Sleep disruptions are always stress-inducing, but when you’re pregnant they’re particularly challenging, in part because there are just so many of them. Pregnant women can face back and hip pain, heartburn, muscle spasms, nausea, chronic visits the restroom, and many other sleep-stealing afflictions. And it only gets worse once you reach the home stretch. “It seems like a cruel joke that towards the end of pregnancy, sleep becomes even more disrupted,” Melisa Moore, Ph.D., a psychologist in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, tells Thrive.
Even Olympic gold medalists like Gwen Jorgensen, who welcomed baby boy Stanley in August of 2017, aren’t immune to the havoc pregnancy wreaks on sleep. “In the first trimester, I was so sick,” she tells Thrive, noting that one way she managed subpar sleep caused by nausea was to keep a healthy snack (an apple, for example) on her bedside table, which quelled her queasiness. Having a mattress she loved was also key. “I spent a lot of time in my Sleep Number bed,” she says, calling it a “game-changer” for optimal sleep because it adjusts to your movements and temperature throughout the night. The triathlete also espouses the importance of creating bedtime rituals and routines. Hers included creating a pitch-black environment, which studies indicate reinforces quality sleep, and removing her phone from her room by 8:00 p.m. every night. “That’s something I really pride myself on doing consistently, turning off my phone,” she says. “By 9:30, you’ll find me in bed nearly every single night.”
While the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Melisa Moore supports the idea of ritualizing your nightly routine, she urges pregnant women to temper their expectations: “Sleep troubles can’t be totally avoided when you’re pregnant, but there are a few things that might help,” she promises.
Here are her top five tips:
Pump up your iron
Moore says most women know to take folic acid and prenatal vitamins, but skimp on iron. “Low iron stores can lead to restless leg syndrome,” she says. The stores build up over about three months, so start your supplement as early as you can tolerate. “But make sure you have your OB’s blessing before taking any supplements,” she cautions.
Sleep on your left side
“Pregnant women sometimes develop temporary snoring, and even sleep apnea, where breathing repeatedly stops and starts, which is generally worse when lying on your back,” Moore explains, because the base of your tongue and palate cave to create the vibration that causes snoring. To stop the apnea, your body will jolt awake (whether you remember it or not), which disrupts your natural sleep cycle and causes increased tiredness during the day. Sleeping on your left side, which “takes pressure off of the liver and facilitates the best blood flow to the uterus, kidneys, placenta, and fetus,” Moore explains, shuts down the snore-fest.
Use a body pillow
To consistently sleep on your side, invest in a body pillow, Moore advises. The increasing weight of a baby bump puts strain on your body. Sleeping with a body pillow can ease the stress on your hips, back, and knees.
Get out of bed if sleep won’t come
One of the big enduring myths about sleep is that if you can’t fall asleep you should stay in bed and try to wrestle down what’s keeping you awake. That is exactly what not to do. “If you find that you’ve been awake for 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring,” Moore suggests, like reading a book that only moderately interests you. Once the sleepy sensation takes hold of you, return to bed. The Sleep30® Challenge by Sleep Number echoes this advice and provides ideas here to help you wind down after you get out of bed.
Put away your electronics
Thirty minutes before you get into bed, turn off your phone and put it out of reach. “Electronics impedes the production of melatonin, which we need to feel sleepy and stay asleep,” Moore notes. Whatever you do, she says, refrain from connecting to your devices during the night when you can’t sleep, because it’ll fire up your waking state.
Olympian Gwen Jorgensen confesses that she’s often used TV to wind down before bed. But since starting Sleep Number’s Sleep30® Challenge, a free step-by-step guide on how to improve your daytime routine to ensure quality sleep, she now opts for reading instead — and it’s made a world of difference. “Switching from watching television to reading mellows and slows down my mind and gets me ready for sleep,” she says.
This article was produced by Thrive Global and sponsored by Sleep Number.
Thrive Global and Sleep Number believe quality sleep is essential for optimal health and performance. Visit sleepnumber.com to find the best sleep solution for you and wake up to your greater purpose.