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5 First Trimester Sleep Solutions

Larsen & Talbert

You're pregnant, and you're exhausted. One of the earliest signs of pregnancy, thanks to rising progesterone levels, is the kind of sleepiness that causes you to doze off in the middle of your favorite show. But it's hard to get enough rest when you're thwarted with discomfort, nausea, heartburn and other sleep snatchers. Try these tips to get some much-needed shuteye during your first trimester:

Sleep Buster 1: "My sore breasts make it hard to get comfortable."
For many women, the first pregnancy symptom is achy, swollen breasts caused by an increase in hormones and blood flow. The change is positive overall because your body is preparing for breastfeeding, but the pain can make it tough to cozy up under the covers.

The Solution
Start sleeping on your side, which is the optimal position for fetal nourishment. As your breasts grow, be sure you're wearing a bra that fits. Consider wearing a maternity sleep bra or comfy sports bra to bed, and hug a body pillow to help you protect your sensitive breasts. If soreness still interferes with sleep, you can take acetaminophen during pregnancy.

Sleep Buster 2: "I keep waking up to go to the bathroom."
Frequent bathroom visits are normal and expected during your first trimester and beyond. "Your blood volume increases by 50 percent during pregnancy, and that increases the amount you pee by 50 percent," says Dr. Aaron Caughey, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and associate dean for Women's Health Research and Policy at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine.

The Solution
Cut down on fluid intake a couple of hours before bed. But be sure to get plenty of liquids during the day to compensate. To ease the transition back to dreamland, avoid too much light. Keep a nightlight on in the bathroom to avoid bright overhead lights and resist the urge to check your phone (that text can wait until morning!).

Sleep Buster 3: "I'm too nauseated to sleep."
Though it's often referred to as "morning sickness," queasiness during pregnancy can show up any time, day or night. It is a completely normal early pregnancy symptom, Dr. Caughey says, and though no one is sure of the exact cause of nausea, it is exacerbated by hypoglycemia.

The Solution
Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day to help combat nausea. To keep blood sugar levels up through the night, Dr. Caughey recommends enjoying a bedtime snack of protein or fat, such as cheese or peanut butter, and nibbling bland crackers first thing in the morning. For most women, nausea recedes around the end of the first trimester. For more tips, check out How to Quell Morning Sickness.

Sleep Buster 4: "Lying down makes my heartburn worse."
There's nothing like indulging in a pregnancy craving (chili cheese fries, anyone?), only to regret it when you feel the sleep-extinguishing burn in your chest and throat. "Progesterone relaxes smooth muscles, including the opening between the stomach and the esophagus," Dr. Caughey says. This allows acid and stomach contents to flow up your esophagus. Ouch!

The Solution
Eat dinner early, as a heavy meal right before bed is a recipe for heartburn. Eat slowly and keep track of which foods cause problems. Rather than lying flat, elevate your head either with an extra pillow or by raising the head of your bed. Dr. Caughey says taking calcium carbonate is safe during pregnancy, but if that doesn't work, ask your provider about other heartburn medications.

Sleep Buster 5: "I can't get to sleep when my mind is racing like this."
A lot of changes occur during your first trimester, so it's not surprising if you're having trouble relaxing. Your body wants rest, but your mind won't stop: "Which car seat should we buy? Did I remember to take my vitamin today? Are we ready to be parents?"

The Solution
For starters, avoid caffeine and sugar, which are common sleep-snatchers even if you're not pregnant. If you're feeling stressed, record your feelings in a journal and brainstorm solutions. For instance, if you're nervous about the birth, you could sign up for a birth class to ease your mind. Before bed, settle down with soothing activities: a warm shower or bath, a cup of warm milk or decaf tea, quiet music or relaxation exercises.

Note: If you're having difficulty sleeping but aren't sure why, talk to your healthcare provider. Certain health issues, such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, can be more prevalent during pregnancy.

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