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7 Tips to Maximize Your Sleep During Pregnancy

Some people, usually the adventurous ones, like to say they will sleep when they are dead. When you’re pregnant, though, it seems like sleeping is usually at the top of the list of things to do, you know, along with indulging in that pint of Ben & Jerry’s and taking up prenatal yoga (or not – whatever).

Unfortunately, it just so happens that the one thing mommas-to-be really want to do can be hard to actually accomplish. Whether it’s because of a cramp in your leg, hip, back, neck or even your big toe, shortness of breath, the constant need to pee or the inability to poop (there is a baby chillin’ on your colon, come on now), feeling too damn hot, having random pangs of hunger, heartburn or, simply, the inability to find a comfortable position, waking up after enjoying a good night’s sleep while pregnant can be one hell of a feat.

The thing is, sleep is important for everyone’s health, even those non-pregnant SOBs out there who can have their wine and drink it, too. When you’re literally growing a life inside of you, it’s even more important to ensure you get some decent rest while you can. Yes, yes; easier said than done. But alas! There’s no need to fear, sleeping tips are here!

Before you decide to change the lyrics of “Ain’t No Rest for The Wicked” to “Ain’t No Rest for the Pregnant.” Why not try these 7 best practices for sleep during pregnancy? Worst-case scenario: you’re still awake. Where’s that Ben & Jerry’s?

7. To the left, to the left

By now we all know that Queen Bey put everything she owns in a box to the left and, in the closet, that’s her stuff. While this information is, indeed, key to life, what is just as equally and probably even more important to remember is that when you are pregnant, sleeping on your left side is ideal for you and baby for a whole host of reasons.

Let’s go over why sleeping in other positions isn’t advisable first, shall we?

  • • Maybe you’ve been a stomach sleeper for, well, ever and you just can’t seem to sleep on your side?
    • o Let’s state the obvious here. It won’t take long before you realize that sleeping on your stomach becomes a distant memory, seeing as it will be physically impossible for you to do, that is, unless you find a way to cut a hole in your bed to nestle your sweet baby belly into.
    • o Here’s the deal: in the beginning, when baby boy/girl looks something like that of a sea creature and weighs next to nothing, sleeping on your back will be just fine. Unfortunately, as your baby grows and, inevitably, your mid-section gets heavier, all of that weight pressing down on your intestines and major blood vessel, the vena cava, can lead to some really unpleasant things, like back pain, breathing issues, hemorrhoids, low blood pressure and slowing down the blood flow to your heart, as well as to your baby. None of that sounds like a good time, right?

    So, finally, why can’t you sleep on your right side? Guess what? You can! It’s next to impossible to expect someone to sleep in the exact same position for nine (let’s be real, 10) months. It’s just that, in an ideal situation, you’d sleep on your left side for at least a good portion of the time.

    Sleeping on your left side increases the amount of blood flow within your body and, in turn, to the placenta, resulting in more nutrients and oxygen reaching your baby. That’s a win-win situation, for sure.

    6 Move over, I need to spoon my body pillow

    Sleeping on your left side is best, yes, we covered that. But, what was not mentioned before was that side-sleeping can be pretty freaking uncomfortable, especially toward the end of a pregnancy when you’ve got 25+ extra pounds hanging from your midsection. If it’s not your hip screaming in pain from all of the pressure from lying on it, your side likely feels like it’s being pulled downward to your bed and your offspring is literally hanging out.

    Enter body pillows. Placing one under the belly and through the legs can make a world of difference in your level of comfort at night. And, if you didn’t know, there are a ton of options out there, plenty to suit any one particular need or budget. It's amazing what some people come up with these days.

    • - The normal, nothing fancy about it body pillow. These are simple and pretty inexpensive, costing roughly $15. Rectangular in shape, but flexible enough to be twisted around to suit your needs, you may find that this is the answer to all of your problems. The plus: they sell nifty slipcovers for them. Feeling trendy? How about finding a cute pattern to suit your taste. Feeling like you need a hero to take you to til the end of the night? There’s a solve for that, too.
    • - Then, dearest pregnant ones, in come the options that take that simple, rectangular pillow and make it look like a ’92 station wagon next to a brand new Porsche. Feel like you need some back and belly support, but don’t want to take up too much room? There’s a pillow for that. Want to banish your significant other to the couch and spoon with the new, squishy, wonderful love of your life until baby is born? Oh, there’s a pillow for that, too. How about one that is dual purpose, and can be used as a nursing pillow after baby arrives (and kind of makes you look like you have a baboon butt)? Yup, those exist, too.

    Regardless of your taste and which one makes you happy, you do what works for you, period.

    5 Let’s get physical!

    What!? THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT SLEEP!

    Hear us out on this one, ok?

    You know how you feel like you want to sleep, but then you can’t, for any particular reason? Now, we know that in your pre-pregnancy days, you might have taken a swig of Tylenol PM (or something stronger – no judgment) to help knock you out for the night. During pregnancy, though, ingesting any kind of a sleep aid can be harmful to your baby.

    Guess what? If you do something active during the day, you should be nice and sleepy come bedtime, which, fingers crossed/knock on wood, should help take you off to dreamland and keep you there.

    If fitness is something you are into, this shouldn’t be much of a change from your normal, day-to-day lifestyle. However, if you’ve been contemplating entering into the Couch Potato-lympics, this can be a pretty big adjustment for you.

    Take it easy, sister. There are some not-so-rigorous options out there:

    • Walking – a simple stroll around the block a few times will your body moving and your heart pumping. If it’s too cold out or you don’t live in a walk-able neighborhood, you can try a treadmill at home or the gym if you have a membership, or even just walk your local mall.
    • Prenatal Yoga – classes like these are pretty popular these days. You can either find a studio nearby offering a class, or just checkout some free videos on YouTube. Added bonus: it is incredibly relaxing. In a studio, the lights are dimmed, there is soft music playing and the flow is very slow and gentle. No one said you can’t do the same thing for yourself at home, too!
    • Water Aerobics – exercising in the water gives you a great, full body workout. The water provides enough resistance to make some moves challenging, while also helping you to feel virtually weightless (score!). You can enroll in some classes at your local gym if they have a pool. If not, you can find some great exercises online to try at a local pool or in the comfort of your own pool if you have one (must be nice).
    • Barre – Even if you were never a prima ballerina, it’s never too late to try something new. Ballet Beautiful offers women some great moves for strength and flexibility. Leotard, tights and hair in a bun are optional.

    4 Hold the water

    Staying hydrated is vital for your health, no doubt about it. When you are pregnant, it is even more crucial for you to remember that hydration is super important for a healthy pregnancy. Not only does your water intake maintain the amniotic fluid surrounding and protecting your baby, but also adequate hydration can help prevent pre-term labor, bladder infections, constipation and hemorrhoids, as well as keep you from bloating to the point of swelling up like a balloon toward the end of your pregnancy.

    The problem with trying to drink so much water, though, is that ingesting as much as, if not more than 80 ounces a day can make you begin to feel like the SS Prego, ready to sail the seven seas.More commonly, drinking so much makes your bladder fill quickly and frequently and, with a tiny person practicing acrobatics in your uterus, you probably feel like you need to pee every 10 minutes.That feeling will last all day and all night, regularly waking you from your oh-so-precious slumber.

    There’s nothing quite as frustrating as finally nestling yourself into your throne of pillows; you’re finally comfortable and drifting off to sleep, and then you feel it. Pee.

    You might begin to consider looking into some extreme options:

    • “Do they sell home catheterization kits?”
    • “Maybe I should invest in some adult diapers.”
    • “Perhaps I could actually sleep ON the toilet.”

    Flights of Whimsy

    Before you take a mirror down south to really find out where you pee from (remember, not your vagina), or head to Home Depot or Lowe’s invest in a cushioned toilet seat, try limiting your fluid intake before you head to bed. In fact, if you don’t drink any fluids about 90 minutes before you go to bed, this should help ease your need to pee through the night.

    If you experience the annoying and uncomfortable nuisance of dry mouth in the middle of the night, keep some water nearby, but avoid drinking it all at once it if you wake up and need a drink. No one will be watching you from the side chanting, “chug, chug, chug!” If they do, you have every right to pour said drink over their head.

    3 Snack time!

    Hungry. All the time. You could have just had a big, hearty lunch an hour ago and, lo and behold, the grumbles still resound. WTF, man?

    The biggest WTF for a lot of pregnant women is in response to the grumbles that show up after you have fallen asleep. Usually, right after you have gotten up to pee and have returned to bed, you feel it. You’re finally comfortable. You try to ignore it, thinking you can will away those hunger pangs with the power of your mind.

    • - “I am not hungry. I am not hungry.”
    • - “Maybe if I take some swigs of water, I can trick my stomach to think it is not hungry. Then I will have to pee again. Damn.”

    Yeah, that so does not work.

    That human you are incubating in your uterus needs a lot of nutrients to grow and thrive. As a result, you wind up getting the message loud and clear through your growling stomach to send food. Now.

    Having a snack before bed can help keep that hunger at bay, at least for a little while.

    • - Veggies with hummus, for those looking for a healthy option.
    • - Another healthy option would be a handful (or two) of mixed nuts.
    • - If you really need something sweet, but want to try to be healthy, too, you can always cut up a banana, spread a little honey on it and put a dollop of peanut butter on the side for dipping. Oh, and why not add a little dollop of whipped cream, too. You deserve a treat!

    It is almost inevitable that you will wake up at some point during the night feeling hungry, especially as the baby gets bigger and needs even more than he or she did before. Try keeping some crackers or granola bars on your nightstand as a quick fix. This way, when you wake up, you will not have to plod into the kitchen and stare at the fridge or pantry trying to figure out what to eat. An added bonus to having this snack handy: it should suppress morning sickness.

    2 Napping isn’t just for babies

    Okay, well, sometimes napping isn’t even for babies. You will come to discover this once your little bundle arrives. Of course, if you are not a first-time mom, you know exactly what we mean.

    Waking up frequently throughout the night can make for a very sleepy mom-to-be throughout the next day. The best way to fix that? Nap it out, ladies.

    If you work full-time or you are home with a little one (or multiple little ones) already, napping can definitely seem unrealistic. Some of you reading this might even be laughing to yourselves or rolling your eyes wondering why this is even being suggested! Trust us; there are ways to get around it!

    • - If you work, and park in a secure area, sneak out to your car over your lunch break for a 30-minute snooze. PLEASE set an alarm. You don’t need the embarrassment of missing that 1:30 meeting because you were snoring in your car.
      • - This won’t work for commuters who take mass transit, but the time you spend on the bus/train would be great to grab a quick bit of shut-eye.

      On the other hand, if you do not work full-time and have no kids at home, heed this advice and lie down! A 30-60 minute nap could be just what you need to feel refreshed.

      The only catch: don’t nap too close to bedtime. You know when you pass out at 4 pm just to wake up at 5:30 pm, and the world just doesn’t make sense? You don’t want to do that. Your normal bedtime will come and go and you will probably still be awake at midnight.

      1 Take it to the pros

      So, you have been lying on your left side for the health of you and your baby, you go to prenatal yoga so much you say “Namaste” to everyone you pass, you have stopped drinking water hours before bed – but have a snack on hand and a glass nearby, just to be safe – you nap regularly and you STILL cannot manage to get a good night’s rest. You spend the majority of your days tired, cranky and frustrated. Let’s face it, this really sucks.

      Becoming a mother for the first, second, third, fourth or even fifth time is overwhelming. You might be thinking:

      • “What if I do something wrong?”
      • “Am I ready for this?”
      • “Will my baby be healthy?”
      • “How will labor be?”
      • “What if I need a C-section?”

      Anxiety is common in pregnancy. Your hormones are all out of whack, your body is changing and your life is about to take on an entire new purpose. You know that you and your significant other and any other members of your family will need to adapt to the way your life is going to evolve, but you are not quite sure how. It is a lot to take in, really. Give yourself some credit.

      Take some time for yourself; it might help ease your nerves:

      • Get a prenatal massage, manicure or pedicure (or ALL of them!).
      • Take a warm (not too hot!) bath before bed.
      • Practice some relaxing breathing techniques .
      • Write your feelings in a journal.
      • Take a walk around your favorite store with your favorite snack (Target and Starbucks, anyone?).

      If you find that you have tried all of the tricks in the book to fall asleep and stay asleep, and you are still suffering from insomnia, do yourself a favor, call your doctor or midwife and have a chat about how you have been feeling. He or she might be able to offer you some advice and refer you to a therapist who likely will not prescribe an antidepressant, as it is still up for debate whether they are safe to take while pregnant, but they will lend an unbiased, uncritical ear to listen to your concerns. Sometimes, that is all we really need, isn’t it?

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