Pregnancy creates a lot of challenges for women's sleep! There are feelings of excitement, anxieties, hormonal influences and physical comfort considerations to bear in mind with women during pregnancy. In addition to the cognitive behavioural strategies that help improve sleep these seven specific suggestions can help prengnant women navigate improving their sleep:

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

  1. Use pillows liberally!  As your bump grows, you are likely to be advised to avoid sleeping on your back. However, side sleeping can be awkward too. Use pillows to prop yourself as needed to be comfortable: some women like them between the knees and another one to 'hug' or tuck between their bump and the bed.
  2. Keep snacks nearby.  Snacks like crackers on the bedside table can be a lifesaver for some women who have nausea at night. Keeping them close to hand can help avoid trips to the kitchen with the bright lights of the fridge in your face, and having a favourite soothing snack can help keep nausea or indigestion at bay.
  3. Stay active.  As long as your doctor says it's safe for you to exercise during pregnancy, keep exercising. If you are not an exercise buff, even just getting more physical during the day can help build sleep drive, enabling you to fall asleep more quickly and get back to sleep faster.  
  4. Minimise the impact of trips to the loo. Trips to the loo are hard to avoid during pregnancy - day or night - but their impact can be reduced. Aim to have as much sleep drive built as possible (to make it easier to get back to sleep), using minimal (but safe) levels of light on your trip, and be as brief as you can to help yourself back to sleep.
  5. Keep your stress under control. Pregnancy is often a time of excitement and worry - all at the same time! Plan what you can and prepare for things you can influence. However, the reality is that you can't predict or plan for everything, so try to avoid excessive unhelpful stress.  If you are stressed at night, get up and do something relaxing and enjoyable rather than staying in bed upset.
  6. Treat reflux safely and early. Gastric reflux is prevalent in pregnant women. It is also a 'silent' cause of insomnia (in many non-pregnant people as well!). Your doctor can advise on safe ways to treat reflux to make you more comfortable - and help you get better sleep.
  7. If you begin to snore excessively, see your doctor. Weight gain and hormonal changes affecting soft tissues can cause snoring, which in turn can cause high blood pressure.  Obstructive sleep apnoea can develop and affects an estimated 1 in five women, but there are very effective treatments that reduce the risks it poses to both the mother and baby.

Tracy Hannigan is one of the UK's leading sleep coaches and insomnia experts, running a sleep therapy practice for individuals with insomnia (www.tracythesleepcoach.co.uk). Tracy uses her background in psychology and her experience as a healthcare professional alongside her CBTI training to help people reclaim their sleep so they can live the active and vibrant lives they want and deserve. 

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