Between the bathroom trips, frequent heartburn, various muscle aches and that whole can’t-sleep-on-your-front-or-back thing, getting a decent night’s rest while expecting can feel damn near impossible. Here, 13 clever tips, courtesy of an obstetrician and other reputable medical sources, for how to sleep while pregnant that can help. Sweet dreams.
How to Sleep While Pregnant: 13 Tips for a Good Night’s Slumber
1. Get Into Position
According to the American Pregnancy Association, the best sleep position for mom and baby during pregnancy is the SOS, aka “sleep on side” position. The left side is the recommended side because this will increase the amount of nutrients that reach the fetus and placenta while minimizing pressure on your liver. But what if you’re usually a stomach or back sleeper? That brings us to our next tip...
2. Stock Up On Pillows
However many pillows you think you’ll need, double it (sorry sleeping partners). “To ease pressure from your back and hips, place a pillow between your legs. To avoid heartburn, try to raise your head and chest slightly using a firm pillow that allows for support and elevation,” says Melissa Underwager, mother of two and director at Pillow of Health. Some moms-to-be find using a full-length body pillow can help, while others like a pillow underneath their belly or below the arms. Here are some of our favorite pregnancy pillows that can help you get comfortable.
3. Take a Bath
Here’s a tip that you can use before, during and after pregnancy. About 45 minutes before your desired bedtime, take a warm (not hot) shower or bath. “This will increase your body temperature, but as your body temperature comes down this will encourage melatonin (a hormone that promotes sleep) to bring on drowsiness,” says pediatric sleep expert Joanna Clark. After that shower or bath, give yourself at least 20 minutes of “wind down time” in a dimly lit room doing something relaxing like reading or meditating. (And no, playing Candy Crush on your phone doesn’t count.)
4. Drink Less Before Bedtime
If you’re waking up multiple times a night to pee, try cutting out liquids a few hours before hitting the sack to see if it helps. Stay hydrated by taking regular sips of water throughout the day (instead of gulping down a giant water bottle in the p.m.) and cut out caffeine (a well-known diuretic).
5. Avoid Spicy Foods
Heartburn at 2 a.m.? So not fun. To keep acid reflux at bay, stay away from spicy foods, skip the late-night snacking and eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day (instead of three big ones).
Gentle exercise while pregnant will not only keep mom and baby healthy, but can also help you sleep. Just avoid exercising in the evening, since this might give you more energy when you want to be winding down. Another bonus? According to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, exercising during pregnancy can help your body prepare for labor and recover more quickly after delivery.
7. Soothe Your Digestion
We know, we know—we just said to drink less before bedtime. But if the frequent runs to the bathroom aren’t the issue, then try a cup of warm milk with pasteurized honey and cinnamon, suggests Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, an OB-GYN in California. “Cinnamon is a great digestive aid, but if the milk is nausea-inducing, then try hot water with ginger root (another great anti-nausea herb), lemon and pasteurized honey instead.”
8. Prep Your Space
Increase the chances of getting a decent night’s snooze by creating an optimum environment for slumber. “Set your bedroom’s temperature to 69 to 73 degrees, close the shades or curtains, dim the lights, fluff your pillows and complete any last-minute 'tasks,’ so that all you have to do is crawl into bed,” advises Clark. There’s no need to get the vacuum out each night but definitely clear away any clutter (mostly so you don’t stumble on something on your way to the bathroom later).
9. Remember, It’s Just a Dream
Woke up in a cold sweat because of a baby-related nightmare? It’s a scary feeling but actually pretty common. In fact, according to one Canadian study, 59 percent of pregnant women had dreams filled with anxiety about their baby being in danger. So don’t fret—it’s not some weird premonition, it’s just a bad dream. Get yourself into a comfortable position and go back to sleep.
10. Calm Your to-do List
Your brain may be going into overdrive, thinking about all the things you have to address before the baby comes. But lying awake at night to go through your to-dos (which seem to be growing faster than your belly) isn’t doing you any favors. Make a list (in the daytime), tackle as much of it as you can one by one, delegate what you can’t get to and remember to go easy on yourself.
11. Make (and Keep) a Routine
If the only child in your life is the one still in your belly, you will very soon learn the importance of bedtime routines—and it turns out they are just as beneficial for adults as they are for babies and kids. Per Dr. Alex Polyakov, Associate Professor and Obstetrician at the University of Melbourne, “a consistent bedtime routine can help prepare the body for sleep and promote better sleep quality.” To establish a routine, start by picking a set bedtime; then, set an alarm for X amount of time beforehand and do your thing (make some tea, wash up, dim the lights and set the thermostat, read a book for 30 minutes, what have you). Repeat the same sequence of events the following night and so on; needless to say, no matter what your lead-up to bedtime looks like, it’s only a routine if it’s done at the same time and in the same order every night.
12. Wear Comfortable Clothing
You basically had to buy a whole new daytime wardrobe just to accommodate your growing bump, so we understand not wanting to shell out for new sleep clothes, too. That said, if you’re trying to squeeze yourself into too-small pajamas, you’re not doing yourself any favors in the sleep department. Dr. Polyakov confirms that loose, breathable and comfortable clothing can go a long way towards helping pregnant women get a restful night’s sleep—and, depending on how comfy your bedding is, we’d venture to say the same is probably true of sleeping in the buff.
13. Practice Relaxation Techniques
The news, work, the baby shower you’re planning, the fact that an actual human being will be emerging from your body sometime soon—there are plenty of reasons why a pregnant person might feel a tad stressed by day’s end, and most of us can’t just snap our fingers to quiet the mind. Enter: relaxation techniques. Dr. Polyakov recommends engaging in deep breathing exercises, meditation and/or yoga prior to bed to help you unwind and relax, thereby promoting better sleep. (Psst: Here are some apps that can help you get started.)