Everyone knows what it’s like to feel the effects of limited or poor sleep, but sleep while pregnant brings unique challenges, as well as unique needs. Quality and regular sleep is important for everyone, but it is absolutely crucial during pregnancy. Sleep is essential for the proper functioning of the body in nearly every aspect, but during pregnancy it is especially important for not only the mother, but also the developing baby. Continue reading to learn more about the importance of sleep during pregnancy and how to get more of it.
Sleep During Pregnancy
As a mother of three children, believe me when I say that I understand well the nuances and difficulties of sleeping while pregnant. And while you may already feel that you don’t have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you would like, I urge you to prioritize your sleep during this exciting and important time. The benefits and rewards of quality sleep while pregnant are invaluable. There are many reasons why getting enough sleep during pregnancy is especially important. Among other things, sleep during pregnancy has significant impacts on:
- Fetal development
- Anxiety and stress
- Cognitive function
Positive Fetal Development
Positive fetal development is usually at the forefront of every pregnant woman’s mind. The good news is that one of the best things you can do for your unborn baby’s health is getting enough rest. Sleep during pregnancy is crucial to fetal development as the growth hormone that is produced during sleep promotes—among other things—healthy cell division and brain development. Studies have shown that mothers who do not receive enough sleep during pregnancy are at higher risk of preeclampsia and high blood pressure.
Reduced Anxiety and Stress
It is no secret that emotional and mental health during pregnancy can be easily strained. The rollercoaster of surging hormones can make you feel euphoric one minute and a ball of stress and anxiety the next. It’s easy to understand how your changing body and the drain of physical resources necessary for fetal development can make you feel spread thin. Often, increased feelings of stress—on top of growing physical discomfort—can make it even more difficult to get enough sleep during pregnancy. However, making sleep a priority can go a long way in relieving these mental and emotional strains. During sleep, the body produces hormones that help regulate and relieve stress and increase feelings of calm. Reducing stress and anxiety during pregnancy is especially important, as elevated stress levels have been shown to be linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Improved Cognitive Function
Everyone is familiar with that groggy feeling the day after a restless night. The feeling where a strong pattern of thought escapes you and your mind feels overall foggy and unable to perform at peak ability. This feeling is naturally amplified during pregnancy as the hormonal fluctuations can make it difficult for your brain to function as well as it did pre-pregnancy (the term “mommy brain” exists for a reason). Add the lack of sleep on top of that, and you may feel absolutely cognitively debilitated. Not enough or interrupted sleep has the ability to not only increase the symptoms of brain fog but also significantly increase manic and depressive symptoms, as well as impulse control and appetite. Studies also suggest that sleep and sleep timing may be a contributing factors for postpartum depression that could be notably alleviated with attention to sleep.
Tips for Better Sleep During Pregnancy
Now, I know this all sounds far easier said than done. Especially when you are already dealing with growing aches, pains, and hormonal imbalance—not to mention those frequent late-night calls to the restroom as your baby takes up more room in your body than your bladder once enjoyed. How can you possibly get more sleep during this period of constant physical and emotional change? Don’t worry; here are some simple tips you can follow to better your sleep and ensure that you are getting enough rest for the best of you and your growing baby.
Here’s how to SLEEP while pregnant – Sleep Is The Foundation
Create a Sleep-Friendly Space
As you enter into your second trimester of pregnancy, you will most likely become very familiar with the feeling of “nesting.” This maternal instinct often brings new motivation and energy to clean, organize, and beautify your surroundings before your new arrival makes its appearance. Ironically, one thing that is often missed in this nesting phase, however, is the focus on creating a comfortable and ideal sleeping environment for yourself. Invest in new pillows or a pregnancy body pillow to support your growing belly and hips as pregnancy progresses. Keep your bedroom cool and dark. If you’re like me, you may easily feel overheated during the night, especially if you are pregnant during the summer months. If that’s the case, look into buying a light cooling blanket to keep you cool during the night. Mindful breathing and meditation may also help you relax your mind—as well as your body—as you prepare for sleep.
Follow a Sleep Schedule
Following a sleep schedule is one of the best ways to regulate and ensure adequate sleep during pregnancy. Your body relies on sleep patterns and rhythms that regulate the release of relaxation and recovery hormones that affect nearly every aspect of your—and your baby’s—wellness. Going to bed at roughly the same time and waking at the same time each day (even on weekends) has the ability to work wonders on your body’s capability of providing enough rest, brain and memory stimulation, and overall recovery of mind and body. If you feel the need to take a nap during the day in order to be your best self, try to follow the same rules and keep your naps to a schedule. Nap for either thirty- or ninety-minute intervals, as those are the best length for natural sleep patterns.
Move More Before Bedtime
I know, this may seem counterintuitive to be told to move your body before trying to sleep. However, taking a walk or doing some light exercise before bed can help relieve stress, relax muscles, and settle your mind and body before lying down for the night. Many women suffer from frequent symptoms of restless leg syndrome and leg muscle cramps at night during pregnancy. One of the easiest and best ways to relieve the symptoms of restless legs is through movement. Taking a walk, stretching, practicing yoga, or TaiChi are all wonderful ways to relieve these annoying and sometimes painful symptoms.
We, mothers, have a tendency to put the needs of our children above our own, and getting enough sleep is no different. Try not to guilt yourself or feel like resting or going to sleep early somehow makes you lazy or incapable. Remind yourself that getting enough rest and sleep throughout your pregnancy is what is best for your baby and for yourself. Your body is busy making a tiny human—in all of its infinite complexities—and your need for sleep is more important than ever to aid in your baby’s health, growth, and development. So, give yourself permission to buy that body pillow and extra soothing candles. Sometimes what is best for your baby is to baby yourself.