Most women suffer from sleep issues at some time or other during pregnancy, so you’re not alone if you’re reading this and wondering how you can get a good night’s sleep in pregnancy.
Lack of sleep isn’t just annoying, it can be responsible for a range of health complications experienced in pregnancy, such as high blood pressure or preeclampsia. By knowing how many hours you should sleep each night, what causes sleep deprivation, and how it can prevented, you’ll have all the tools you need to catch just the right number of zzzz’s, leaving you and your growing baby happy and healthy.
Why does sleep matter so much?
Most doctors recommend eight to 10 hours per night. But why does sleep matter so much in pregnancy?
Science has shown that sleep is essential for all sorts of vital bodily functions, restoring energy and allowing the brain to process new information it has taken in while awake. Sleep allows us to think clearly, react quickly, and control our emotions.
It’s especially important to get the right amount of sleep when you’re pregnant as it will keep your immune system healthy (at a time when it’s suppressed) to support your pregnancy. It will also allow your blood vessels to restore themselves (when they are under increased pressure from all the extra blood flowing around your body) to help your baby grow. And sleep controls how your body reacts to insulin too, regulating your blood sugar levels and decreasing your risk of gestational diabetes.
Don’t start worrying about this too much – after all stress itself can stop you from falling asleep. Just do your best to spend at least eight hours in bed with the aim of getting as much sleep as you can. If you find yourself only getting seven hours of sleep each night, don’t get discouraged — just do what feels right for your body and your baby, and everything will be fine.
What problems can affect sleep during pregnancy?
Finding it difficult to sleep when pregnant isn’t always something you can control. There are many reasons why your sleep may seem different during pregnancy. Here are five of the most common ones:
Rising oestrogen levels or lack of folic acid can create a need to move your legs at night. This constant movement can make it hard to relax and sleep.
The pressure your baby puts on your bladder (especially once you hit the third trimester) can make you feel you need to use the bathroom far more often during the night.
Increased levels of stress and anxiety as you get closer to giving birth, as well as pregnancy-related aches and pains, as your body changes to accommodate your growing baby, can lead to insomnia. This is a condition when you either find it hard to fall asleep, or wake up and then find it hard to get back to sleep. It may just last for a few days, so don’t worry about this too much, as it will only make it harder to overcome!
Occasionally women can develop sleep apnea during pregnancy. This is usually when hormonal and physiological changes restrict your breathing whilst you’re asleep. Talk to your doctor as soon as you can. if you find you’re suffering from this condition - whilst it may resolve itself after pregnancy, it’s important to get it checked out straight away.
How to improve your sleep in pregnancy
You’ll probably have discovered by now that getting the recommended amount of sleep isn’t always possible when you’re pregnant. But if you’ve been asking yourself “How many hours should a pregnant woman sleep?” then here are just some of the ways you may be able to get a few more of those zzzz’s every night during the remainder of your pregnancy:
Upgrade Your Bed and Mattress
Our number one tip is upgrade your bed, including your mattress. A good quality bedframe and soft, supportive mattress will help you relax at night, fall asleep faster, and stay that way longer.
Get Comfortable with a Pregnancy Pillow
A pregnancy pillow is a must as it will support your back, hips, shoulders, legs, head and most important of all your bump, as you sleep. Pregnancy pillows come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so choosing the one for you, and getting the right support for your needs, can be tricky. You’ll find lots of useful info on choosing the right pillow in a blog we’ve written previously!
Stick to the Same Sleep Routine
Going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning doesn’t come without its challenges, but it’s the best way to prepare your body to relax and wind down at bedtime.
Take Regular Exercise
Doing regular exercise (so long as it’s not just before bed) reduces the time it takes you to fall asleep and has helps reduce the risk of sleep disorders.
Cool Down that Heartburn
Avoid rich and spicy foods (especially at nighttime) and you may be one of the lucky pregnant women who doesn’t suffer from that burning sensation in their chest or throat, known as heartburn. It’s very common in pregnancy and has left many a mum-to-be staring at their bedroom walls for hours at a time.
Relax Restless Legs
Keep active and make sure you take folate and iron to avoid that nearly irresistible urge to move your legs throughout the night, known as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).
Make Daytime Naps Snappy
To overcome that feeling of complete exhaustion you may need a daytime nap. Make sure you don’t sleep for over an hour, or you may well regret it at bedtime when those zzzzs just won’t come your way!
Prevent Nausea Before Bed
Prevent that bedtime nausea by eating dried snacks, like crackers, a few minutes before you lie down. Most crackers will do the job – but Saltines seem to be most mums-to-be’s favourite. Another top tip is keep a packet of crackers beside your bed – they work wonders if you wake up feeling a bit queasy in the night!
Stop the Midnight Run to the Bathroom
To avoid that constant, need to pee, make sure you reduce the amount of liquid you drink about three or four hours before your bedtime. If you consume enough throughout the day you’ll find you won’t crave water before you go to sleep, because your body will have had all the hydration it needs already.
Take care of yourself and your baby
Taking care of yourself and your baby is vital for your family’s mental and physical health!
Now we’ve answered the question “How many hours should a pregnant woman sleep”, and given you tips on how to improve your sleep in pregnancy, you should find a good night’s sleep much easier to come by.
Try to relax and grab as much sleep as you can now - after all it will be much harder to come by when your bundle of joy bursts into the world!