How much sleep do you need for a healthy pregnancy?

There hasn’t been much research into how much sleep women need, and there’s been even less done on how much sleep we need during the different stages of pregnancy. A typical recommendation for adults is to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. I think any pregnant woman would agree that sleep needs go up during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester.
We mamas are not known for being too good at self-care, but it turns out that getting enough sleep while pregnant is really important. Sleep deprivation puts us all at increased risk of accidents and injuries, and it can alter metabolism, immune system, and hormonal balance. It can even increase your risk of death.

For pregnant women, the costs of getting too little sleep are especially high. When it comes time to give birth, women who sleep only 6 hours at night were in labor 9 hours longer than average. Lack of sleep also increased the amount of pain women felt during labor. Women who slept less than 7 hours were more than 3 times more likely to have a c-section. Yikes! (Source)

With the demands of work, child rearing, and keeping a home, along with extra nighttime trips to the bathroom, how many of us are actually getting enough sleep while pregnant?

Baby sleeping in knit cocoon. Title: Sleeping for Two, Sleep Deprived Pregnant Women Average an Extra 9 hours in Labor.

Sleep Challenges During Pregnancy

We have had our share of sleep challenges in the GrowingSlower household. When BabyE was 4 months old, I was loving our nighttime cuddles. Even at eight months and nine months, I was fine with the fact that baby didn’t sleep through the night. He is now 18 months old and thankfully his sleep as improved. He’s only waking up 2 or 3 times a night. I had such a great attitude about this all for a long long long time, until I got pregnant.

Even though we’re working hard with our trusted health care professionals to help our toddler sleep better, right now he isn’t. The fact is, I have to find a way to get some sleep and have a healthy pregnancy no matter what is going on with my toddler’s sleep challenges.

I was alarmed to realize that with my (and my toddler’s) usual sleeping habits, I was only cobbling together a total of 6 hours of sleep per night. That put me at risk for all of those scary-to-me risks for a long and painful labor and a dramatically increased risk of C-section. After experiencing the bliss of a painless homebirth with my first pregnancy, facing these risks is the last thing I want to do!

Sleep Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

Healthy Pregnancy Challenge Badge1. Sleep when baby (or toddler) sleeps. 
This was great advice when you had a newborn, and it’s even better now if you are pregnant with older children. Resist the temptation to catch up on chores while they are sleeping. For me this will mean turning off my phone and actually closing my eyes. No more checking email, Facebook, or reading blogs during nap time!

2. Go to bed early.
It is so easy to stay up just a little later to get one more thing done before bed. For most of us moms, after the kids go to bed is the only personal time we get all day. Believe me, I get it. It’s sacred. However, going to bed a little earlier can help decrease our sleep debt and make for a healthier pregnancy and birth. Just remember, this is just a temporary phase. If possible, ask your partner to help you get some me-time during daytime hours instead. For me this means going to bed as soon as I get E to sleep in the evening, just for now.

3. Get Help with Nighttime Parenting.
There is no reason that you need to go it alone. If your baby or toddler is like mine and still waking up multiple times a night, ask your partner for help. For me this means sometimes asking my husband to snuggle E back to sleep when he wakes. I am absolutely terrible at doing this! It is so hard for me to hear my little one call out for Mama and not go to him. The fact is that Daddy is just as capable of providing love and helping him get back to sleep.

Many of us may struggle with mommy guilt. Sometimes it can be tough to prioritize taking care of ourselves when we see that there is so much to be done for our families. Just remember, getting plenty of sleep during pregnancy will benefit not only you, but also your families and your unborn baby.

How much sleep did you need during pregnancy? Share your tips for getting more sleep in the comments