. You’ll probably need to wake up to use the bathroom once a night. So plug that nightlight in and just get it over with!
Cruise control: This trimester is usually pretty disturbance-free when it comes to sleep. The hormones have settled, you’re feeling better and you’re starting to sleep more on your side. Go ahead and experiment with some pregnancy or body pillows to find a comfortable sleeping position. As your hips begin to widen to carry your growing belly and prepare for birth, you’ll want to have some sort of support between the knees when you’re on your side.
Cramping up: Even though you might be sleeping a lot better, some women experience leg cramps or restless leg syndrome during this time. If that’s the case, make sure you’re getting enough exercise during the day, especially if you’re sitting at a desk. Taking regular walks is very helpful. Stretch your legs well, get massages and take hot baths to reduce the effects. Find out how exercise can do more than prevent leg cramps during pregnancy.
Nightmares: If you haven’t experienced strange dreams yet, expect some super wacky ones. Chalk it up to hormones again. But if the dreams are really intrusive and dark, talk to your OB-GYN about it. Dreaming about labor and delivery is quite common, and some experts say it’s your mind’s way of practicing for the real thing.
Left is best: You’ve been sleeping on your sides now for a few months, but did you know the left side is the better side? The way your circulatory system is set up, having the weight on your left side will release most of the pressure on your inferior vena cava (the big vein that brings blood back to your heart after it cycles through your lower body).
Hip and back pain: If you don’t have a barrier of pillows surrounding you by now, you might want to build on that. Some women suffer from sciatica, which happens when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed. Even though “left is best,” you can still rotate to the right side if your left side is too painful. Make sure to have plenty of back support while you sleep. During the day, try to get off your feet whenever you can, use a warm compress, practice some kegels and hip tilts and jump into a pool to take the pressure off. Ask your OB-GYN for a reference to a chiropractor as well.