For both animals and humans alike, sleep is fundamental to life just as much as eating, drinking and breathing. It governs so many aspects of our existence, from our mood, weight and immunity to our concentration, relationships and mental health. Indeed, if we don’t have a good sleep routine or we are lacking in sleep, our daily lives can be negatively affected in numerous ways very quickly. Heading off to work on limited sleep means we feel exhausted all day and often lack the motivation to carry out our jobs effectively. Even if we’re simply having a day at home, a bad night’s sleep can mean we feel hungrier, more sluggish and more likely to indulge in a very long afternoon nap!
Whilst sleep is so vital for all of us, it’s even more important for women who are pregnant. In fact, scientists have discovered that a mother’s sleep patterns directly affect the development of her unborn child.
However, the sleep patterns, amount and quality of sleep a woman gets is likely to alter due to hormones and other biological changes that occur during this time. With this in mind, it’s important to put some effective measures in place early on to ensure decent, regular sleep is established right from the start.
How much sleep do pregnant women need?
You may feel more (or less) tired depending on how many weeks along you are, as every pregnancy is different. However, when it comes to specific amounts of sleep, pregnant women need at least six to eight unbroken hours a night to avoid feeling tired the next day. According to recent research, women who have endured disrupted sleep throughout their pregnancy are up to five times less likely to experience a trouble-free birth.
The effect of an expectant mother’s sleep on her unborn baby cannot be underestimated. The most notable indicator of this is in the hormone progesterone, which is essential in maintaining the pregnancy. When a woman is pregnant, she secretes a large amount of progesterone during her hours of sleep, particularly in the first trimester. Although this is obviously a good thing, it can often have the side effect of a nagging sense of fatigue during the daytime.
What are the common sleep disturbances in pregnancy?
Unfortunately despite often feeling tired, pregnant women may well find their sleep suffers due to the onset of some of the common sleep disturbances explored below. Don’t forget, if you find you’re struggling with sleep and are particularly worried, it’s well worth speaking to your doctor for advice.
Sleep apnea is a disorder which disrupts a person’s sleep by repeatedly interrupting it and waking them up. A key feature is loud, prolonged bouts of snoring followed by long pauses where the snorer holds their breath. The subsequent gasping for air, and choking, is what makes unbroken sleep impossible. Read more about the difference between sleep apnea and snoring here.
Nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux (night time GERD)
GERD, commonly known as heartburn, is very typical in pregnancy and is likely to occur throughout a large part of the daytime. However, night time GERD symptoms can damage the esophagus (the tube that runs from your mouth to your stomach) and disrupt sleep during pregnancy.
Symptoms of insomnia include finding it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. You may also find that you wake up too early and don’t feel very refreshed. Insomnia can flare up during pregnancy, even in women who are lucky enough to have never suffered with it before. It can be linked to stress or anxiety about labour, delivery and impending motherhood – particularly for first time mums – which can mean significant sleep loss. Physical discomfort related to pregnancy can also lead to insomnia, such as feeling the baby move, or suffering back ache or nausea.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
Although anyone can experience RLS, it’s particularly common in women who are pregnant. Symptoms include unpleasant sensations in your legs, such as tingly, itchy or achy feelings, and you may feel the need to stretch and move your legs around a lot. The symptoms are usually at their worst during the evening time and at night.
Frequent night time urination
Annoying, frequent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night are very common in pregnancy and can mean a serious lack of sleep. Even if you manage to nod back off very quickly each time, your sleep is still broken which isn’t ideal.
Five handy top tips for getting a good night’s sleep in pregnancy:
If some of the above issues with sleep sound familiar, why not try out our tips to see if they help.
- Sleep on your side, rather than spending extended periods of time sleeping on your back. Sleeping on your side will improve the flow of blood and nutrients to your unborn baby, as well as to your kidneys and uterus. You may also find it more comfortable in general, particularly if you use one of our Kally Body Pillows. Perfect for supporting your belly, neck and spine, it comes with a soft yet breathable Jersey cotton pillow cover to help you stay cool. Lower down in this guide you’ll find more information about the benefits of pregnancy pillows and how they can help. Read more about the different sleeping positions here.
- Drink plenty of fluid during the day, particularly water, but keep the amount you consume before bed time down to a minimum. Avoid caffeine and diuretics as much as possible too, including coffee, tea and hot chocolate.
- Reduce your risk of heartburn by avoiding eating generous amounts of acidic, fried or spicy foods. It’s also worth having a series of small meals during the day instead of a larger one in the evening.
- Unless you’ve specifically been advised against it by your doctor, try and make time to do 30 minutes of gentle exercise during the day. Things like walking, yoga and pilates are great, as not only will they boost the quality of your sleep and help to prevent weight gain, they can relieve the symptoms of restless legs too.
- If you find yourself snoring more than usual, why not try propping your head up slightly. This will help stop your tongue from flopping backwards towards your throat and partially blocking your airway. Something like the Kally Anti-Snore Pillow is ideal as it offers excellent support with a smooth polycotton outer fabric that’s superbly soft and breathable.
What are the benefits of using a pregnancy pillow?
There are loads of good reasons why pregnancy pillows are great for helping you get a good night’s sleep. They are especially handy later on in your pregnancy when your bump is at its biggest!
- Supporting you to sleep on your side. This is healthiest way to sleep, especially during pregnancy. This is because the weight of your baby isn’t pressing down so much on your internal organs, also aiding circulation.
- Extra support for your back and bump. This can reduce aches and pains in your back and help you feel like your bump is a little less heavy!
- Support for all your key joints. You’ll feel weightless and comfortable, again helping to get rid of those nagging aches and pains.
- Less pain in general. Tuck the pillow between the knees to naturally adjust the angle of the spine and your other limbs.
A refreshing, healthy sleep pattern plays an essential role in preparing for birth, and protects both mum and baby from the physical and psychological strains that pregnancy can bring. It’s also well worth getting plenty of rest now while you can. After all, once your little one is here sleep may well be – for a while at least – a dim and distant memory!