Getting the Sleep You Need When You’re Pregnant


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Pregnant women are often told to “sleep now, while you can” — but sleeping during pregnancy is easier said than done. Just ask Emily Waggoner, who was surprised to find herself sleepless while pregnant with her daughter Sarah, now 3.

“Before pregnancy, I would get in bed, fall asleep easily and wake eight hours later,” she says. That changed around her sixth week of pregnancy, when she started waking multiple times every night. “I was sleepy at work and desperate for uninterrupted sleep.”

Waggoner isn’t alone. Nearly 8 out of 10 pregnant women experience sleep troubles.

“The high progesterone in early pregnancy contributes to fatigue, but it also disturbs sleep-wake patterns, so women feel sleepy but they may not be able to sleep well,” says Dr. Mary L. Rosser, an obstetrician and gynecologist with Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

And sleeping well during pregnancy isn’t just about comfort. A mom’s sleep can affect the health and outcome of her pregnancy. According to a new study, disrupted sleep during pregnancy is linked to preterm births. To help keep you healthy and rested while you’re with child, here are the top pregnancy-related sleep woes and how to start getting the sleep you need.

Potty Party

Pregnancy increases the kidney’s workload, which results in one of the earliest symptoms of pregnancy: more frequent urination. Often, these frequent bathroom breaks continue around the clock, interrupting sleep just as newly pregnant women are feeling more fatigued. “Getting up at night to use the bathroom is one of the most common sleep complaints during pregnancy,” Rosser says.

For Better Sleep: Waggoner started experiencing nighttime bathroom trips early in her first trimester. “Eventually, I learned to make it to the bathroom without fully waking up, and that made it easier to get back to sleep,” she says. If nature is calling too frequently at night, Rosser recommends eliminating caffeine and limiting liquid intake after 6 p.m.

Stress Less

Insomnia can peak during the third trimester, as physical discomfort increases along with worries about the approaching delivery and imminent parenthood. “There’s a lot to worry about during pregnancy, but the worst place to worry is in bed,” says psychologist Meg Lineberger, a behavioral sleep medicine specialist with Duke University Medical Center. Over time, the bed can become associated with stress and racing thoughts, which can lead to chronic insomnia.

For Better Sleep: Lineberger advises moms to “worry constructively” with a strategy that has been proven to quiet an overactive mind. “Set aside time earlier in the day for problem-solving. Write down your most pressing worries and two or three immediate steps you can take to resolve the issue. This way, your worries don’t follow you to bed,” she says.

Burning Love

Pregnancy hormones relax the esophagus, which can cause gastric acid to creep up. The resulting heartburn is a nightly trial for many pregnant women. Deborah Flandé of Houston suffered from nighttime heartburn with both of her pregnancies. “I had acid reflux all the way through my pregnancies — the third trimester was the worst,” Flandé says.

For Better Sleep: To put the brakes on acid indigestion, avoid acidic foods like chocolate, coffee and tomato sauces, especially late in the day. “In general, you want to avoid large meals in the evening if you’re having trouble with heartburn,” Rosser says. “Eat earlier in the day. Have a large breakfast and lunch, and a lighter dinner,” Rosser says. Sleeping with the upper body elevated — even in a recliner — can also help keep heartburn at bay.

Left Awake

Pregnant women are usually told to sleep on their left side to avoid placing pressure on vital organs and arteries. But for women who aren’t used to sleeping in this position, discomfort and worry can hinder sleep. “Many women are very concerned about sleeping in the correct position, and the stress can make sleep difficult,” says Dr. David E. Zepeda, an obstetrician at Texas Children’s Hospital.

For Better Sleep: While sleeping on the left side is preferred, women don’t need to feel chained to their left side during the night. “In truth, if a women sleeps on a soft surface, she doesn’t need to be overly concerned about occasionally rolling to her back or right side during sleep. If blood flow is compromised during sleep, the mother will automatically wake up,” says Zepeda, who notes that in 30 years of practice, he has delivered over 8,000 babies and never seen a problem stemming from a mother’s sleeping position.

Legs in Motion

A quarter of pregnant women experience restless legs syndrome, or RLS. Because most of these women didn’t experience RLS before pregnancy, they may not recognize the condition, which causes a creepy-crawly sensation in the extremities (which can include the arms) and a strong urge to move at night. RLS can become worse with each subsequent pregnancy, Rosser says.

For Better Sleep: While the cause of RLS is unknown, research has shown that the condition can be related to deficiencies in certain key nutrients, including iron, folate and magnesium. “We know that the vitamins and minerals involved in bone growth and contraction play a role in symptoms of RLS,” Rosser says. Women should have their physician check their levels of ferritin (stored iron) and continue taking their prenatal supplement daily. Regular exercise and a warm bath before bed can also help keep legs at peace during the night.

After a fitful first trimester, Waggoner accepted “her new normal” and started allowing more time for sleep —10 hours a night instead of 8. “I was a rested, thriving woman again by my second trimester. And it was great training for motherhood.”

Malia Jacobson is a health and parenting journalist and mom of three. Her latest book is Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers and Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades.

 

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September 2019

For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $5 suggested donation; free for children under 12

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Durham Arts Council
120 Morris Street
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Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
Telephone: 919-560-2719
Contact Name: Susan Tierney
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Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Crowder County Park
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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Cost: Free

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Knightdale Station Park
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Cary Towne Centre
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Sponsor: Kids EveryWEAR Consignment Sale
Contact Name: Gail Walker
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David R. Kahn Community Campus
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Cost: $5-$30

Where:
Downtown Pittsboro
205 Lorax Lane #5
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Contact Name: Tami Schwerin
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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The autumnal equinox signals the beginning of fall. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Raleigh, NC  27603
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Cost: FREE

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Lake Crabtree County Park
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
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Cost: $3/person

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Cost: Free

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Orange County Main Library
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Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
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Cost: Free

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Cost: See website for fees

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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free-$60

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Cost: $50/member, $55/nonmember.

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2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
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Cost: FREE

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Willis R. Casey Aquatic Center
2611 Cates Ave.
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Cost: Free

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Lake Raleigh Meadows
Campus Shore Dr.
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Sponsor: VisitCentennial
Telephone: 704-651-3179
Contact Name: Jude DesNoyer
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Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
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Cost: See website for fees

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Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
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Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
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Cost: Free

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125 U.S. 1-A
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Cost: Free

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West Chatham Street
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Sponsor: Cary Downtown Farmers Market
Telephone: 919-244-6463
Contact Name: Lindsey Chester
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Cost: $15/family, $5/individual

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Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
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Cost: $40 fee includes T-shirt/lunch

Where:
Finish line @ Campbell Law School
225 Hillsborough St
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Sponsor: Campbell Law School
Telephone: 919-865-5978
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Cost: Free

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Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Telephone: 919-250-1013
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Cost: Free festival admission. Food and raffle incur fees

Where:
J. Ashley Wall Towne Square
J. Ashley Wall Towne Square W. Third St. & W. Cypress St.
Wendell, NC  27591
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Sponsor: St Eugene Catholic Church
Telephone: 919-449-5234
Contact Name: Susan Welsh
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Cost: $5 advance tickets; $8 at the door. Free for ages 12 and younger

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


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Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are provided,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Lafayette Village
8450 Honeycutt Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Website »

More information

This family-friendly urban bluegrass festival features a dance tent, workshops and exhibit hall with instruments and gear in the Raleigh Convention Center, food vendors, a youth stage, juried...

Cost: Free-$60

Where:
, NC

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Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Cost: FREE

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Lake Crabtree County Park
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Cost: Free

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Carrboro Town Hall
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Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

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