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Pregnancy has profound effects on the body, many of which begin during the first trimester. During the early stages of pregnancy, it is common to experience morning sickness, frequent urination, and other symptoms that make it increasingly difficult to sleep. We take a closer look at how to get high-quality rest during the first trimester of pregnancy, along with tips on tackling common pregnancy-related sleep issues.
How Does Sleep Change During the First Trimester?
Sleep in the first trimester is largely influenced by rising levels of progesterone, which is necessary to support pregnancy but can make you feel more tired and uncomfortably warm. You may also notice a shift in your body clock, prompting you to adopt an earlier bedtime.
Paradoxically, many pregnant people report feeling fatigued during the day while also having trouble sleeping at night. For those who do manage to nod off, research suggests that pregnant people tend to get poor-quality sleep in the first trimester, leading to daytime tiredness. Around 25% of pregnant people experience sleep disturbances in the first trimester.
The term “morning sickness” is a bit of a misnomer. Nausea and vomiting can persist all day and through the night in the first trimester. Frequent vomiting can sap your energy reserves, and may also force you out of bed during the night. Excessive bathroom breaks and other symptoms can make it difficult to get comfortable. Many people complain of headaches and tender breasts in the first trimester, as well as bloating and constipation due to a slowdown in the digestive system. It is common to experience heartburn and sleep apnea, which can worsen by the third trimester.
The Importance of Sleep During the First Trimester
Poor sleep during the first trimester can lead to various health complications. Sleep deprivation and insomnia 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 practicing good sleep habits may help you sleep more soundly and increase your total sleep time.
What Is the Best First Trimester Sleeping Position?
You can sleep in any position that feels comfortable during the first three months of pregnancy, but it is beneficial to practice side sleeping. A wealth of research shows that left side sleeping is the healthiest sleeping position during later pregnancy. As the baby grows, this position improves circulation by preventing the pressure of the uterus from resting on the veins, back, and internal organs. Opting for this position early on may make the transition easier for those who tend to favor stomach or back sleeping.
Sleep is a good thing to aim for in general during the first trimester. It is unnecessary to worry excessively if you cannot drift off on your side. You can also keep sleeping on your back or stomach until this becomes uncomfortable.
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 is 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, so exercise caution and consult your doctor before introducing new medications or sleep aids.
How to Manage Insomnia During Early Pregnancy
- Avoid blue light: 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.
- Be mindful of eating habits: You can make diet modifications and avoid eating right before bed to reduce discomfort during the night. Pregnant people 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.
- Stay hydrated: Pregnant people are advised to drink copious amounts of water. It is better to consume more water during the day if possible to avoid nighttime awakenings. Cutting down on caffeine in the hours preceding bedtime may help reduce the number of times you need to visit the bathroom at night. By installing a nightlight instead of turning on the light during each bathroom trip, you can reduce the disruption and help your body get back to sleep faster.
- Sleep someplace cool and dark: You may run warmer than usual during pregnancy, so it is extra important to keep your bedroom cool. 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.
- Invest in high-quality sleep accessories: Consider choosing a new mattress and breathable sheets. Generally, the best mattress for pregnant people will provide good spinal support and pressure relief.
Sometimes, no matter what you try, it just seems impossible to get a good night’s sleep. For pregnant people who find themselves constantly plagued with fatigue during the first trimester, a short daytime nap might be the solution. However, too many naps or excessively long naps may make it difficult to get sufficient sleep at night.
Mental Health Tips
The first step in caring for your baby is caring for yourself. Do not feel guilty if you have to drop some commitments to prioritize rest. Those who are working during the first trimester may have added stress from these additional responsibilities. Arranging 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 good forms of exercise that can be tailored to fit prenatal requirements. Some pregnant people 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. These symptoms are not permanent, and the second trimester usually brings the chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep before the final stretch.