Pregnancy sleep problems and solutions to let you sleep

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Sleep Saboteurs

Knock out these hassles and sleep like a baby


Chances are you’ve heard this refrain: “Sleep now, because you won’t get much when the baby arrives.” It’s sound advice, for sure, but getting some shut-eye can be a challenge even in your second trimester.

Sleep is elusive at this stage for many reasons. Fortunately, there are solutions— or at least ways to cope. Try these tips for combating five of the most common obstacles to an eight hour snooze.

PROBLEM: Your bed feels like a rocking boat, and solid sleep is a distant dream.

SOLUTION: Like many moms to-be, Diana Lane still felt nauseous at the beginning of her second trimester.So the Tallahassee, FL, mom kept a meal-replacement shake on her bathroom vanity for when she woke up in the middle of the night.Keeping your tummy full can help ease nausea, even overnight, and she found taking a sip settled her stomach long enough to get back to sleep.

A heightened sense of smell is often behind this queasiness, says Kathryn Lee, R.N., a sleep expert and professor of nursing at University of California, San Francisco. Avoid aromatic laundry detergents and ask your partner to go easy on the cologne. Lee also recommends bands that stimulate the pressure point on the underside of your wrist. They’re cheap, drug-free, and can work like magic.

If you’re taking an iron supplement, it may be what’s upsetting your stomach, so check with your care provider. If nothing helps, ask about prescription remedies.

PROBLEM: Your calf muscles contract into knots, causing fits of agony.

SOLUTION: Seventy-five percent of pregnant women experience leg cramps, Lee says. But experts are divided on the cause. “A charley horse in pregnancy is the same As a charley horse outside of pregnancy,” says Morristown, NJ, ob/gyn Sharon Mass.Eating potassium-rich foods such as bananas can’t hurt and might help.
If you get a cramp, immediately stretch and then massage the muscle. “Flex your toes sharply backward or stand on the foot,” Mass advises. A warm, damp compress can help, too.

PROBLEM: Sleeping with a bowling ball attached to your middle is nearly impossible to get used to.

SOLUTION: No matter how much or how little you gain during pregnancy, an ever-changing shape means you’ll need to keep finding different sleeping positions.“I roll over, and suddenly it’s a big deal,” says Cindy Shore Wadness from Natick, MA, about trying to sleep during her pregnancy.

When she was pregnant with her third child, Lara Zacharias of Glenn Allen, VA, snoozed best on her side with a body pillow between her legs. Is sleeping on your left side a must? “Sleeping on the right side is fine as well,” Mass says.

But once you get into the second trimester, lying on your stomach may be uncomfortable, and sleeping on your back can compress an important blood vessel. Still, if you wake up prone, don’t panic.There’s no point in losing sleep over how you’re sleeping!

PROBLEM: When you lie down, heartburn rises up.

SOLUTION: Avoid spicy, greasy, and fatty foods, and eat your meals more than an hour before you go to bed.Gravity can help, so before nodding off, prop up your head and shoulders with pillows.

Andrea Necamp of Chicago tried a 1,000-year-old folk remedy—fennel seeds. Whenever she felt that familiar burn, she munched on a handful from a bowl at her bedside and washed them down with a little water. “It’s practically instant relief, harmless, and inexpensive,” she says. Over-the-counter heartburn Remedies may also help, but check with your care provider first.

PROBLEM: Trips to the bathroom have you in and out of bed all night long.

SOLUTION: Hormones play a role in this phenomenon, causing the bladder to relax. And as your uterus grows, the bladder gets cramped. The bad news is that there may not be much you can do.

When she was pregnant last spring, Karisa Curtis of Menlo Park, CA, cut down on water before bedtime to try to improve her bathroom odds. But, Lee says, “getting up at night to pee is unavoidable.” To minimize the disruption to your sleep pattern, make it quick and avoid lots of light and activity.

Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep

Not much research has been done on how pregnant women’s sleep affects fetal development.But one thing is certain—getting at least seven hours means you’ll be less moody and more alert. A 2007 Harvard University study showed that a good night’s sleep is one key to remembering where you put your keys or the date of your next doctor appointment.

“Of course if we have a good night’s sleep, we feel better,” says certified nurse-midwife Leslie Ludka, a senior technical advisor for the American College of Nurse-Midwives in Silver Spring, MD. “But even if the mother is not getting sleep, the baby will grow.”

— Laura Lainge

A freelance writer from Baltimore, Laura Laing vividly remembers being jarred awake by the excruciating pain of pregnancy-induced leg cramps. Laing also writes for Parents and Kaboose.com.

 Pregnancy sleep problems and solutions to let you sleep

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