Hunger Pangs at Night During Pregnancy
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While many of us wake up looking forward to breakfast, it can be a surprise the first time you awake in the dark of night with that hollow feeling and a craving for crackers, cereal or maybe something more obscure!
Why am I hungry during the night?
To a certain extent, you may be feeling hungrier as your body is working harder with the calories that you provide it, growing your baby. However, remember that there is no need to eat for two. In fact, during your first trimester there is no need to increase your calorie intake at all, provided that you start your pregnancy at a healthy weight - your doctor will advise you if you are underweight. So, during these first 13 weeks, if you are waking up feeling hungry at night it could be because you are feeling nauseous. Many women find that nausea and hunger go hand in hand.
As you get further into your pregnancy it is possible that you aren't getting enough to eat if you are still waking up hungry. However, remember that you only need around an extra 200 extra calories in the final trimester. 200 calories equates to roughly one bowl of cereal, so it isn't an excuse for daily three-course dinners!
If you suffer from indigestion at night then this could leave you awake and craving foods to settle it, so by eliminating the cause of the indigestion you will probably find that you get a better night's sleep and avoid unnecessary night-time calorie consumption.
What can I do to stop night time hunger pangs?
Firstly, make sure that you are getting enough to eat across the day. If you are of an average weight then you should not be looking to eat any more than usual during your first and second trimesters, but perhaps you need to look at how your food intake is spread across the day. By eating a light snack before bedtime you may find that the problem goes away. Make sure that you do not use this as an excuse to eat "empty" calories, i.e. foods with no nutritional benefit. Try to snack on wholegrain foods that make you feel fuller for longer - these will also help to keep your bowels regular and prevent constipation.
If nausea is waking you up and you then find yourself rummaging through the kitchen cupboards looking for foods to make you feel better, then keep a supply of something near the bed so that you don't have to get up at night. It is best to eat something plain and starchy, so crackers or plain biscuits are a good idea.
If you are suffering from indigestion at night then you may find that adjusting the position that you sleep in can reduce its effects, but you can also reduce it by making sure that you do not eat fatty, spicy or acidic foods too close to bed time.
There is an amino acid called tryptophan which occurs naturally in some foods; it is well known for aiding relaxation and sleep. Do not be tempted to take a tryptophan supplement as this is not safe for pregnant women, however, eating tryptophan-containing foods might help you to relax at night. These include chicken, turkey, tuna and soya beans. By snacking on these before bed time you might find that you get to sleep more quickly and that you have a more restful night without waking up hungry.