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You’ve heard all about the horror stories of morning sickness during the first trimester of your pregnancy, but were you prepared for sleeping challenges, too?
Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy. While a growing belly with a bundle of joy inside is the most significant, not every woman is prepared for the other drastic changes that occur during the first three months.
Hormonal fluctuations and sheer exhaustion are also bound to happen, along with an increased risk of nausea that can last all day and night.
Bedtime is more important than ever when you’re with child, but what is the best position during the first three months of pregnancy? Many women may not have realized that even this early in the journey, sleep plays a critical role in your child’s health and development.
Why Pregnant Women Lack Sleep
Your body is flooded with hormones during pregnancy, and the first trimester is a significant adjustment period. You may feel like you have flu-like symptoms thanks to a spike in the hormone progesterone. When it increases in your body, you’ll feel warmer and drowsier due to its thermogenic and soporific effects. Those are just fancy words for heat producing and sleep-inducing.
The effect is feeling tired, especially during the day. The hormone can also affect your sleep cycle, reducing the time spent in deep sleep.
While the discomfort you feel is likely to pale in comparison to what you experience in later trimesters when people who don’t know any better will call you as “big as a house,” you’ll still go through some physical changes that are bound to be uncomfortable.
One of the most significant of these changes will be breast tenderness. Sore breasts will make it even more difficult to find a position that allows you to get proper rest.
Our old friend progesterone is also responsible for your need to frequently urinate. And as your body prepares for baby to grow, your uterus expands, putting pressure on your bladder. This can increase the urge to go to the bathroom, and unfortunately, it gets worse as the baby gets bigger.
You may be tempted to drink less fluid to limit bathroom trips, but you need liquids now more than ever.
If you don’t relish the idea of getting up frequently during the night, drink less at night and more during the day. Try avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee, black teas, sodas, and energy drinks, which also increase the urge to go.
The term “morning sickness” should really be changed to “all-day sickness.” Nausea that accompanies most women during the first three months of pregnancy doesn’t tend to stop just because it’s lunchtime. Not only can it make your days downright miserable, you may also experience it at night while you’re trying to sleep.
Ginger in natural or tablet form is a natural solution that works wonders for nausea during pregnancy. There are also bands you can wear on your wrists that apply pressure to specific points of your body that can ease the symptoms.
If you’ve never had heartburn before, you’re in for a treat! That sentence is dripping with sarcasm, if you couldn't tell.
The source of heartburn and acid reflux is the smoothing of the muscle that opens into the stomach from the esophagus.
Again, progesterone is the culprit here, along with estrogen. 80% of pregnant women will experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) during their pregnancies.
To alleviate the symptoms and retain your beauty sleep, try to eat small and frequent snacks and avoid big meals right before bed.
Stress and Anxiety
You’re going through an exciting time but also a scary one. The physical changes you’re experiencing are just a small representation of how your life is going to change. You may be feeling overwhelmed, concerned about delivery, or wondering how you’re going to manage it all when the baby comes.
Although you are going to kill it as a new mom, you might need some coping strategies to help cast those worries aside in the meantime—those late-night thoughts might keep you up at night. Journaling, relaxation techniques like meditating, and childbirth classes can all help calm you down and prepare you for the journey ahead.
1st Trimester – The Different Sleeping Positions
Sleeping on Side (SOS)
Side sleeping is the best position during pregnancy, whether it’s the first 12 weeks or last 12 days. You might also be surprised to hear that sleeping on your left side is superior to sleeping on the right during pregnancy.
If you lie on your side, you’ll put undue pressure on organs like your liver. However, a woman lying on the left side improves circulation and blood flow, allowing vital nutrients to reach the placenta.
Don’t feel like you’re restricted to one spot, though. Feel free to lay on your right side or your back when you need to shift your weight. In the first trimester, your sleeping position won’t make much of a difference, so just sleep in whatever position makes you most comfortable before you have a bump in the way.
Sleeping on Back
This position is suitable during the first trimester but should be avoided during the later stages of pregnancy. The reason is that it puts pressure on the blood vessels, back, and spine as your uterus increases in size. While this isn’t a factor during the first weeks of your pregnancy, it’s definitely something to be aware of as time passes.
Back sleeping is also associated with muscle pain and even hemorrhoids. It could also cause your blood pressure to drop, which contributes to dizziness and vertigo. And finally, if you suffer from sleep apnea, we recommend avoiding sleeping on your back; you will notice when it is time to start sleeping on your side when it gets hard to breathe on your back.
Safe Sleeping Aids
Pillows will be your new best friend. There are special pregnancy pillows that you can adjust to place between your knees or to support your stomach. The key is to keep your lower back supported, and having a pillow between your legs at the knee level does wonders for this.
As your pregnancy progresses, you may also want a full-body pillow or curved pillows to support your belly. If heartburn is rearing its ugly head, grab a wedge pillow and elevate your head to prevent the flow of acid upward.
Food and Drink
We suggest eating protein-rich foods throughout the day and in small servings. This keeps your blood sugar at constant levels, which helps prevent bad dreams, headaches, and night sweats. The exact food choices will vary based on your dietary preferences, but we recommend nut butter, eggs, turkey, or protein-packed smoothies.
If you’re nauseous, the good old standby of saltine crackers with a glass of ginger ale can go a long way in providing relief.
Make bedtime a priority during this important time in your life. Naps are vital, and you’re going to need them! If possible, take a 30-minute rest between two and four in the afternoon. If job or childcare duties prevent this from happening, make an effort to get some shuteye at lunch. It will keep you charged throughout the day.
Yoga and Stretching
Staying fit during your pregnancy can not only make your delivery easier but it can also keep you healthy and better prepared for bedtime. There are specific pregnancy yoga classes you can take that have modified poses that are baby bump-friendly.
Stretching is also key to prevent cramping and keep your body limber. As long as you exercise earlier in the day and avoid it right before bed, it shouldn’t negatively impact your shuteye.
Focusing on breathing is more important than ever to make sure you’re getting enough oxygen and staying relaxed.
One type of breathing exercise we recommend is to place one hand on your belly, the other on your chest, and deeply inhale. Hold your breath for a count of three, and exhale through your mouth. The rise and fall of your belly, along with the influx of oxygen, are very calming and relaxing.
As if you needed an excuse to go out and get a massage, right? Massage is helpful in relaxing your mind as well as your body. This is also an excellent time to ask for a foot or neck massage from your partner. Tell them that it’s good for the baby!
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a relaxing activity you can do in bed or any time you need to reconnect with your body. To do progressive muscle relaxation, lie on your back, close your eyes, and focus on the muscles in your face. Tense and relax them. Move down to your shoulders, arms, back, and legs, all the way down to your feed.
Your exercise routine doesn’t need to change much during your first trimester. Physical activity is good for you, and it can promote sleep as long as you do it earlier in the day.
Visualizing a paradise as you lie in bed is a helpful way to induce sleep. Picture yourself on vacation in your favorite spot. Fill in as much detail as possible from the sights, sounds, and even smells. Before you know it, you might end up there in your dream.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can lack of sleep harm the baby?
You already know that sleep is a vital function for health, so yes, not getting enough rest can definitely harm the baby. Not only will you feel drained, your immune system could become compromised. In addition, sleep deprivation could negatively impact your ability to function, leading to drowsy driving and other dangerous circumstances.
Is it safe to sleep on your stomach?
You probably won’t want to sleep on your stomach during your second and third trimesters. The size of your belly by that time won’t make it feasible or comfortable. But, it is okay for the initial 12 weeks or so.
Is it normal to experience insomnia?
Sadly, yes. The good news is you’re not alone! According to research, a staggering 78% of women reported trouble sleeping during their pregnancy.
What are some comfortable sitting positions during pregnancy?
One of our favorite sitting positions during pregnancy is to sit on the couch with our legs propped up on a pillow and a pillow nestled in our lower back. It’s the ultimate lounging position!
For more office-friendly arrangements, you may want to sit on a giant exercise ball at your desk. It keeps your spine in alignment and encourages proper posture. If you’re in a chair, make sure you have a towel rolled up and placed in the hollow space between your back and chair to support your lumbar spine.
Avoid slouching, dangling your legs, and sitting without a backrest. And while you may want to do nothing more than sit back and relax, make sure you change positions every thirty minutes.
And so, the countdown begins! Remember, getting proper during your pregnancy is vital for your health as well as your baby’s. Side sleeping is best, especially on your left side. However, in your first trimester, our recommendation is to find whatever position makes you the most comfortable!
Sources and References:
- First trimester pregnancy sleep: Three disturbances you can count on – babycenter.com
- How to Kick Insomnia in Early Pregnancy – healthline.com
Author: Sleep Advisor
Our team covers as many areas of expertise as we do time zones, but none of us started here as a so-called expert on sleep. What we do share is a willingness to ask questions (lots of them), seek experts, and dig deep into conventional wisdom to see if maybe there might be a better path towards healthy living. We apply what we learn not only to our company culture, but also how we deliver information to our over 12.7M readers.
Sleep research is changing all the time, and we are 100% dedicated to keeping up with breakthroughs and innovations. You live better if you sleep better. Whatever has brought you here, we wish you luck on your journey towards better rest.