Growing a human is exhausting. It’s as if a magical spell was cast the day your pregnancy test came back positive — except Sleeping Beauty’s fairy didn’t gift you with 100 years of rest and true love’s kiss is what got you into this.
If only you could sleep more…
It’s completely normal for a pregnant woman to feel fatigued, especially during the first and third trimesters.
Somewhere between morning sickness and elastic waistbands, Little Bo-Peep has lost your sheep (she probably sold them to Sleeping Beauty) and there are none left for you to count to sleep.
One of the first signs of pregnancy is fatigue. It smacks you by surprise, like the sliding glass door you assumed to be open.
Beginning as early as conception and implantation, pregnancy hormones instantly affect your body, mood, metabolism, brain, physical appearance, and sleep pattern.
In the second trimester, which begins at week 13, many women get a fresh surge of energy. This is a great time to tackle those important before-baby-arrives chores, because as you enter the third trimester, which begins at week 28, that extreme exhaustion returns.
Simply put, you feel tired because you’re growing a baby.
In addition to hormonal changes, physical and emotional changes also lower your energy levels and make you feel fatigued.
Some of these changes include:
- increased levels of estrogen and progesterone (which, by the way, acts as a natural sedative)
- lower blood pressure and blood sugar
- increased blood flow
- disrupted sleep
- digestion issues
- morning sickness
- stress and anxiety
- frequent urination
- back, hip, and pelvic pain
When to contact your doctor or midwife
If insomnia, restless legs syndrome (the uncontrollable urge to move your legs while resting), sleep apnea (a potentially serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts), preeclampsia, or any other condition is hindering your sleep, talk to your doctor or midwife during your next appointment.
Other reasons to contact your doctor or midwife include, if you:
- feel concerned that the pregnancy fatigue is a sign of something more, like anemia, gestational diabetes, or depression
- develop any changes in your vision
- experience dizziness
- urinate less frequently
- have shortness of breath, pain in your upper abdomen, or heart palpitations
- experience severe headaches
- notice a swelling of your hands, ankles, and feet
Your healthcare practitioner can help you uncover any problems and offer additional solutions.
Growing a baby obviously takes a toll on your body. Don’t ignore the signals your body is sending you. Reach out to others if you’re struggling to sleep throughout your pregnancy. Ask for help from your partner.
No matter how tired you get, you should avoid taking any over-the-counter medicines as a sleeping aid.
Most pregnant women should spend at least 8 hours in bed, aiming for at least 7 hours of sleep every night. If possible, try going to sleep a little earlier than usual.
As your body changes, make sleep a priority and follow these tips to combat pregnancy fatigue:
Keep your bedroom dark, clean, and cold
Create the right atmosphere for optimal rest.
In order for your body to reach deep sleep, cover any windows with blackout curtains. Turn off any digital clocks and unplug nightlights illuminating a glow (cover the display with electrical tape if you don’t want to completely turn the device off).
Set the bedroom temperature a little cooler than the rest of your home, for optimal quality of sleep. Eliminate any needless clutter and wash your bedsheets often. Save your bed for sleep, cuddling, and sex.
Take a nap
Napping can make up for any sleep lost at night, due to frequent trips to the bathroom, body aches, and every other pregnancy irritation. Avoid napping in the late afternoon and early evenings.
If your employer frowns upon nap time, find a good spot in the breakroom and put your feet up while you eat lunch.
Eat healthy meals and stay hydrated
In the beginning, pregnancy can also lower your blood pressure and blood sugar, which can make you feel tired. But a lack of sleep can cause your blood sugar levels to rise, increasing the risk for gestational diabetes.
Keep your blood sugar and energy levels balanced by eating often, such as six small meals a day. Frequent meals that are high in nutrients and protein help to combat fatigue.
To avoid nighttime leg cramps, stay hydrated by drinking enough water and fluids throughout the day.
Keep a pregnancy journal or dream diary
Keep a journal throughout your pregnancy. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, try writing in it.
Pregnant women experience more vivid dreams and better dream recall, due to hormonal shifts affecting sleep patterns, increased fatigue, and repeatedly waking in the middle of a sleep cycle.
Sleep diaries can also be enlightening, providing concrete data about your bedtime, how long it takes for you to fall asleep, nighttime awakenings, awake time, and sleep quality.
Avoid caffeine after lunchtime
As far as stimulants go, caffeine may keep you awake long into the night or cause you to wake more frequently. It can also keep your baby active, kicking and rolling around inside your belly as you try to sleep.
Experts recommend pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to two home-brewed cups of coffee, or less than 200 milligrams, per day.
Ask for help from family and friends. Take a warm bath. Ask your partner for a massage. Take a break.
Wear soft, non-restrictive clothing and sit in a cozy chair with a good book and read for a little bit. Light a lavender candle. Play soothing instrumental music. Have a cup of warm chamomile tea.
You get it.
The demands of pregnancy together with the weight gained puts an enormous amount of pressure on your body.
In addition to more restful sleep, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states the following benefits of exercise during pregnancy:
- reduced back pain
- eased constipation
- decreased risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery
- healthier weight gain during pregnancy
- improved overall general fitness
- strengthened heart and blood vessels
- improved ability to lose the baby weight after your baby is born
It can take a few hours for your body to fully wind down after energetic workouts, so plan for any physical activity to take place earlier in the day. If the exercise is light, like yoga, it’s unlikely to interfere with your sleep.
Always check with your medical practitioner or midwife before beginning a new exercise program during pregnancy.
Pregnancy can be a tiring experience — both emotionally and physically. It’s important to remember: You are not alone.
Nearly all women experience more fatigue than usual at some point during their pregnancy. Take it as a message from your body. It’s telling you to rest, and you should definitely listen.