Surprisingly, you rarely hear about the difficulties of getting a good nights sleep during pregnancy until you are experiencing it yourself.
The hormonal and physical changes that occur when you are pregnant can affect much of your daily routine and sleep is one of them.
Relaxation of your ligaments and soft tissues (fascia) happpens so your body has room for baby to grow but also causes a loosening effect on all of your joints, particularly your pelvic joints, to ease the birth of your baby.
The change in shape which occurs, along with an increase in body weight, especially from 26 weeks onwards, causes postural stress when you are sitting, standing and lying.
Add to that nausea and indegestion, urinary frequency and cramp, getting a good sleep during pregnancy is about as difficult as when you have a new born baby!
Why You Can’t Get Comfortable
As you collapse into bed and relax, your muscles will ‘let go’ and normally your ligaments would maintain your joint stablilty in what ever position you assume. However because the ligaments are more stretchy than usual, and because of your shape and increased abdominal weight changes, all feelings of support and comfort can disappear, even in side lying.
In side lying your top leg often feels more comfortable when it is placed right over your bottom leg onto the bed and this rolls the top part of your pelvis forward, straining the joints at the back of your pelvis, the sacro-iliac joints, and twisting your lower spinal joints. Spending too long like this will cause pain in your low back. Even when your legs are stacked on top of one another, which is better posture, your top leg pulls on your pelvis.
As your tummy grows the rotation and pull becomes stronger, stretching and straining your ribs and abdominal muscles as well.
Rolling Over When Pregnant Can Be So Painful!
Moving from one side to the other must be one of the most difficult things to do in the last trimester of pregnancy. The joints at the front and back of your pelvis take a lot of strain as the weight of your top leg moves and begins to facilitate your other leg to roll over towards the side you are going. The ligament holding the pubic joint ( at the front of the pelvis) together is normally very strong, but it can gap quite significantly during pregnancy and birth, and it is certainly stressed when you roll over. If you have any symphysis pubic dysfunction ( SPD ) you will know how painful this can be.
Because all of your core stability muscles; the abdominals, pelvic floor and deep back muscles are compromised during pregnancy, there is a lot less control you as you roll over.
10 Ways to Get Better Sleep During Pregnancy
Before you go to bed:
1. Does your bed pass the Goldilocks test, not too soft, not too hard, not too old?
2. Allow 2-3 hours sitting up right after a meal to minimise heartburn. Small snacks are ok.
3. Gently stretch your hamstring and calf muscles, your low back muscles and also rotate your upper spinal muscles to release muscle tension. Specifically stretch hamstring and calf muscles to reduce the possibility of leg cramp.
4. Use a hot pack on your upper or lower back, depending on where your ‘stressed’ area is.
Pregnancy Supports In Bed
With or without your pillow, to roll over straighten your legs a little and then roll like a log, keeping your legs together throughout the movement.
6. Wear a comfortable pelvic support belt to ‘hold’ your pelvis together in a good position when you are rolling over or getting in and out of bed to reduce joint strain and pain. Wearing a support belt may also help painful hips.
7. Cramp in your calf muscle is best dealt with by pulling your toes and foot towards you. Get someone to do this for you or get out of bed and stand on affected leg, then slowly bend your knee so you slowly stretch out your calf muscle. Get pelnty of magnesium into your diet, it may help with cramp. Bananas are a good food because they have a balance of magnesium, calcium and potasium. While expereincing the cramp breathe deeply, focus on your out breath and practice keeping ‘calm’ while pain is happening, good practice for labour!
What You Do During the Day Will Effect Your Sleep
8. Moderate your lifestyle if you can. Over tiredness both physically and mentally will impede your abilty to relax, and get much needed sleep. Restless legs can be caused by over tiredness. Wearing high heeled shoes will stress your low back causing fatigue in many muscle groups. Towards the end of pregnancy put your feet up in the evening to assist fluid being pumped around your body and most of all try not to slouch on the couch.
9. Look after your body during the daytime, if you have a job that requires prolonged standing, walking or bending, use a pregnancy support belt to reduce the stress on your joints by keeping better ailgnment and facilitating good patterns of muscle co ordination, which will reduce pain and fatigue.
10. Drink fluids through out the day, rather lots the end of the day to help reduce the number of times you go to the toilet.
Get Out of Bed Safely During Pregnancy
And finally, when you go to get out of bed, think about how your Nana does it!
Never sit straight up – doing this puts huge strain on your tummy muscle, back joints and pelvic floor muscles. You may notice your abdominal muscles spilt and bulge appear between the two rectus muscles, this is underlying abdominal muscle breaking through your fascia, called abdominal diastasis.
Always roll onto your side, push with your lower arm into sitting and then swing both legs over the side of the bed, pause and then stand. Just like your Nana.
Wishing you the best of sleep for the rest of your pregnancy!