Sleep Apnea

How to get better sleep during pregnancy


Pregnancy can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. You’re looking forward to meeting your new baby. But you may also worry about how you’ll handle those first few months of being awake half the night.

Unfortunately, sleep deprivation can even start during your pregnancy. If you’re pregnant and find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, know you’re not alone. 

Sleeping problems are common among mums-to-be and can be brought on by factors such as pregnancy hormones and discomfort caused by your growing belly. Excitement or worry about being a new parent can lead to sleep disturbances too.

Before we share our tips to get better sleep, let’s explore the impact of pregnancy on sleep.

How pregnancy affects your sleep

As early as the first trimester, your fluctuating pregnancy hormones can cause discomfort. Nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, leg cramps, an increased heart rate and a high body temperature can prevent us from getting a good night’s rest1.

Later in your pregnancy, you might have to deal with back pain, a constant need to pee and uncomfortable indigestion. Not to mention that big baby bump makes it hard to find a comfy sleeping position1.

Experiencing any of these symptoms during pregnancy is normal. Feeling tired is too. Remember, your body is working overtime to make a baby!

But, if you experience ongoing trouble sleeping or excessive daytime sleepiness, this may indicate an underlying sleep disorder.


Common sleep disorders during pregnancy


Insomnia is inadequate or poor-quality sleep highlighted by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or getting back to sleep and waking too early2.  Insomnia is defined as both a symptom and a disorder3.  It’s estimated at least half of all pregnant women have insomnia1. 

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that happens when your airway gets blocked during sleep, causing breathing pauses. This may result in restricted oxygen flow to the fetus. Research also suggests sleep apnea increases your risk of complications such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and caesarean sections1.  It is thought to affect as many as 1 in 5 women during pregnancy.1  

There are a few reasons why women are at risk of obstructive sleep apnea during pregnancy, such as:4  

  • Nasal congestion caused by higher levels of hormones
  • Higher levels of the hormone progesterone, which can relax your airway
  • Weigh gain which puts pressure on your airways
  • Increased pressure on the lungs due to your expanding uterus

If you have concerns about your sleep, it might be time to take a sleep test and consult a doctor. 

In the meantime, you can also follow our top 3 tips to help improve your sleep and strive for that pregnancy glow we all dream of!

1. Pay attention to your indigestion triggers

The entire digestive system slows down in pregnancy. As a result, you might unfortunately, succumb to bouts of constipation, heartburn and indigestion that can worsen when trying to sleep.5 Consider these eating habits which may trigger undesirable digestive consequences, and you can make decisions to help minimise your discomfort.

Foods and drinks to avoid:5 

  • Carbonated drinks, acidic fruits and spicy and fatty foods can cause acid reflux
  • Caffeinated drinks are stimulants and will keep you awake at night

Stick to these eating patterns:5

  • Eating every few hours during the day but in smaller portions (instead of three larger main meals)
  • Avoid meals 3-4 hours before bed

2. Make yourself comfortable

As your bump grows, getting comfortable in bed can prove more and more elusive. It’s generally advised to avoid sleeping on your back as it’s thought to decrease oxygen to your baby’s placenta. Instead, sleeping on the left side is recommended as it reportedly helps with blood flow.5   

Body-size pregnancy pillows provide support and can provide comfort in the side sleeping position. But if you don’t want to invest in a new pillow, a regular pillow placed between your legs can also be effective. A rolled-up blanket or extra pillow can also be placed behind your back to ease the pressure.

3. Make sure you're getting the basics right

Finding ways to avoid discomfort during sleep may go a long way to helping you get more rest, but they will have little to no impact if you’re missing the sleep hygiene basics. Sleep hygiene means following certain habits that will help ensure quality sleep.

Tick off this sleep hygiene checklist to get a better night’s rest:

  • Maintain a consistent bedtime routine
  • Take a nice warm bath or undertake another relaxing activity to help you wind down for the night
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark and set at a temperature best suited for sleep
  • Get active during the day and out in the sunshine - this can make it easier to sleep at night
  • Cut out the caffeine and make sure you eat at least a few hours before bed
  • Put away your screens before bed


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