Sleep during and after pregnancy

Sleep during and after pregnancy

Couples experience a lot of changes in their lives during pregnancy, ranging from obvious physical changes to emotional changes and changes in thought patterns. 

These changes are necessary to prepare you to become parents and help you adapt to the lifetime responsibility and commitment you have made.

One of the more distressing changes experienced by expectant couples is adapting to very different sleep patterns. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can be linked to various medical problems, (e.g. high blood pressure and loss of concentration). It can also be associated with long-term insomnia.

Having a newborn baby in the house will definitely interrupt your sleep patterns. By being informed and prepared, you can limit the effect on you and your partner. Your baby's circadian rhythm (body clock) is not yet established and by making a few easy changes, you can prevent or minimize sleep challenges.

Tips to help you sleep:

A new baby in the house is the responsibility of both parents, taking turns to assist each other so you both get a few hours undisturbed sleep.

  • Adapt your routine and try to sleep when the baby sleeps
  • Ask family and friends for help
  • Have 'visiting hours' when friends and family can visit that suit your routine
  • Put your phone on silent and relax whenever you can
  • Do not fall into the trap of rushing back into your pre-baby schedule of shopping, cooking, cleaning etc.
  • Rest and recover completely and take time to adjust and bond with your baby
  • Set a night-time routine and teach your baby to self-soothe, instead of forming a habit where he/she must be held, rocked or fed in order to fall asleep
  • Put baby down while awake but drowsy
  • Look out for sleep signals, (e.g. rubbing the eyes, yawning, etc.)
  • Make sure your baby is adequately hydrated. Babies can lose a lot of water on hot summer days and dehydration can cause a baby to fuss and not settle down
  • Ensure a safe sleeping position, (i.e. on the back or side but not on the tummy)
  • Try not to push sleep time, aim to gradually make bedtime earlier to increase the sleep cycle
  • Do not make eye contact with your baby during the night as this speeds up his/her heart rate, raises blood pressure and makes baby more awake
  • Make a lot of eye contact during the day as this will not only stimulate brain development and bonding, but also encourage baby to be more awake during the day

If you’re pregnant, you’ll need all the rest you can get. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done. Many women find it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position as their bump grows. Here’s what you should know about staying both comfy and safe throughout your pregnancy…

What is the safest sleep position? 

Most doctors recommend that you sleep on your side during pregnancy, especially as your bump gets bigger. According to Rosemary Byrnes, a registered nurse and Head of Campus at Western Cape College of Nursing, sleeping on your left side is ideal, as it allows optimal blood flow from the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood to your baby. Sleeping on the left also alleviates pressure on the liver and kidneys, allowing them to function well — this, in turn, should help to minimize swelling in the hands, feet and ankles. 

If you simply can’t get comfortable on your left side, don’t stress. Lying on your right side won’t pose any threat to your growing baby.  

Which positions should be avoided? 

Byrnes advises against sleeping on your back during the second and third trimesters of your pregnancy. This is because this particular position places the entire weight of your uterus and baby on your back, intestines and vena cava. If you wake up on your back, don’t worry — simply turn back onto your side. 

If you like to sleep on your tummy, that’s fine at the beginning of your pregnancy, but there will come a time when it’s simply not comfortable or even possible. 

How do you get comfortable?

If you’re not used to sleeping on your side, there are a few things you can do to get comfortable in the position. Many women find it helpful to use a full-body pregnancy pillow, but you can also get comfy by positioning a few pillows — place one between your legs, and one behind your back, for example. 

If you find yourself short of breath you might find it helpful to raise your chest in bed. To do so, simply place a pillow under your side. And, if you suffer from heartburn — a common issue during pregnancy — try propping your head up a bit for sleep. 

We hope you get the rest you need.

Kind regards,

The SpineAlign Team