Sleep and Pregnancy: Questions About Heartburn, Drugs, Resting Comfortably, and More

Sleeping on your side and using pillows to support your stomach can help you stay comfortable while pregnant.
Ever heard a pregnant woman say that she's eating for two? She may not realize that she's also sleeping for two. Getting enough rest helps a woman combat pregnancy-induced fatigue, fight off illnesses, and become less likely to develop postpartum depression. But sleeping soundly isn't always easy for expectant moms.

"Sleep problems are universal for pregnant women, and they can occur at any time," says National Sleep Foundation spokesperson Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, author of Sleep Deprived No More: From Pregnancy to Early Motherhood­—Helping You & Your Baby Sleep Through the Night. "It's not just when you're seven and eight months pregnant and can't find a comfortable position."

Here, experts recommend ways to improve sleep quality during pregnancy.

Q: What can I do in the evening to ensure that I get some quality sleep?

A: "A bedtime routine is really important," says Mindell. "There should be 20 to 30 minutes when you're not checking your email, paying your bills, or arguing with your spouse. Taking a shower or reading a relaxing book helps your brain to slow down."

Additionally, drinking less in the evening may keep you in bed longer. "Cut back on fluids if you make multiple trips to the bathroom at night," she says. "Instead, drink more during the daytime."

Q: Does exercise improve sleep quality?

A: "Most people feel that exercise improves sleep," says James O'Brien, MD, medical director of inpatient obstetrics at the Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island in Providence and a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). "But avoid exercise within four to five hours of bedtime or it may be harder to initiate sleep." Low-impact workouts like walking or swimming are ideal for pregnant women. Discuss higher-impact options with your doctor. (See more exercises suitable for pregnancy here.)

Q: How can I fall back to sleep quickly after a middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom?

A: "You don't want to get a lot of light to your eyes [in the middle of the night]," says Mindell. "Keep a night-light in the bathroom, or use a dimmer switch." And try not to look at the clock or stress about whether you'll fall back asleep when you lie down again; worrying makes it harder to nod off. (Watch a video about why light at night disrupts sleep.)

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Lead writer: Lisa Fields
Last Updated: October 08, 2008

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