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.
How Does Sleep Change in the First Trimester?
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.
Why Sleep is Important During Your First Trimester
Sleep during the first trimester is more important 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.
How to Sleep Better During Your First Trimester
The first trimester of pregnancy can be difficult, but practicing good sleep habits may help you sleep more soundly and increase your total sleep time.
What is the Best First Trimester Sleeping Position?
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.
Sleeping Products to Help With First Trimester Sleep
Prenatal vitamins 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. The cause of restless legs syndrome is unknown, so it’s unclear whether or not this condition is caused or exacerbated by one or more vitamin deficiencies.
The first trimester of pregnancy is a very delicate stage, and it’s best to avoid any medication, especially sleeping pills.
Sleep Tips for the First Trimester
Now is the time to be proactive about sleep hygiene, hopefully adopting good habits that will stay with you throughout pregnancy.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. A good night’s sleep starts well before you get in bed. Try to avoid smartphones, TV screens, and laptops an hour before bedtime, as the blue light triggers your brain to stay awake. Instead, consider unwinding with a relaxing warm bath, a good book, or a soothing music playlist. When nausea and fatigue aren’t acting up, sex with your partner is a healthy outlet that may help bring on sleep.
- Consider how diet impacts how you feel and how well you sleep. You can also make changes to your diet and avoid eating right before bed to reduce discomfort during the night. Pregnant women who suffer from nausea in their first trimester should try to eat frequent smaller and nutritious meals instead of larger meals. To prevent heartburn, avoid spicy and fatty foods. If you need to, eat a light snack before bed, or keep crackers by your bedside table to ward off midnight nausea attacks.
- Stay hydrated. Pregnant women are advised to drink copious amounts of water, but it’s better to get these during the day if possible. Cutting down on caffeine and other liquids in the hours preceding bedtime may help reduce the number of times you need to visit the bathroom at night. Of course, making a few extra trips to the bathroom is unavoidable in the first trimester. By installing a nightlight instead of turning on the light, you can reduce the disruption and help your body get back to sleep faster.
- Sleep someplace cool and dark. You’ll likely be running warmer than normal, so it’s extra important to keep your bedroom cool. Creative sleep aids such as earplugs, a white noise machine, or an eye mask can block out noise and light to ensure a calmer sleeping environment with fewer distractions. And although you aren’t showing yet, it’s never too early to invest in a pair of loose, comfortable pajamas.
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 many hours long might make it difficult to get to sleep at night.
Mental Health Tips
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.
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