Sleep deprivation is a pregnancy rite of passage for most mothers-to-be. Studies have shown that 97 per cent of women in their third trimester report waking up at least once during the night and 92 per cent report sleeping restlessly.
So what's causing the expectant mothers of the nation to toss and turn at night when they should be somewhere in Dreamland? A smorgasbord of pregnancy-related aches and pains, that's what.
The fun starts in the first trimester. By the time you're 10 to 12 weeks pregnant, rising levels of estrogen, prolactin and progesterone can interfere with your ability to get a solid night's sleep. You may find it hard to get to sleep in the first place, thanks to your oh-so-tender breasts, and even if you do settle into a deep sleep, you're likely to find yourself trekking to the bathroom at least once in the middle of the night.
You can blame your midnight strolls on both the pressure of the growing baby on your bladder and the hormonal effects of progesterone, by the way: progesterone acts on the smooth muscle of your urinary tract, causing you to need to urinate more frequently than usual.
And, of course, if you're bothered by nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (the preferred term for "morning sickness" these days), then you may find the queasiness that you're experiencing can get in the way of a good night's sleep, too.
The third trimester is, by far, the worst trimester when it comes to sleep. Heartburn, an increased need to urinate, sinus congestion, leg cramps and difficulty finding a comfortable position all conspire against you in your quest of sleep.
The best way to manage sleep disturbances in late pregnancy is to practice good "sleep hygiene" -- stick to a regular sleep schedule; avoid daytime naps; exercise regularly; avoid caffeine within six hours of bedtime; and get out in the daylight in the afternoon in order to keep your body's internal clock functioning properly.
And if those never-ending treks to the bathroom are wearing you out, you'll want to decrease your intake of fluids right before bedtime.
When it comes to getting comfortable (no small feat at this stage of the game!), the most comfortable sleep position also happens to be the one that maximizes blood flow to your baby: lying on your left side. If you have a tendency to roll forward, you could find yourself left with a nasty backache in the morning, so it's a good idea to get in the habit of tucking a pillow in-between your knees.
Ann Douglas is the author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, The Mother of All Baby Books, and numerous other books about pregnancy and parenting. You can contact Ann via her website at www.having-a-baby.com.
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