The Importance of Sleep During Pregnancy & Postpartum (and how to get more of it!)

sleep during pregnancy

We all need sleep is a necessary part of life-- even more so when you're pregnant or postpartum. But sometimes that is easier said than done. 

It's common to experience sleep disturbances during both pregnancy and postpartum, whether it's from hormones or just being uncomfortable. We want you to take care of yourself during this time so you can enjoy it!

 

How much sleep do you need while pregnant?

It may seem impossible to get the recommended amount of sleep with all the possible causes of sleep disturbances. But what is normal and recommended? And why can sleep be so hard to come by?

According to this study, “Hormonal alterations during early pregnancy, enlargement of the fetus during late pregnancy, and a newborn with random sleep-wake patterns all contribute to disrupted sleep.”

Fun fact: progesterone secretions from the placenta (the hormone essential for maintenance of pregnancy) is known to cause fatigue and earlier sleep onset.

So how much sleep should you aim to get? Current evidence supports the general recommendation for obtaining 7 or more hours of sleep per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

Health care providers should prescribe 8 hours of bed time during pregnancy to assure adequate sleep as researchers found “women who slept less than 6 hours at night had longer labors and were 4.5 times more likely to have cesarean deliveries. Women with severely disrupted sleep had longer labors and were 5.2 times more likely to have cesarean deliveries.”

Another study reports that the "sleep you get in your first trimester can affect your health in the third trimester. Women who don’t get enough sleep (less than five hours per night) in the first trimester are nearly 10 times more likely to develop preeclampsia late in pregnancy.”

sleeping position when pregnant

What can help you get more/better sleep?

Getting comfortable is a huge aspect in getting more hours of sleep as well as better sleep overall.

According to Expecting and Empowered: The best position for sleeping while pregnant is on your left side. You’ll want to keep your ribs tucked in, right over your pelvis. Use a pregnancy pillow (or just regular pillows) tucked in along your back to keep you from rolling! Tuck a pillow between your legs, all the way up to your groin to keep your pelvis in good alignment.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS FOR SLEEP POSITIONING DURING PREGNANCY:

  • SCRUNCH A PILLOW UNDER YOUR HEAD AND NECK
  • KEEP YOUR CHIN TUCKED IN
  • TUCK A WEDGE UNDER YOUR BUMP OR ROLL A TOWEL UP AND PLACE IT RIGHT ABOVE YOUR HIPS
  • KEEP YOUR KNEES TOGETHER/AT THE SAME LEVEL

The optimal position for sleeping during postpartum is on your back, surprisingly. Place pillows under your legs to support your low back, one under your thighs and one under your lower leg/feet!

chiropractor when pregnant

Getting adjusted regularly by a webster certified chiropractor and prenatal massages can help keep you comfortable, especially when you’re near the end of your pregnancy! Staying comfortable and pain free is one way to improve your sleep while pregnant as well as postpartum. Your body goes through a lot of changes and potentially trauma during labor/delivery.

Sometimes swelling can lead to discomfort both during pregnancy and postpartum.

Controlling that can greatly increase how comfortable you feel while sleeping thus leading to better sleep! Some ways to manage any swelling includes:

  • Avoid standing for long periods
  • Watch your sodium intake
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Rest with your feet elevated
  • Minimize outdoor time if it’s really hot

Of course, if this is an abnormal amount of swelling with no explanation, please notify your physician!

Create an OPTIMAL SLEEP ENVIRONMENT:

Getting good sleep could be as simple as creating an optimal sleep environment! An ideal sleep environment is cool (According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal bedroom temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 and 19.4 degrees Celsius), dark (use black out curtains), and with white noise.

optimal sleep environment

Create and ESTABLISH A BEDTIME ROUTINE:

Just like children benefit from a bedtime routine, adults do as well! One of the most important things is going to bed at a regular time, ideally around 10:00pm or whatever will allow for 7-8 hours of sleep. 

SOME KEY COMPONENTS FOR A BEDTIME ROUTINE INCLUDE:
  • SWITCHING OFF YOUR ELECTRONICS 30-60 MINUTES BEFORE BED
  • SIMPLE RELAXATION OR MEDITATION TYPE ACTIVITIES
  • READ (FROM AN ACTUAL BOOK OR MAGAZINE)
  • LISTEN TO MUSIC
  • WRITE DOWN WORRIES OR TASKS FOR THE NEXT DAY
  • HYGIENIC TASKS LIKE A SHOWER AND BRUSHING YOUR TEETH

Watch what you’re eating and drinking before bed!

If you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure to avoid foods that can cause heartburn for dinner (like spicy foods, red foods, etc) and avoid caffeine after 2:00pm as that can make it more difficult to fall asleep later!

taking naps when pregnant

Take a nap or two!

This may not be possible if you work during the week, but getting extra rest during the day (and/or on the weekend) can be helpful if you’re experiencing sleep disturbances at night. Quick snoozes (little cat naps) are better than taking long naps as those can make you feel more tired!

WHAT TO DO IF YOU EXPERIENCE INSOMNIA:

It can take many people up to 30 minutes to fall asleep. So if you’re still awake after half an hour, it could be that you’re just not ready to sleep yet. Lying awake in your bed, trying to fall asleep can be counterintuitive and perpetuate insomnia.

It might help to get up, go into another room, have dim lighting only and repeat some of your routine. After a few minutes, go back to bed and try to fall asleep again.

However, if you feel that you’re wide awake, it might be better to stay up longer until you notice yourself feeling sleepy.

how much sleep when pregnant

GET SOME SUN DURING THE DAY:

We are programmed to be outdoors when the sun is out. This is why melatonin is produced during the dark hours and stops upon exposure to light.

When people are exposed to sunlight or very bright artificial light in the morning, their nocturnal melatonin production occurs sooner, and they enter into sleep more easily at night. 

The melatonin precursor, serotonin, is also affected by exposure to daylight. Normally produced during the day, serotonin is only converted to melatonin in darkness. So the more sun you get, the more serotonin that is produced, and the more melatonin you have resulting in a better night’s sleep!

We hope you are able to stay as rested as possible during pregnancy with these tips!

AUTHOR: Ashley Olson is a certified paediatric sleep consultant, owner of Heaven Sent Sleep, and passionate about helping new parents, experienced parents, desperate and sleep-deprived parents form healthy sleep habits for their children.

She has over 4 years of experience in working with families and has completed over 150 hours of coursework plus continuing education related to infant and toddler sleep. The focus of her work is on fostering a routine that grows your bond with your child while improving their sleep habits. She specializes in custom sleep plans and one on one support in changing sleep practices!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published