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How To Get Better Sleep During The Trimesters Of Your Pregnancy
  • When you’re pregnant, sleep can become an issue every trimester, and all you can do is adjust until the little one pops out of your bulging tummy. But while you’re not there yet, we did some research on how you can sleep better including the best sleeping position in the next nine months.

    First trimester

    According to the National Sleep Foundation in the United States, hormones and bodily changes are some of the reasons sleep patterns may be disrupted at this time of the pregnancy. “The soporific (sleep-inducing) and thermogenic (heat-producing) effects of high progesterone secretion from the placenta are known to cause fatigue and earlier sleep onset.”

    A study by Dr. Kathryn Lee of the University of California titled “Longitudinal Changes in Sleep Architecture During Pregnancy and Postpartum,” found an increase in total sleep time but poorer quality sleep due to awakening during the night. The same study also found a decrease in a deep sleep from pre-pregnancy to the first trimester.

    Other disruptions identified in the first trimester include: 

    • tender breasts as the body prepares for milk supply
    • frequent urination as the “progesterone’s inhibitory effects on smooth muscle influences that need to urinate”
    • nausea or morning sickness that can happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy

    The foundation says the first trimester is the perfect time to train yourself for the best sleeping position in pregnancy: Sleep on your left side. It helps “to improve the flow of blood and nutrients to your fetus and uterus and to help your kidneys get rid of waste and fluids.” The sooner you learn this, the easier it is to get into this sleeping position on your third trimester.

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    How to get better sleep on your first trimester

    Experts suggest these tips for more quality sleep during the first trimester:

    • Drink lots of fluids during the day, especially water, but cut down on the amount you drink before bedtime.
    • To avoid nausea, which can make you tired and restless, try to eat bland snacks throughout the day — like crackers.
    • Put a nightlight in the bathroom instead of turning on the light to use the bathroom — this will be less arousing and help you return to sleep more quickly.
    • Add daytime naps as necessary.

    Second trimester

    This period is when you can start saying goodbye to your biggest enemy during the first trimester: Morning sickness. Some say the second trimester is the best period because the effects of the hormones are tapering off, your appetite is better, and you feel more energetic.

    However, as some symptoms leave, new ones may enter. For one, the physical changes become more pronounced. Apart from a bulging belly, you may observe hair growth, skin changes (but more of the ‘glowing’ kind), and an itchy belly because of stretching skin. 

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    The Sleep Foundation emphasizes the disruptions that may arise from heartburn and nightmares, as well. Heartburn results because of the “enlarging uterus.”

    “The diaphragm is restricted, and breathing becomes more shallow, and the intestines and esophageal sphincter are displaced, causing esophageal reflux and complaints of heartburn, particularly when sleeping on their back,” WebMD explains.

    Nightmares, on the other hand, always involve bad dreams about the baby being in danger. The same study by Dr. Lee showed that 72% of pregnant women experienced frightening dreams or nightmares.

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    How to get better sleep on your second trimester

    While nightmares are hard to control, there is still a way to keep it at bay. Sleep Foundation gives these tips:

    • To avoid heartburn, do not eat large amounts of spicy, acidic, or fried foods. Sleep with your head elevated on pillows. Try to eat frequent small meals throughout the day.
    • Get as close to eight hours of sleep a night as possible.
    • Lie on your side with your knees and hips bent. Place pillows between your knees, under your abdomen, and behind your back to take the pressure off your lower back.
    • If nightmares or disturbing dreams are causing you distress, talking to a therapist -- or maybe your husband or best friend -- may be helpful
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    Third trimester

    Welcome to the last phase of your pregnancy! Along with the anticipation of a new bundle of joy, however, are the discomforts specific at this time. For one, your tummy and breasts are heavier, and sleeping positions become more limited.

    The National Sleep Foundation calls this phase the most challenging because of back pain, cramping, night waking, and even snoring.

    Back pain, specifically in the lower back pain, is associated “with the ligaments between the pelvic bones softening and the joints loosening in preparation for the birth,” according to the site. “Carrying the weight of the baby also affects posture, leaving many women uncomfortable walking, sitting, and sleeping,” it adds.

    Leg cramps in the lower leg muscles are painful spasms that tend to occur at night and may disrupt sleep. It can be caused by an excess of phosphorus and a shortage of calcium circulating in your blood system, according to the site.

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    Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), on the other hand, is described as crawling or uncomfortable feelings in the foot, calf, or upper leg, which can momentarily disrupt sleep. Citing another study by Dr. Lee, RLS is shown to be present among women who were found to be deficient in folic acid or iron, so checking with your doctor is recommended.

    The study, “Sleep Disturbances During Pregnancy,” shows that by the end of pregnancy, 97.3% of the women were waking at night for an average of 3.11 times each night. Another study also showed that 30% percent of pregnant women snored “because of increased swelling in their nasal passages, which can block airways.” But if snoring comes with other symptoms such as headaches, daytime sleepiness, and swollen legs, it might be good to see your doctor to rule out hypertension or preeclampsia.

    How to get better sleep on your third trimester

    The site gives these tips in getting quality shut-eye in the last three months of pregnancy
    • Avoid lying on your back for extended periods.
    • Use a pregnancy pillow that makes side-lying more comfortable.
    • To avoid leg cramps, cut down on the carbonated sodas and drinks.
    • If you can’t sleep, don’t force it; busy yourself with light activities such as reading a book, writing in a journal, or taking a warm bath.
    • To avoid leg cramps, try straightening the leg and flexing foot upwards several times before going to sleep.
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