Sleep Through the Three Trimesters
Sleep is more important than ever when you are expecting a baby. Unfortunately, there are a huge number of factors that influence your ability to get a good night's sleep during pregnancy. Just as you get the hang of mastering a decent sleeping routine you may find that it all changes again! This is because the problems that cause sleep deprivation change as pregnancy progresses.
Sleep during the first trimester
Not all women find sleeping difficult during the first trimester. Fatigue during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is common, and the biggest problem some women have is finding time to squeeze enough of it in.
Generally, this early period of tiredness is thought to be down to the changes in hormones. Your body is also working very hard to get everything in place for the next nine months of nurturing and protecting your baby. In addition, if you are suffering from nausea or vomiting then this can leave you more tired. Emotions tend to be running high during these early days as well, partly due to hormones and partly because it can be hard to process the huge news that you are going to be a parent. Feeling anxious, sad or helpless can leave you very tired. If you are feeling very depressed then make sure you seek help from your doctor.
Many women report that during their first trimester they take any opportunity to get sleep, going to bed very early and napping throughout the day. Provided daytime naps don't affect your ability to get to sleep at night, get all the sleep that you can during this period. While a lack of sleep isn't considered dangerous for your baby, it will help you to get through this tiring period.
Unfortunately, while fatigue may make your days very difficult, not all women find it easy to get good sleep when the opportunity arises. For a start, there may be a lot going on in your head, from how you feel about becoming a parent, financial or relationship concerns or just sheer excitement. All of these can prevent you from settling at night.
While you tend not to show a bump during the first trimester, your breasts can be growing quickly or just be very tender. If you are used to sleeping on your front then this could make sleep more difficult. Later in pregnancy you will have to sleep on your side, so you might as well start practicing this now.
It is also common to find that you need to urinate more frequently during the early stages of pregnancy. This is mainly due to the extra volume of blood and other fluids that your kidneys are processing, which produces more urine. Getting up to go to the toilet at night can be frustrating as often women find it hard to get back to sleep afterwards.
Nausea can also keep women from drifting off, or cause them to wake early. If you find that certain foods such as dry crackers or ginger biscuits ease your nausea then try eating them just before bed time or keep a little supply near your bed for night-time nausea. This can also help if you find that you are waking up with hunger pangs in the middle of the night!
Sleep during the second trimester
More often than not, women tend to experience a spurt in energy levels during their middle trimester, which can come as a relief after a very sleepy start to their pregnancy. Daytime naps may no longer be needed or desired and you may find that you return to your pre-pregnancy pattern of sleep.
Women tend to have fewer sleep interruptions during this stage of pregnancy. Many of the factors that affected their nights in the first trimester may have gone away. Typically there is less nausea, your emotions maybe under more control, you probably don't need to urinate so frequently, your breasts may not be so sensitive and you may have fewer anxieties about being pregnant.
That said, of course all pregnancies are different, and some women unfortunately experience difficulty sleeping throughout pregnancy. This could be because one or more pregnancy symptoms associated with early pregnancy continues on into the second trimester, such as nausea. In addition, new problems can arise, such as leg cramps, shortness of breath or a sudden habit of snoring (which can affect both you and your partner!). Less commonly, snoring can be extreme and be punctuated by snorting or gasping and long pauses in breathing. These are sometimes signs of a condition known as sleep apnoea.
As you near the end of your second trimester your bump may begin to feel more noticeable at night, and you may find getting comfortable more difficult. You should be sleeping on your side, (on your left side in particular if you can manage it). Read more about sleeping positions and experiment a little in order to help yourself get comfortable at night.
You may find, during your second trimester that you seem to dream more. These dreams may be enjoyable, frightening or just plain weird. Don't worry yourself with them, strange or vivid dreams are common during pregnancy.
Sleep during the third trimester
Most pregnant women will agree that it is during the final months of pregnancy that the most number of barriers to sleep become an issue.
The most obvious problem is probably the size of your bump, which grows quickly during the last trimester. It is important that you find a comfortable and safe sleeping position, which may mean using cushions or pillows, or anything else that supports you comfortably. Your partner might not be enthusiastic about having even less space in the bed but your sleep is important!
As your uterus nears its fully grown size, it will be putting pressure on other organs. It will restrict the space that your bladder has so you can expect to be back and forward to the bathroom more often again. It also puts an upwards pressure on your diaphragm, which can make you feel breathless and uncomfortable, but side sleeping can help to relieve breathlessness. The pressure on your rectum can also cause constipation which can be uncomfortable and may keep you awake at night.
In general, aches and pains tend to increase in the third trimester. Leg cramps are more common and some women experience a condition known as restless leg syndrome which can keep them awake for long periods of time.
While you may experience it earlier in your pregnancy, it is usually towards the latter stages that heartburn becomes an issue at night time. You can control your heartburn by taking steps in your diet and routine, as well as adjusting your sleep positions to reduce its effects at night.
Inevitably, as the big day draws closer it is natural for anxieties to start playing on your mind. Labour is one of the most common worries; first-time mothers-to-be are often frightened as they feel that they don't know what to expect. If this is not your first baby, you may be more worried this time than you were the first time, especially if you had a difficult experience before. Keep talking your worries through with your partner, your midwife and your friends. It is perfectly normal to be concerned but it is not helpful for you to become stressed, so sharing your thoughts or getting answers to your questions is a sensible way of putting your mind at rest as much as possible.
Check out some of our other sleep articles after you're finished with this: