Overcoming 9 Pregnancy Sleep Troubles

How to conquer pregnancy sleep troubles and settle in for a good night's sleep.

Sleep Woes

pregnant woman sleeping

PhotoAlto/ Matton

Soon-to-be moms worry about the sleep deprivation they'll face once their bundle of joy arrives. But how about getting a solid night of zzz when you're still pregnant? No easy task, as many mothers-to-be quickly discover soon after seeing those joyful two pink lines on a stick. "From the middle of my first trimester, I was waking up every few hours," says Melissa Halpern, of Brooklyn, New York. "Initially, it was constant peeing, then it was heartburn or leg cramps." But you don't have to spend nine months tossing and turning. Here's a guide to taking back your nights.

First Trimester

1. Sleep Stealer: Sore breasts. The first body change that most women notice? Painful breasts, thanks to skyrocketing estrogen and hcg levels (human chorionic gonadotropin -- the hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy). While these hormones prep your breasts for milk production, they also make them much more sensitive. "And as the breasts grow, women who were tummy sleepers may find that this is now impossible because any pressure on the breasts is painful," says Barbara Dehn, RN, author of Your Personal Guide to Pregnancy (Blue Orchid). "You may have to learn how to sleep in other positions, which can also lead to getting fewer winks."

Shut-Eye Solution: A hot shower just before bed can ease you into dreamland, and acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol), which is safe during pregnancy, can alleviate soreness, says Kellie Flood-Shaffer, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, in Lubbock, Texas. If it's difficult to sleep on your stomach and you can't get comfortable on your back, reposition your pillows: sleeping on your side and using a body pillow might do the trick.

2. Sleep Stealer: Bathroom trips. "I felt like I had to pee all the time," says Milena Alberti, of New York City, mom to Sebastian, nearly 3, and David, 8 months. "I was up every three hours." Why does this happen? "First, your uterus is growing and pressing on your bladder," explains Dehn. Plus, you're in hormonal flux and your body is releasing increased amounts of progesterone, which relaxes smooth muscles, such as the bladder.

Shut-Eye Solution: Stop your fluid intake at least two hours before bed -- a lesson that Alberti quickly learned. However, because hormones and space constrictions are to blame, there's little else you can do. The good news: Your need to pee constantly will temporarily subside in your second trimester.

3. Sleep Stealer: A throbbing head. Once again, blame your fluctuating hormones, namely your skyrocketing progesterone in the first and second trimesters. It causes your blood vessels to dilate, leading to headaches, which in turn may lead to sleep loss, says Dr. Flood-Shaffer.

Shut-Eye Solution: Acetaminophen is a safe fix, she advises. Other suggestions: apply a cool towel to your forehead. This will help the blood vessels contract while relaxing muscles and relieving the headache. And get rest when you can, if not at night, then by taking a catnap during the day; this will give your body a much-needed break from any fatigue-induced headaches, explains Dr. Flood-Shaffer.

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