Why Adequate Sleep is Critical during Pregnancy

Creative Commons License photo credit: 21TonGiant

“Make sure you get plenty of rest” has long been standard advice for mothers-to-be. Recent studies seem to show that adequate sleep may be even more important for expectant mothers and their babies than previously thought.

A study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and published in Sleep magazine has linked inadequate sleep during pregnancy to preterm delivery. The study concluded that poor sleep patterns led to a higher instance of preterm births, whether the sleep problems were experienced during the early or late stages of pregnancy.

The effects are most pronounced with women who have problems sleeping during the first trimester, but are also significant for women experiencing sleeping problems during the third trimester. Oddly, sleeping problems during the second trimester did not seem to significantly affect the likelihood of premature birth.

For many expectant mothers, getting adequate sleep is more easily said than done. The myriad of changes a woman’s body undergoes during pregnancy makes restful sleep elusive for many.

Women who experience sleeplessness or who are otherwise having difficulty getting enough sleep during pregnancy should make their doctors aware of the problem. Early intervention can be key both in helping you to get the rest you need during pregnancy and in preparing for any complications which could occur as a result of poor sleep patterns. Because adequate sleep is especially critical during the first trimester, it is important to make your doctor aware of any sleeping problems as early as possible.

Common suggestions for women with difficulty sleeping during pregnancy include:

  • Taking several short naps during the daytime.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques.
  • Using extra pillows, particularly if heartburn is keeping you awake.
  • Avoiding foods which cause heartburn.
  • Snacking on bland foods throughout the day.
  • Limiting fluids before bed time (while still being careful to drink plenty of fluid during the day).

Additionally, it is suggested that women sleep on their left side during the third trimester. Lying on your back for extended periods is not recommended late in your pregnancy. Side sleep is safer and typically more restful.

Inadequate sleep is not the only contributing factor to preterm birth, but it is one of the easier factors for expectant mothers to control. In most cases, simple changes like the ones mentioned above can make enough difference to significantly lower the chances of preterm birth.

So, now that you know the potential dangers of not getting adequate sleep during pregnancy, what will you do to make sure you’re getting a good night’s rest?

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