Sleep during pregnancy is full of irony—you're waddling around so tired you feel like you're sleepwalking all day, but when you finally hit the sack, you find yourself playing a very un-fun game of watch-the-clock-strike-various-early-morning-hours. “Rest truly contributes to a healthy pregnancy and delivery, but it's often disrupted when expecting,” says Catherine Darley, N.D., founder of the Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine in Seattle. So we've got preg-safe solutions for those nights of insomnia.
FIRST TRIMESTER SNOOZE-STEALERS
Sick and sleepy—oh, joy! Morning sickness can actually strike anytime— at 4 a.m. or right before turning in for the night. To avoid being kept (or jolted) awake by nausea, elevate your upper body—it keeps blood pumping and circulating, which helps hold nausea at bay. Slip a wedge pillow under your pillow to create a gradual incline— even 15 degrees will do, says Sandra Horowitz, M.D., a neurologist specializing in sleep disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor of sleep medicine at Harvard University. (Bonus: It will help with heartburn, too.) Also avoid having a big meal right before bed.
Late-Night Potty Breaks
It’s 2:35 a.m. and you have to pee again. You can thank your growing uterus for pushing into your bladder’s territory. You do need to stay hydrated and drink water, especially during pregnancy, so now’s the time to skip drinks that are carbonated or contain aspartame (also known as NutraSweet)—often found in low-calorie, sugar-free sodas and juices—as they tend to act as diuretics, according to Horowitz. If you need to get up, don’t look at your phone to check the time as the screen’s blue-spectrum glow can trigger wakefulness. Bright bulbs do, too, so add a bathroom night-light to keep yourself from getting wide-eyed in the wee morning hours.
SECOND TRIMESTER SNOOZE-STEALERS
The Baby Moving
Your little lady’s got arms and legs—and she’s not afraid to use them. Most moms report feeling baby’s first movements around 20 weeks. You won’t be able to negotiate with your peanut to stop wiggling every night at 10 p.m. Instead, come up with a relaxing technique you can start an hour before bed to help slow her down—like taking a short walk (the rocking lulls babe). After 4 p.m., avoid sugary and spicy foods, which can get her kicking, says Shelby Harris, Psy.D., director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
If your limbs often feel antsy, it may be a sign that you are anemic or have an iron deficiency, Horowitz says. Talk to your doctor about taking an additional supplement, in conjunction with your prenatal, with extra folate or iron, and add vitamin C to help you absorb it. And if leg cramps are, well, cramping your sleeping style, ask about adding extra magnesium to your daily vitamin regimen for some relief.
Related: Prenatal Vitamins from A to Z
THIRD TRIMESTER SNOOZE-STEALERS
Worry and Anxiety
What is it about the dark of night that makes it so easy to spiral into a tailspin of stress? The third trimester usually signals a pickup in troubled dreams and fret fests, Horowitz says. Don’t: Peruse oversize baby-advice books and blogs to try and quell your fears. Do: Deal with your legitimate concerns during the day by joining a pregnant mom-to-be group or a class that teaches prenatal relaxation exercises.
If you simply can’t quiet your thoughts, give up fighting it—you’ll just become frustrated, Harris says. Instead, get up and read a book (not related to pregnancy) or warm up some mint tea to help relax your body and mind.
Aches and Pains
If a sore back, feet and everything else are keeping you from getting your 40 winks, Harris suggests lying on your left side (to alleviate pressure on the vena cava—a blood vessel that can be pinched when your bigger-than-usual uterus weighs against it) with a pillow between your knees so your hips are in neutral alignment. If you can’t find your sleeping sweet spot, try a little heat, like a hot water bottle, on painful areas, but keep the warmth away from your belly. Sweet dreams, mama!