Why you shouldn’t feel guilty about napping while pregnant

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During her third trimester of pregnancy,Vivian Malauulu, of Long Beach, CA, craved sleep even more than chocolate.
As a high school theater director, she frequently dozed during rehearsals in the comfortable darkness of the auditorium. When she awoke, she would yell, “Take it from the top!” so none of her students knew her secret.

According to the 2007 Sleep in America Poll by the National Sleep Foundation, more than half of pregnant women take at least two naps each week. In the same study, 84 percent of pregnant women reported experiencing sleep problems a few nights a week.

“Because women are getting bigger in their third trimesters, it’s harder to get comfortable. And their nighttime sleep may be disrupted by frequent trips to the bathroom, so they naturally feel sleepy during the day,” says Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., author of Sleep Deprived No More: From Pregnancy to Early Motherhood. “And the only way to make up for lost sleep is to sleep.”

Mindell, who’s also a professor of psychology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, suggests that pregnant women take a planned nap to recharge every day they can. Ideally, that respite should be in the early afternoon and not last longer than 45 minutes. If you sleep too long, you’ll be groggy and may feel worse than before the nap. And if you sleep too late in the day, you’ll have difficulty falling asleep at night.

For many moms-to-be, resting during the workday presents a challenge, but it can be done. Napping at work can actually benefit both you and your employer. Meir H. Kryger, M.D., director of education and research at Gaylord Sleep Medicine in Wallingford, CT, and the author of A Woman’s Guide to Sleep Disorders, suggests exploring your options, including when and where to nap, with your supervisor.

“Let your boss know that you need the rest to improve your work performance, not just to feel better, because his prime concern is probably not how you feel,” Kryger says.

Miriam Rueda, of San Diego, CA, discovered that her boss didn’t really care if she ate her lunch at her desk, so she used her actual lunch hour to recline in the driver’s seat of her car and catch a few Z’s.

“I scoped out the parking spots that would be shady around noon and parked there in the morning,” Rueda says. “After napping, I found I could get through the afternoon without feeling fatigued.” Because she moved her car after her nap, while her co-workers were still at lunch, Rueda’s strategy also garnered her a prime parking space next to the building for her drive home.

Although quick winks in the auditorium worked for Malauulu, she always believed she couldn’t fall asleep during the day unless she was in a cold, dark room surrounded by plush pillows. So she didn’t bother carving out time for full-fledged naps. Although she did try to rest in a recliner during her lunch break, she never thought she fell asleep.
But Kryger says that getting out of the stressful environment of your office or cubicle can be helpful whether or not you fall asleep—even if it’s just for a few minutes. He also notes that some people think they don’t sleep but actually do. “If you feel better afterwards, then you probably fell asleep,” he says.

If you’re worried about what your co-workers might think if you take naps or rest breaks, don’t be. Moms-to-be who are exhausted by work will be physically drained by the time baby arrives. And the healthier and more rested you are when going into labor, the better, Kryger says. “Napping is good for sleep-deprived moms-to-be. And they shouldn’t feel guilty about it, because they are doing themselves and their unborn baby a lot of good,” Kryger says.

— Heather Larson, a mother of two in Tacoma, WA, has also written for Yoga Journal and Better Homes & Gardens.

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