Third Trimester: Sleepus Interruptus
By the end of pregnancy, a large percentage of expectant women report waking up at least three times per night. Two-thirds are awakened five or more times. But it’s vital to make sleep a priority now: Research has shown that pregnant women who average less than six hours of sleep a night have significantly longer labors and are 4.5 times more likely to have Cesarean sections than those who get seven hours or more nightly.
Third Trimester Challenges:
Back Pain- A Yale University study found that nearly 60 percent of pregnant women say that lower-back pain causes sleep disruptions.
Frequent Urination—Again- Just like in the first trimester, the urge to go at night increases, as your uterus grows larger and the baby drops lower in your pelvis.
Disordered Breathing- Vascular congestion in the nasal passages and abdominal weight gain can partially close your airways, leading to snoring. In 6 percent of women, snoring can progress to obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops for at least 10 seconds. This is more common in women who were overweight or obese prepregnancy and can be very serious: Sleep-disordered breathing is linked with an increased risk for preeclampsia and low-birth weight babies.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)- About 20 percent of pregnant women experience the truly weird sensation of what feels like ants crawling inside their legs. Studies have shown that women who have lower levels of iron and folate are at higher risk for sleepless nights due to RLS.
Third Trimester Solutions:
Baby Your Back- Sleep on your left side; this will take stress off your lower back, help prevent snoring and increase circulation to your baby. Put pillows between your knees, behind your back and under your belly or use a pregnancy pillow. Stretch and do abdominal exercises frequently.
Cut Back On Liquids In The Evening- And don’t drink for two hours before you go to bed. Whenever you urinate, lift your belly to allow your bladder to empty completely.
See a Certified Sleep Specalist- If snoring and apnea become severe, you’ll need to have your airflow monitored. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine may be prescribed to keep your airways open and ensure that you and your baby are getting enough oxygen. “It will also help you sleep through the night,” adds Khan. Find a specialist at absm.org.
Have A Pre-Bedtime Light Leg Massage And Warm Bath- Evening walks also help foil RLS.
Eat More Fortified Grains And Leafy Greens- “Eating foods rich in iron and folate can reduce the severity of restless leg syndrome,” says sleep researcher Meena Khan. Avoid caffeine, too, because it inhibits absorption of iron and folate.
The “Fourth Trimester”
Sleep issues get turned on their head after your baby is born. Instead of the nightly disturbances and insomnia you experienced during pregnancy, you’ll be so tired at the end of the day that you’ll find it more difficult to stay awake! “I always warn women, ‘Your baby is going to be awake every few hours, maybe even every hour,’ ” says Baltimore OB-GYN Teresa Ann Hoffman, M.D., who sees many pregnant women with sleep problems. Here are some tips for more—and better—slumber after delivery:
Sleep Close To Baby- Running down the hall in the wee hours to attend to your crying baby is much too arousing. So use a bedside bassinet that attaches to your own bed or put the baby’s crib in your room.
Breastfeed- Prolactin, the hormone that promotes lactation, is also a soporific.
Sleep When Baby Sleeps- Don’t do chores or return phone calls, texts or e-mails. Stay off Facebook.
Share Nightime Duty- If you’re nursing, prepare bottles of pumped breast milk so your partner can feed the baby.