04 Feb Get to Sleep!
Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Often our minds immediately shift to our waking activities, such as exercise and a healthy diet, as the path to a healthy life. However, sleep is very important in keeping us healthy day-to-day. This doesn’t change during pregnancy. In fact, sleep may be even more important when pregnant.
Sleep is like a play. On the exterior you are still and restful, but behind the curtain it is quite a busy time, especially for your brain. During sleep many processes are taking place, such as cellular repair, hormone production, digestion, memory formation, and waste breakdown in the brain. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is the deepest sleep stage of your cycle. During REM, your brain is very active. Neurons fire much more frequently during REM, than during non-REM sleep. In fact, your brain can be just as active during REM sleep as when you are awake. Additionally, REM sleep is the time where most of your dreaming takes place, which is thought to help form memories.
During pregnancy, sleep takes on a new importance. Not only is your body working to process and maintain its own functions, but it is working to grow a new human. Due to increased demands on your body, it is recommended you catch a few more hours of sleep while pregnant.1 In the beginning of pregnancy it may be easier to sleep more as you adjust to the new levels of circulating progesterone, which may make you groggy.2 Additionally, early pregnancy does not come with the encumberment of a protruding belly, which may make sleep harder later in pregnancy.
Although more sleep may be required while pregnant, the bodily changes that accompany pregnancy may make it more difficult for you to catch those extra ZZZ’s. For example, nausea, acid reflux, back pain, restless leg syndrome (calf cramps), and increased urination can make your sleep much more disturbed than before becoming pregnant. So, what’s a girl to do? Here are a few tips to help you get those extra hours of sleep:
- Although hydration is important, limit your fluid intake in the two hours leading up to bedtime.
- If you find yourself being sleepy during the day, and you’re able to take naps, do it! Catch those ZZZ’s whenever and wherever you can.
- Wear compression socks to bed to calm Charley horses in the calves.
- Sleep on your left side and invest in a pregnancy pillow to help with the nausea and back pain.
- A pillow between your knees can help fix hip alignment and take pressure of your bladder making the urge to urinate less obvious.
- Try to consistently snack on small meals throughout the day and avoid large meals before bedtime.
Sleep is a necessity that only becomes more vital during pregnancy. It’s easy for us to forget how important it is, but to put it in perspective we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping (assuming you’re getting the recommended eight hours per night). Next time you’re forced with the choice of an additional two hours of Netflix streaming or going to bed, maybe choose the sleep instead. Your body (and your baby) will thank you for it!
REFERENCES: 1. NIH. Condition Sheet. How much sleep do I need? Website. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sleep/conditioninfo/how-much. Reviewed 12/1/2016. Accessed 01/10/2019. 2. American Pregnancy Association. Fatigue During Pregnancy. Website. http://americanpregnancy.org/your-pregnancy/fatigue-during-pregnancy/. Updated 02/21/2017. Accessed 01/09/2019.