It doesn’t take long for pregnancy to start having an effect on your body. Long before the baby bump starts to show, you’ll experience morning sickness, frequent urination, and other symptoms that make it increasingly difficult to sleep. For many women, the exhaustion of the first trimester is made even harder by the fact that they’re still hiding their pregnancy from friends and acquaintances.
Feeling at a loss as to how to sleep during pregnancy in the first trimester? We’ve gathered advice on how to manage the most common first trimester sleep problems so you can get the rest you need to grow a healthy baby.
Sleep in the first trimester is largely influenced by rising levels of progesterone, which is necessary to support the pregnancy but can make you feel more tired and uncomfortably warm. You may also find that your body clock shifts, prompting you to adopt an earlier bedtime.
Paradoxically, many pregnant women report feeling fatigued during the day and also having trouble sleeping at night. For those who do manage to nod off, research suggests that women tend to get poor-quality sleep in the first trimester, leading to daytime tiredness. While only 1 in 10 pregnant women meet the criteria for clinical insomnia in the first trimester, the prevalence of sleep-related complaints is much higher.
As you’ll soon find out, the term “morning sickness” is a bit of a misnomer. Nausea and vomiting can plague you all day and all night long in the first trimester. This not only saps your energy reserves, but may also force you out of bed during the night.
Neverending bathroom breaks and other changes to your body can also make it difficult to get comfortable. Many women complain of headaches and tender breasts in the first trimester, as well as bloating and constipation due to a slowdown in the digestive system. Some women may already start to experience heartburn and sleep apnea, although this is most often worse by the third trimester.
Sleep during the first trimester is more important than than most of us realize, but for now those sleepless nights will most likely affect you more than the baby. Sleep deprivation in the first trimester has been tied to gestational diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure in the third trimester, as well as self-reported stress and depression. Some research suggests sleep-disordered breathing may be a risk factor for miscarriage.
The first trimester of pregnancy can be difficult, but practising good sleep habits may help you sleep more soundly and increase your total sleep time.
In the first trimester you can sleep in any position you like, but it’s wise to start practising side sleeping. A wealth of research shows that left side sleeping is the best sleeping position for you and the fetus in later pregnancy. As the baby grows, this improves circulation by preventing the pressure of the uterus from resting on the veins, back, and internal organs. Switching to this position early on may make the transition easier for those who tend to favor stomach or back sleeping.
On the other hand, sleep is a good thing to aim for in and of itself in the first trimester. Don’t worry too much if you can’t drift off on your side. You can also keep on sleeping on your back or stomach until this becomes uncomfortable. Pregnant women who suffer from tender breasts may try wearing a loose sleep bra for relief.
The first trimester of pregnancy is a very delicate stage, and it’s best to avoid any medication, especially sleeping pills. The exception is prenatal vitamins, which are very important to ensure the fetus gets enough nutrition to develop properly. Prenatal vitamins may help prevent conditions like restless legs syndrome, a common cause of insomnia in pregnant women. Though it should be noted that the cause of restless legs syndrome is unknown, so it is unclear whether or not this condition is actually caused or exacerbated by one or more vitamin deficiencies.
There is some evidence for the role of ginger in treating morning sickness, but some researchers have also raised safety concerns about this method. Be sure to check with your doctor before taking any medication or herbal supplements.
Many people fail to make it a priority, but proper sleep can make an important difference to the health of your baby, not to mention your own. Now is the time to be proactive about sleep hygiene, hopefully adopting good habits that will stay with you throughout pregnancy.
Sometimes, no matter what you try, it just seems impossible to get a good night’s sleep. For women who find themselves constantly plagued with fatigue during the first trimester, a short daytime nap might be the solution. This is a delicate balance, because napping has been associated with hyperglycemia, and too many naps or naps that are too long might make it difficult to get to sleep at night.
If you want to do what’s best for your baby, you also need to take care of yourself. Don’t feel guilty if you have to drop some commitments to make more time for self-care. Those who are still working during the first trimester may have added stress from the extra responsibilities. Arranging to take short breaks to go for a walk or do some light stretching at work may help ease the burden.
Regular exercise can help with fatigue and make it easier to sleep soundly at night. Yoga and swimming are two good options that can be tailored to fit prenatal requirements. Some pregnant women may also find relief in journaling, meditating, guided imagery, deep breathing, or a prenatal massage.
Find a few stress-busting techniques that work for you, and reach out for help from your support system or from a professional if you feel overwhelmed. And don’t worry, it gets better before it gets worse. The second trimester usually brings the chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep before the final stretch.