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Written by:  Kerri McLoughlin
Date: May 1, 2010

Many pregnant women sacrifice precious sleep because of common problems such as frequent trips to the bathroom, stuffy noses that make it difficult to breathe or painful leg cramps. While you may theoretically get eight hours of sleep at night, the sleep disturbances of pregnancy, which prepare you for caring for a newborn in the middle of the night, can leave you feeling groggy the next morning. The following problem-solving guide can help you enjoy some longer stretches of sleep.

Problem: Insomnia
Solutions:
Take a warm bath and do some relaxation exercises before bed. Try to stop worrying about things like what color to paint the nursery or who to invite to the baby shower. White noise, such as from a fan, may help. If your baby is squirming and kicking, try rocking back and forth in bed or rubbing your belly to get him to sleep. If you can't sleep because you're worried about labor, arm yourself during the day with information from books and reliable Web sites. (Take a pass on any negative stories you may come across.) If insomnia becomes a chronic problem, talk to your doctor about possible medication or other remedies that may help.

Problem: Back, hip and leg pain caused by carrying extra weight.
Solutions:
Pillows galore! Consider purchasing a U-shaped body pillow made just for pregnant women, or just grab extra pillows from around the house and place one behind your back, one under your belly and one between your knees. Using a heating pad for a while before bed does wonders for lower back pain, but never fall asleep on one.

Problem: Leg cramps
Solutions:
If you feel a leg cramp coming on, keep your toes pointed toward yourself. If you get a cramp anyway, massage the spot until the cramp subsides. Julie Dorset says, "I had bad leg cramps, and the doctor recommended I take calcium tablets for them."

Problem: Having to get up to go to the bathroom every few hours
Solutions:
Try not to drink too much a couple of hours before you go to sleep, limit your caffeine intake and make sure you go to the bathroom before getting into bed. Otherwise, there's not too much you can do since your baby has taken up residence on top of your bladder. Jen Wood says, "I was so thankful to finally have my kids and not be pregnant so I wasn't waking hourly to go to the bathroom. I actually enjoyed the 2 a.m. feedings because at least I could sleep for three hours at a time!"

Problem: Heartburn
Solutions:
Keep some Tums on your headboard, nightstand or other convenient location near your bed. For worse heartburn, ask your doctor if you can use something like Zantac for longer relief. Kyle Boegline, who had horrible heartburn and acid reflux during the third trimester of pregnancy, says, "Toward the end of both pregnancies, sleeping propped up on pillows was the only way I could get any rest."

Problem: Hunger and thirst in the middle of the night
Solutions: Although drinking during the night exacerbates the frequent bathroom trips, if thirst is a problem, keep a bottle of water by your bed. Stash snacks like packaged peanut butter crackers nearby. If you must get up, grab some milk and/or turkey, both of which contain the sleep-inducing tryptophan.

Problem: Stuffy nose
Solutions: Check with your doctor first, but sometimes a simple saline nasal spray will work just fine. Some doctors may recommend prescription medication for allergies. (These may also make you sleepy, which may be a bonus!) Over-the-counter nasal sprays are recommended for use for no more than a few days, and only if nothing else does the trick. Talk to your doctor before using these as well.

You don't have to wake up feeling like a zombie in the morning just because you're pregnant! When one of these sleep problems strikes, try some of these recommendations for instant relief and more satisfying slumbering.

Kerrie McLoughlin has experienced her share of sleep disturbances (including drooling!) with five pregnancies.



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