pregnancy

Pregnant and Struggling to Sleep?

Hillary Bennetts

Table of contents

  • Intro
  • Why do Sleep Struggles Happen in Pregnancy?
  • How to Support Sleep During pregnancy
  • The Many Benefits of Magnesium
  • The Bottom Line

0 min read

Intro

Pregnancy can come with unsolicited advice. One of the most common things we are told is to “sleep now” or “get your sleep while you can”. These comments can be tough to hear, because when you’re pregnant, even if you feel exhausted, quality sleep can often be hard to come by. 

Research confirms what we all know: sleep disturbances are common in pregnancy. A US National Sleep Foundation’s Women and Sleep Survey found that 78% of women reported disturbed sleep during pregnancy.

So rather than telling you to get some rest, we’re here to help. We’re sharing more about why sleep struggles happen and what you can do to get better rest.


Why do sleep struggles happen in pregnancy?

There are several reasons why sleep struggles happen during a time when quality sleep is so needed.

Physical discomforts

During the second half of pregnancy, more physical discomforts tend to kick in as your baby is growing. Your belly is bigger, so your usual sleep positions may not work anymore. This is also the time when baby kicks start. They’re adorable and reassuring during the day, but they can interfere with sleep at night. 

Heartburn

Heartburn is a common pregnancy symptom and it can flare up at night for many women when they lay down. The discomforts associated with heartburn can cause difficulty in both falling and staying asleep.

Frequent bathroom trips

Many women find themselves needing to pee more often in pregnancy. While we can easily point to a baby putting pressure on the uterus as a cause, it isn’t the only reason. Increased urination can happen throughout pregnancy. This is because the hormones progesterone and hCG can both lead to urgency. In addition, increased blood volume can lead to more frequent urination. Approximately 20–25% of a person’s blood filters through the kidneys and leaves the body as waste or urine. So the more blood a person’s body produces, the harder their kidneys have to work to flush the extra fluid.

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is common in pregnancy. It is characterized by the urgent need to move the legs or a sensation of discomfort in the lower limbs. As the name suggests, these sensations happen when the body is at rest which means it tends to be disruptive when trying to sleep.

Uncertainties or anxieties about life changes

Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but it can also feel a bit overwhelming at times. Maybe you’re trying to prepare for maternity leave, figure out childcare, finish shopping, or plan for labor and delivery. No matter what is on your mind, it might be interfering with your sleep. 

 

How to support sleep during pregnancy

The good news is that there are some simple (and pregnancy-safe) steps you can take to help support your sleep.

Refine your bedtime routine

The time just before bedtime can affect your ability to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep. Try to avoid stimulating activities and screens, or wear blue light blocking glasses if you can’t completely get away from a screen. Ideally, you’ll put your phone to bed before you go to bed so that you resist the urge to scroll while you lay in bed. 

If you want to wind down, try reading a physical book or taking a warm bath. This goes for middle of the night wake ups, too. Avoid picking up your phone and use a dim night light in the bathroom to avoid stimulation.

Timing can influence sleep too. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (yes, even weekends). This can help to establish your natural circadian rhythm.

Watch Caffeine

You’re probably used to limiting how much caffeine you consume in pregnancy, but timing matters too. Aim to keep your caffeine consumption before noon to avoid potential sleep disruption. 

Consider your diet 

If heartburn is keeping you up at night, avoid spicy, heavy, or acidic foods, especially in the evening. You may also try avoiding carbonated beverages as they can trigger heartburn in sensitive people. 

Engage in daily movement

Research suggests that physical activity can help support sleep by increasing the production of melatonin, reducing stress, and helping to regulate body temperature. 
If possible, incorporate 30 minutes of exercise into your day. It doesn’t have to be intense, even a walk or gentle yoga is beneficial. Just try to do any high intensity activity at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.

Practice meditation 

If you struggle with racing thoughts or anxiety, try meditation or breathing exercises to calm the mind. There are several apps that offer guided meditations, including Headspace, Calm, and Expectful.

Consider deficiencies 

Restless Legs syndrome has been linked to deficiencies in Folate and Iron. Both are critical in pregnancy, so consider requesting lab work from your practitioner to understand your own levels. 

Supplement with Magnesium

Magnesium has been studied extensively for its ability to support restful sleep. This is why Magnesium is included in Sleep + Relaxation Support, a pregnancy-safe supplement with 3 forms of Magnesium, L-Theanine, L-Glycine, and chamomile.


The many benefits of Magnesium

Magnesium does so much more than support sleep. Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzyme systems in the body, including several that are critical to fertility, pregnancy, and overall health. For example, Magnesium is involved in protein synthesis, muscle contraction, nerve function, blood glucose control, hormone receptor binding, and blood pressure regulation.

Magnesium is found in foods like nuts, seeds, greens, and beans, but it can be tough to get all of the magnesium that you need from diet alone. Needs are high and pregnancy aversions may limit what you can consume. Plus, soil depletion has affected the Magnesium content of our foods. Research has found that Magnesium content in fruits and vegetables has dropped in the last fifty years, and about 80% of Magnesium is lost during food processing. 

The bottom line

Sleep struggles can be a frustrating reality during pregnancy, but there are certain adjustments you can make and supplements you can take that are both safe and effective. Try to identify some of the factors that might be contributing to your personal sleep struggles and address them as best you can. And remember, stressing about sleep won’t serve you, so tune out any noise and know your sleep struggles won’t last forever.

 

Like the article? Share it!

Hillary Bennetts, Nutritionist

Hillary Bennetts is a nutritionist and business consultant focusing on prenatal and postpartum health. In addition to nutrition consulting, she provides business consulting and content creation for companies in the health and wellness industry. Hillary spent almost a decade in corporate consulting before shifting gears to combine her lifelong passion for health and wellness with her business background and nutrition education.