Overcoming 9 Pregnancy Sleep Troubles

Third Trimester

6. Sleep Stealer: Back in the bathroom. "As the baby settles into a head-down position for delivery, his head will press against the bladder, and many women get up four to six times each night to urinate," says Dehn. (Tell us something we don't already know!) In addition, your kidneys are now working overtime, filtering your blood and producing urine at nearly double the rate than before pregnancy, which can lead to more frequent urination.

Shut-Eye Solution: As in the first trimester, avoid drinking anything a few hours before you hit the sack, says Dr. Flood-Shaffer. Just be sure to compensate for this by getting more water throughout the day. When you do urinate, lean slightly forward to fully empty your bladder. And don't hold in your pee: It can lead to a urinary tract infection -- not what you need at this stage of your pregnancy!

7. Sleep Stealer: Calf cramps. "I used to wake up screaming in pain from calf cramps," recalls Liz Delizia, of New York City, mother to 3-year-old Morgan. "Not exactly what your husband wants to hear from his pregnant wife in the middle of the night!" Doctors speculate they're related to the additional pressure on your legs from the extra weight you're carrying, slowed blood circulation during pregnancy, or the pressure your fetus places on the nerves that travel to your legs.

Certain mineral deficiencies might also cause calf cramps. "Your muscles utilize magnesium, potassium, and calcium to contract, and an imbalance to these electrolytes causes muscle cramps," says Dr. Flood-Shaffer. "When the baby begins to calcify its bones in the third trimester, it uses its mother's calcium stores. So if the mom doesn't get enough calcium in her diet, she'll deplete her stores and get muscle cramps, which usually occur at night."

Shut-Eye Solution: "In time, I learned that flexing my foot would stop the cramp or at least prevent it from getting worse," says Delizia. Another tip: Stretch out your calves before bedtime. For a good stretch, stand on a step and drop the heel of one foot off the back, then switch after 30 seconds, suggests Dehn. Also get regular prenatal exercise. Take brisk walks or pop in an exercise video at home. You'll keep your blood circulating, which can reduce the frequency and intensity of the cramps.

And don't overlook good nutrition. First off, make sure you increase your calcium intake. Work nutrient-rich sources of the mineral, such as low-fat dairy products and fortified orange juice, into your diet. Aim for 1,000 milligrams every day. Because magnesium and potassium are essential for muscle contractions and other bodily functions, consume foods that offer these nutrients too. Eating a varied, balanced diet will provide enough potassium, but some good sources are potatoes, bananas, soybeans, bran cereal, barley, and avocados. Magnesium-rich foods include almonds and cashews. Some nutritional powerhouses that contain all three minerals are spinach, yogurt, and salmon (for calcium, get canned salmon with soft edible bones). Finally, keep water handy: dehydration can cause an electrolyte imbalance, leading to muscle cramps.

8. Sleep Stealer: Restless legs syndrome (RLS). Up to 20 percent of all expecting women experience a tingling or burning sensation in their legs that creates an urge to move their lower limbs, says Grace Pien, MD, a sleep expert at the University of Pennsylvania Health System Division of Sleep Medicine. But what causes the twitchiness? "We suspect that RLS during pregnancy is related to anemia, and it's debated by many whether this is because of an iron deficiency or a folate deficiency," she says.

Shut-Eye Solution: Try boosting your iron and folate intake beyond what your prenatal vitamin offers, but seek the advice of your ob-gyn first, recommends Dr. Pien. Apply a heating pad for 15 to 20 minutes to help ease the compulsion to move your legs. The good news: Within a few weeks of giving birth, you'll see your RLS disappear entirely.

Whatever your sleep disruption, your body is preparing for the arrival of your baby. All of our experts agreed that losing sleep might be Mother Nature's way of helping you prepare for your baby's demands. So even if you're tired, know that you're going to handle this new mom thing like a pro!

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