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Pregnancy often brings on all sorts of sleep disturbances, including nausea, heartburn, leg cramps, and snoring. And bad sleeping habits from before you were pregnant may make these problems worse.
Here are some tips to help you get a better night's sleep – in pregnancy and beyond.
Watch what and when you eat and drink
Cut down on caffeine
Cut down on drinks and food that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate. Avoid them entirely in the afternoon and evening.
Drink less in the late afternoon and evening
Drink more fluids early in the day and less in the evening. This helps reduce bathroom breaks in the middle of the night.
Avoid heavy meals and spicy foods before bedtime
Spicy foods such as chili and acidic foods such as tomatoes can cause heartburn and indigestion. So can eating a big meal too close to bedtime.
If heartburn is a problem, eat lighter meals and eat them earlier. Give yourself two to three hours to digest your food before you head to bed.
Snack before bedtime to discourage morning sickness
If you're troubled by morning sickness, it may help to keep your stomach from becoming empty. Try nibbling on bland snacks such as crackers, especially before bedtime.
Learn how to relax
A 30- to 60-minute nap during the day makes you more alert, sharpens memory, and generally reduces feelings of fatigue. A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that more than half of pregnant women take at least one nap during the workweek, and 60 percent take at least one weekend nap.
Time your naps carefully, though. Napping too late in the day (or for too long) can interfere with your sleep at night.
Don't work out late in the day
Get your exercise early enough in the day to give your body time to wind down after a workout.
Working out too close to bedtime can rev you up and even rob you of deep sleep by interfering with your natural sleep cycle. Try to finish exercising at least three to four hours before you turn in for the night.
Practice relaxation techniques
Learn about sleep-inducing techniques such as guided imagery, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation.
Don't let your "worry list" worry you
Keeping paper and pen next to your bed may help relieve middle-of-the-night anxieties. When you wake up thinking about all the things you need to do the next day, write them down.
If writing down your thoughts makes you worry even more, finish making your list of questions, concerns, and things to do at least an hour before bedtime. Then try to put it out of your mind until morning.
Enroll in a class
If you're anxious about labor and delivery, baby care, or breastfeeding, sign up for a class. Knowing what to expect can help put you at ease. You might also benefit from the camaraderie of other pregnant women.
Practice good sleep "hygiene"
Stick to a sleep schedule
Try to regulate your sleep/wake schedule by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine
Develop a soothing bedtime ritual – such as reading or taking a bath – for the 20 to 30 minutes before you turn in for the night.
Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary
You may feel warmer than usual when you're pregnant, so keep your room on the cool side. Block out light and noise, too. They can wake you from a light sleep.
Use your bed only for sleep and sex
If you're in the habit of paying bills or watching television in bed, stop. Reserve your bed for other enjoyable activities like sleep, sex, and light reading.
Sleep on your left side
Train yourself to sleep on your left side. This position helps blood and nutrients flow to your baby and uterus, and helps your body eliminate waste and fluids. Getting used to this position early in pregnancy will help you sleep better when your belly is bigger.
If you just can't sleep...
Get out of bed
If you're still awake after 20 or 30 minutes, get up and go into another room. Listen to soothing music or read a magazine. When you feel drowsy, go back to bed.
If you wake up at night, don't fret! Interrupted sleep during pregnancy is perfectly natural.
Read more about how to get comfortable in bed during pregnancy.