Sleep is an essential part of a healthy pregnancy. Being rested can lower stress levels and nurture your growing baby.
Still, a good night’s sleep can be a challenge during pregnancy, especially with an expanding belly, pressure on the body’s diaphragm, nighttime heartburn, and increased urinary frequency.
Best-selling author, licensed family therapist and sleep coach Kim West, LCSW-C, who has helped parents worldwide with gently sleep training their children, offers tips on getting a good night's sleep during pregnancy.
Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will help you create a regular sleep-wake cycle, West says. The circadian system, a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats about every 25 hours, is critical during pregnancy. Circadian in Latin means “around or approximately” (circa) “a day” (Diem). When the circadian system is disturbed, potential health risks can arise.
“Getting on a routine sleep cycle also gets your baby on that same clock,” West says. “When babies are born, their circadian system isn’t developed yet. That’s why babies can have day and night confusion for the first few months.”
For pregnant women, West recommends a minimum of six to eight hours of sleep every night.
Nap If You Need To
Changing hormones in the first trimester may cause tiredness during the day and potential insomnia at night. While many women feel reenergized and sleep better during their second trimester, it usually doesn’t last. Physical discomfort and bathroom breaks are often the culprits for poor sleep during the third trimester. If you need a nap, West recommends taking a snooze for about an hour or so.
Studies have shown that compared to women who reported no napping at all, women who reported taking afternoon naps for an hour to 90 minutes had a significantly lower chance of having a baby with low birth weight.
Just be sure you’re not napping for several hours, which will upset that all-important sleep routine, she says. “A shorter nap won’t wreak havoc on your sleep schedule,” West says.
Take a Walk
Walking is a low-impact, easy exercise that can be done nearly anywhere and at any time. For most pregnant women, walking for 30 minutes a day is recommended as studies show that walking is beneficial for you and your baby. Walking also helps you sleep better by burning off extra energy so that you’re tired and can doze off more easily.
Soothe Yourself: Aromatherapy and Body Support
Studies show that lavender can decrease anxiety and stress and improve sleep quality. West suggests using lavender in your bedroom with aromatherapy or a diffuser. Experts recommend using essential oils only in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy and avoiding it until after the 13-week mark.
Comfort is also vital for a night of quality sleep. West suggests sleeping with a pregnancy pillow during pregnancy. Be sure to choose a pregnancy body pillow that keeps you cool and provides ﬂexible and sturdy support for sleep.
More than anything, restful sleep is necessary for prenatal care as it plays a crucial role in mood, memory, and decision-making, which are fundamental as you prepare to welcome your new baby.
“We tend to have disrupted sleep, and there are many reasons for that,” West says. “But we need to remind ourselves there are so many benefits to sleep.”