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Sleeping Well While Pregnant

Denise Wade, seven months pregnant, runs a restaurant in Big Sky, Montana, and spends hectic lunch hours as its main chef. But despite feeling tired most days, she's often unable to sleep. "I have no problem sleeping at 3 p.m. -- it's 3 a.m. that gets me," says Wade.

A survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that nearly four out of five women had trouble sleeping during pregnancy. The reasons may include an expectant woman's altered respiration, her sheer physical bulk, and hormones, which are responsible for everything from overheating to old-fashioned insomnia.

What about the cliché that this is nature's way of preparing you for more sleep deprivation after the baby's birth? "If that were the case, nature would be doing an exceptionally bad job," says Thomas Roth, Ph.D., head of the department of sleep medicine at Henry Ford Hospital, in Detroit. "The body would want to prepare by being fully rested. It doesn't get used to losing sleep." Which means that the majority of expectant women enter motherhood already tired. But, if you're pregnant or plan to be again, there are ways you can sleep better.

You're wide-awake at 3 a.m. Probable cause: Experts suspect increased levels of hormones -- especially progesterone, which can act as a stimulant (though it has sleep-inducing properties, too). Cure: Start by regulating your schedule: Go to bed and rise at the same time every day. And if you can't fall asleep? "Get up, go to a dimly lit room, and do something boring: Watch a video you've seen before, read a tough book, watch bad TV," says Ursula Anwer, M.D., a neurologist at UMass Memorial Health Care, in Worcester. "Don't do laundry or turn on all the lights."

Barbara Rowley is a contributing editor to Parenting magazine and a mom of two in Big Sky, Montana.