How to fall asleep when pregnant
I can't get comfortable, especially at bedtime. How can I fall asleep and stay asleep in a position that's safe for baby?

When it comes to sleep, you just can't impose your will on your body. So our goal here is to help you find the little things that will make you more comfortable, so your body follows what your mind wants.

Some suggestions:
  • If you have difficulty breathing (from the weight gain), try multiple pillows, which will pull the baby away from your diaphragm so it can move your lungs up and down.
  • Don't drink water after 6 p.m. to reduce the need to get up to use the bathroom. And no caffeine, either. Make sure that you do get your 2 quarts of fluid a day before that, especially if you're in a hot climate.
  • Don't try to suffer through all the aches and pains you might be experiencing. It's actually better for your mind and body to quiet the pain (with Tylenol) so you can get the restorative sleep you need rather than grit your way through the aches just to avoid taking medicine.
  • Try a small glass of warm skim milk. The lactose in the milk is a sugar, which stimulates insulin, which helps proteins like tryptophan in the milk enter the brain—and that can help people fall asleep. If you develop lactose intolerance, which many moms do during pregnancy, try soy milk or rice milk.
  • Create a dark and quiet environment in the bedroom, using the bed for sleep and sex only—and not for work or surfing the Web.
  • Ratchet up the air conditioner. It's easier to sleep in a cooler environment. Plus, pregnant women are extra hot.
  • Try sleep meds. If you want to try the pharmaceutical route, you should talk to your doctor. Benadryl is considered safe for pregnant women to take for sleep. It's sometimes even given to newborns. You can also consider an over-the-counter medication called Unisom, which has been shown to help promote sleep during pregnancy. Just don't use it for more than a week.
  • Lie on your side. We know you're not going to lie on your stomach as your belly grows and you enter the second trimester, but we do want you to avoid lying flat on your back. That's because when you do so, the weight of your uterus compresses the blood vessels that are feeding the placenta, creating a drought in the blood lake. Lying on your left side is better than lying on your right side because it allows more blood to flow to the uterus. Either side is better than lying on your back, because when you do, you also compress a large vein called the vena cava. The pressure (from that compression) reduces the flow of blood back to your heart, as if you were bending a water hose, and that decreases the blood flow to your uterus and to your baby.
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Do you have more questions about pregnancy health? Get even more answers from RealAge's YOU: Having a Baby Center.