Sleeping for two: Moms-to-be get your zzz’s

December 22, 2015 | by Diana Calero, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

We’ve all heard of the saying “eating for two” when you’re pregnant. Now health professionals are highlighting the importance of “sleeping for two.”

For moms-to-be, the effects of poor sleep go beyond irritability, exhaustion and poor concentration. Research suggests insufficient and low-quality sleep during pregnancy can disrupt normal immune function and lead to birth-related complications.

One study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that expectant moms who slept less than six hours a night had longer labors and were 4.5 times more likely to have a cesarean section compared with women who slept seven hours or more.

Another study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found a link between poor sleep during pregnancy and complications at birth, including low birth weight and pre-term birth. The study also found that women with depression were more likely to suffer from disturbed sleep, and vice versa; and the combination of the two increased the risk for birth complications.  

Even knowing the importance of sleeping well during pregnancy, it’s easier said than done. Hormonal changes, discomfort, frequent bathroom trips, indigestion and anxiety can all disrupt the quality and quantity of sleep.

Also, some women experience sleep disorders during pregnancy which can cause health problems. Expectant mothers who experience sleep apnea, for example, may have high blood pressure, diabetes or even preeclampsia, and their babies may be smaller and not as healthy at the time of birth.

Here are some ways to improve sleep during pregnancy:

  • Increase the amount of hours you are sleeping. Try to sleep at least 8 hours – especially in the last three months of pregnancy.
  • Set the room temp. You may feel warmer than usual, so use a fan or adjust the room temperature to cool off at night.
  • Relax before bed. Practice relaxation exercises and deep breathing, play relaxing music, and take a warm shower before bed.
  • Drink fluids earlier. Drink plenty of fluids during the day, but cut back on the amount you drink right before bed to reduce nighttime bathroom trips.
  • Find a comfortable position. Raise the head of your bed, sleep on more pillows, and sleep on your left side with a pillow between the knees, under the belly, and/or behind the back.
  • Avoid certain foods. Reduce caffeine, which contributes to restless leg syndrome. Avoid spicy or fried foods and don’t lie down right after eating to avoid indigestion.
  • Stay active. If your doctor permits it, try to get 30 minutes of exercise each day.
  • Manage your mood. Lack of sleep can make you feel anxious and depressed. When you are stressed, you don’t sleep well. Address these issues with your doctor.

Good sleep during pregnancy is essential for you and your baby’s health. Talk with your doctor if your sleeplessness persists, if you start having breathing pauses during sleep, or if anxiety and stress are causing poor sleep.

What do you do to sleep better during pregnancy? Share your thoughts in the below comments!

Learn more about staying healthy during pregnancy.

Learn more about sleep disorders.

Diana Calero, MD is an OB-GYN with Edward Medical Group.

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