Sleep is a luxury that’s easy to take for granted—until you become pregnant, that is! Suddenly clocking an extra hour of shut-eye can mean the difference between feeling happy and well rested or cranky and irritable. But good sleep is essential for good health, both while pregnant and as a new mother, even if it isn’t easy to find. Try these tips for catching the Zs your body and mind are craving.
The 1st trimester
What’s keeping you up: The need to pee
What’s going on: Your uterus is growing and pushing on your bladder, keeping you on your toes all night long with a constant urge to tinkle.
How to deal: Obviously, you can’t eliminate this nuisance completely, but you can decrease your night walks by limiting what you drink after the sun goes down and avoiding anything with caffeine, which increases frequency of urination.
What’s keeping you up: Pregnancy-related anxiety
What’s going on: Wait, you’re going to be responsible for another human being? The pressure! If the sudden fear of what’s ahead is making you toss and turn at night, you’re definitely not alone.
How to deal: The best way to ease anxiety is to talk about your troubles: Letting someone else hear your concerns can somehow make your load seem lighter. But unload your woes before you hit the hay and designate your bed a “happy zone.” No discussing bills, potential catastrophes or anything else that leaves you feeling tense and worried while in your slumber space. Also try creating a routine to wind yourself down at night. (A relaxing bath is always a good bet.)
What’s keeping you up: That nap you took a few hours ago
What’s going on: The sleep-inducing hormone progesterone is coursing through your body, making you more tired during the day. Grabbing a nap is good, but if you let it go on for too long, it will keep you up at night.
How to deal: Limit daytime snoozes to one hour or less, and don’t nap late in the day if you can help it.
What’s keeping you up: Constant queasiness
What’s going on: Nausea doesn’t just strike in the morning—it’s a 24-hour affair for many moms.
How to deal: Keep quease-easing snacks by your bed, such as pretzels or soda crackers, and take a few nibbles when your tummy’s troubled. Steer clear of foods that can be tough on your digestive system, including spicy and fatty fare.
The 2nd trimester
What’s keeping you up: Thankfully, not much
What’s going on: The second trimester is often referred to as the honeymoon trimester—and not just because of the amount of time you’re likely to spend between the sheets doing things other than sleeping. It will also be easier to tally your 40 winks during this trimester than any other.
How to deal: Get all the sleep you can, and enjoy!
The 3rd trimester
What’s keeping you up: Heartburn
What’s going on: Burn, baby, burn: Indigestion keeps some moms up all night long.
How to deal: Avoid foods that are known to cause heartburn (spicy cuisine, caffeine, and acidic and fatty foods are a few) and sleep with extra pillows under your chest and head, which helps keep stomach acids where they belong—in your stomach! If necessary, ask your doctor to recommend an over-the-counter antacid. (TUMS is usually safe during pregnancy, and has added calcium.)
What’s keeping you up: You can’t get comfortable
What’s going on: Your tummy is getting bigger by the day, as are your breasts, which can make it hard to find a cozy sleep position.
How to deal: A supportive sleep or sport-style bra is a must for blossoming breasts, and many moms-to-be increase their pillow count significantly. Propping your belly on a pillow can help ease discomfort, as can sleeping with a pillow between your legs. A body or maternity pillow can provide additional support.
What’s keeping you up: You’re burning up
What’s going on: Hormones have your body temperature fluctuating, usually settling on the higher end.
How to deal: If your bed partner is shivering (and causing you to suffer with his vocalization), try sleeping under separate blankets instead of sharing. Doing so allows you both to customize your coverage needs, rather than pulling, twisting and sweating the night away. You can also try layering so you can easily adjust your temperature. Sleep in a comfy, cotton gown or pajamas and add a sheet, thin blanket and thicker quilt or comforter on top, then add or subtract as needed. Most expectant moms also find relief in setting their thermostat a little lower during their 40-week incubating period.
What’s keeping you up: Familiar first trimester woes
What’s going on: The bigger your belly gets, the more you have to pee, and anxiety hits a new level with your due date looming just around the corner. Constant exhaustion may also affect your nightly snooze.
How to deal: Revisit what worked for you in trimester one, and be sure to get plenty of rest, which is entirely different from sleep. Even if you can’t keep your eyes closed, allowing your body to unwind will help with excessive tiredness.
The 4th trimester
What’s keeping you up: The baby, of course!
What’s going on: Your new bundle of joy is looking for a snack every couple of hours—plus, you just went through one of the toughest physical acts known to mankind. (They don’t call it labor for nothing.)
How to deal: You’ll hear it a thousand times, but it’s true: Sleep when your baby sleeps. It’s also important to prioritize. Sure, you could mop the floor, but you could also sit on the couch and sing to your baby, conserving your energy for the hours you’ll no doubt be up during the night. You don’t have to turn into a sloth, but you don’t have to be a superwoman either.
What’s keeping you up: You’re the sole food provider
What’s going on: If you’re a nursing mom, you’re likely doing all the after-hours feedings. Many experts recommend holding off on introducing a bottle until breastfeeding is well established, but once it is, it’s time to start sharing. (If you’re sorely suffering from a lack of sleep, it might be better in the long run to go ahead and try a night bottle of pumped milk, even if it’s in the early weeks. A mom needs to be in good shape to properly care for her little one.)
How to deal: If your partner is in the house, ask him to take one of the middle-of-the-night mealtimes—say, 2 a.m.—so you can get a few more consecutive hours of sleep. If it’s just you and baby, see if a friend or family member will spend a weekend night with you and do the up-and-down so you can get a full six hours. And if you’re not comfortable going the bottle route just yet, have your partner get up, change the baby and bring her to you for her meal, so all you have to do is nurse right where you are.