Sleep Soundly During Pregnancy
When you're pregnant, a host of discomforts conspire to rob you of sleep. From heartburn to leg cramps to endless bathroom trips, catching those much-needed ZZZs can be a big challenge. Here's help.
Every expectant mom knows that sleep will be catch-as-catch-can
after her baby is born. But sleepless nights plague women throughout pregnancy, too.
A National Sleep Foundation poll found that over three-quarters
of women slept worse during pregnancy than they did when they weren't pregnant.
What's more, new moms and pregnant women were more likely to suffer insomnia than any other group of women.
The reason: Pregnancy is uncomfortable. The discomforts that
come with having a
baby growing inside you don't go away when you turn out the light.
If you're accustomed to sleeping on your stomach or on your
back, you must adjust to sleeping on your side. It will be physically
impossible to lie on your stomach when you are heavy with child, and doctors
warn against sprawling flat on your back. "There's some concern about that in
the latter part of pregnancy," says Richard Henderson, MD, an
obstetrician/gynecologist at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington, Del. When you
lie on your back, the weight of the pregnant uterus slows the return of blood
to your heart, which reduces blood flow to the fetus. That means the baby is
getting less oxygen and fewer nutrients.
Henderson says occasionally lying supine will not harm a developing fetus, but sleeping that way every night
might. Nevertheless, you'll probably find that it's easier to sleep on your
side as your tummy grows and grows.
Conventional wisdom holds that it's better to sleep on your
left side than on your right. "For many, many years, the left side has been the
preferred side," says Anne Santa-Donato, RN, spokeswoman for the Association of
Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses. "It became a habit" to tell women
that. But she says it really does not matter which side you sleep on: "It's
what the science has borne out over the years."
Placing a pillow between your legs or sleeping with a
body-length pillow can make you more comfortable. Some women may prefer to give
up the bed entirely, and instead sleep in a reclining chair. "That's perfectly
acceptable," Santa-Donato says.
A bulging tummy isn't the only thing that gets in the way of a
good night's sleep. Heartburn is a common problem during pregnancy. Henderson
says hormonal changes relax the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach,
allowing stomach acid to burble up, causing acid reflux or heartburn. "Treat it
as it occurs," he says. Take an over-the-counter antacid, and prop up your head
with pillows to keep the stomach acid down.
"In some instances, heartburn is simply heartburn,"
Santa-Donato says. But it can also be a sign of other, more serious health
problems, so you should mention it at your next checkup.
The need to urinate frequently -- because the uterus presses on
the bladder -- may also keep you up during the night. This may be less of a
problem if you simply limit what you drink before bed.
Some women say their dreams become more vivid and intense when
they are pregnant, which further disturbs sleep. Carolyn D'Ambrosio, MD,
director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Boston's Tufts University, says
she has heard of this, but she doesn't know of any scientific studies that have
shown why, or how common it is. "I'm not sure that's absolutely established,"