Alaska Sleep Education Center

The Importance of Sleep during Pregnancy

Posted by Adeendren Iyan on Dec 22, 2020 12:09:00 AM

Close up of a cute pregnant belly

One of the earliest and sometimes most surprising signs of pregnancy can be… sleepiness! For those of us who escape the effects of morning (afternoon!) sickness, daytime drowsiness is often a clue that our body is going through some very interesting times indeed.

It’s normal to need more sleep than average when you are pregnant, experts have found. You really do need it—and so does your unborn baby. Consider it one of the many investments you will make in your health  

Why you need a full night’s sleep

It’s not simply that you are working hard to literally build a new person in your belly, and need rest. The quality and quantity of sleep you get can also affect your labour and delivery plans! For example, too little sleep can increase the risk of high blood pressure, and in turn, the risk of preeclampsia.

Likewise, too little sleep can increase your risk of gestational diabetes, because it impacts blood sugar levels through regulating insulin metabolism.

What else does sleep affect? Your immune system! This is critical because in pregnancy, your immune system actually stands down in deference to the baby, so as not to harm the young alien you are harbouring within. 

How much sleep do you and your unborn baby need?                    

The ideal for a pregnant mama tends to be about 9 hours a night. Yes, that’s right, a good bit more than the business-as-usual of 7 or 8 hours.

Surprisingly, too much sleep in the first trimester has the same effect on blood pressure that too little does! Both increase blood pressure in the third trimester. It seems you need to be wary of:

  • less than 6 hours
  • more than 10 hours

Like we said, aim between those extremes as much as you can, and try to make up any shortfall with naps.

What’s the Best Position for You to Sleep in?

Whether you prefer to sleep on your left or right, on your side is the position of choice for a pregnant person. A key reason is that there seems to be a greater risk to the baby’s health if you sleep on your back after the 28th week, which may have to do with the baby’s own weight impacting mum’s circulation, thus reducing oxygen available to the little one.

In general, the left is the preferred side, for reasons of human physiology—maximises oxygen transfer to your baby and also helps with fluid drainage for yourself, reducing those dreadful swollen ankles.

That said, a lot of mums find that the usual comfort of sleeping on your left is disrupted when a baby is hanging about on your stomach. Those of you with a gastric reflux concern may want to roll over to the right instead, so your stomach sits over your baby’s position.

Whatever you choose, make yourself comfortable with lots of pillows that mean you don’t have to cross your legs. Many people realise that a pillow wedged in behind them really helps them to not roll over on to their back. It wards off sleep apnea too.

Nocturnal Multitasking: Pumping for my toddler!

If you’re a second-time (or third-time, or more advanced!) mama, though, your sleep needs may run into a competitor. Maybe you have a little nursling who still needs their milk at night, and someone has to do that bit of nighttime parenting, right?

This is where Willow Pump can really help. If you’re already nursing, the gentle suction of the Willow Pump can help you safely express a night feed (or three). With a massaging motion that mimics a suckling baby, rather than the suction that most other electrical pumps rely on, Willow is particularly comfortable at a time when you might be experiencing some breast sensitivity or be worried about over-stimulation.

With Willow Pump, you can pump hands-free while reading their bedtime story—it’s really that quiet that your little one won’t even notice it. Then snuggle into bed yourself, secure in the knowledge that your child’s night milk is ready for their other parent to offer in the night. In fact, you can even express in your sleep—because Willow Pump is spill-proof even if you are lying down! With its self-sealing containers, you don’t even have to worry about getting up to store the milk.

It helps that the newest Willow is also more efficient, helping you express as much as 20% more than other wearable pumps, because pregnant moms often find their milk supply can ebb slightly. If you do notice a change in output, don’t worry—this is quite natural in pregnancy and you will find the output ratchets back up for both your children once the newborn is, well, born.

Either way, Willow makes sure you don’t have to bother with checking on whether and how well your pump is expressing. It will blink orange if it needs your attention; until then, if it is in Expression mode, it is working (and tallying up the ounces for you too). If you do find that orange light coming on, often you may simply need to realign the cups. If that doesn’t work, you may need to reset your Willow Pump and see—don’t worry, this is simplicity itself.

Chances are, though, you can just rest easy and enjoy your baby’s nightly tap-dance routine as you drift off. Good night, with Willow!

How to ensure you get all the shuteye you need

Between your usual work day and/or caregiving duties, and this year in particular when you’re firing on all cylinders from work-from-home to unplanned homeschooling, it can seem harder than ever to actually let your eyelids meet. A few tips that may help:

  • Try going turning in at the same time as your older child(ren), if you have any
  • If you can’t sleep in or get to bed early, see if you can fit a siesta in
  • Switch to decaf coffee, soothing herbal teas and calming tisanes from 3pm or so. Good options include chamomile, lemon balm and rooibos.
  • Use blue-light glasses; reduce brightness on your phone and other screens; and take advantage of ‘night mode’ settings. Blue light, in addition to long term side effects, can definitely interfere with sleep.
  • Get outdoors early in the morning and around sunset again to stabilise your melatonin production
  • Avoid exercising within two hours of your bedtime.
  • Learn and practice some relaxation exercises. Meditation will stand you in good stead during labour and while parenting through the early years too.
  • When you go to bed, put down the phone or e-reader. Instead of an ebook, choose either a physical book in an low-adrenaline genre, or even an audiobook. (If you use daily affirmations, this is an excellent time to record your own and play them back as you fall asleep.)

Let your eyelids close gently...

Wrapping Up

With these tips, you literally have what you need to manage, control and dictate the number of hours for which you get to sleep in pregnancy.

However, if these tips are not making your sleep pattern any better, you should talk to your OBGYN or one of Alaska Sleep Clinic's board-certified sleep specialists @ 907-357-6700. Alaska Sleep works with local OBGYN's at all of our locations in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Soldotna and Wasilla.

Watch two of our segments from KTUU Channel 2's "Moms Every Day" program about pregnancy and sleep apnea.  Just click the videos below.



Topics: pregnancy, moms

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