Sleep can be challenging during pregnancy. Picture: Pixabay

Between midnight bathroom runs, a racing mind, cramping legs, heartburn and a metabolism that’s turning up your internal thermostat, sleep can be challenging during pregnancy. 

Consider it preparation for the sleepless nights that lie ahead. However, getting enough sleep is more important than ever now that you’re snoozing for two.

The necessity of sleep

Sleep is the time when your body resets and repairs itself including your blood vessels, which is vital now that they’re under increased pressure from the extra blood flow required to support your baby.

Sleep also keeps your immune system, which is suppressed to support your pregnancy, healthy. Plus it controls how your body reacts to insulin. Not getting enough results in a higher blood sugar level, upping your risk of gestational diabetes.

Is left best?

The best sleep position when you’re expecting is on your left side. This position is ideal for your circulation, optimising the oxygen and nutrients that get to your baby, as well as supporting kidney function, taking pressure off your liver and reducing swelling.

You should also avoid lying flat on your back all night long. The weight of your growing uterus presses on your vena cava, the artery running blood from your lower body back to your heart, disturbing circulation and possibly making you dizzy. 

Your womb also weighs on your intestines and back, making common pregnancy symptoms like backaches and haemorrhoids worse. But don’t fret if you’re not a left side sleeper. As long as you practice the ‘SOS’ position (sleep on side) you’ll be fine. Most woman find it uncomfortable to sleep on their back after their fourth month and you might find that you roll onto your side regardless.

Does your mattress play a role?

Besides using pillows under your belly, between your thighs and behind your back to alleviate pressure, you could consider investing in a mattress that offers the optimum support far beyond your due date.

The ideal mattress will hug the body closely to help align the your spine and alleviate aches and pains. Temperature neutrality is also key, since many pregnant women sleep hotter than normal, a bed that absorbs minimal body heat and sleeps fairly cool will be a benefit now and during summer.

Additionally, mattresses that isolate motion well and produce minimal noise can be beneficial for couples, since pregnancy often leads to frequent nighttime bathroom trips and restless sleep.

Mervyn Ewertse, sleep expert and owner of the Bed King, says: "Especially during pregnancy one is attuned to ones body and if you’re waking up with more aches than usual, it’s a sure sign that it’s time for a new mattress. 

"You’re going to be spending a lot of time in bed in the next few years with nursing and sleep routines, so you may as well look into the right mattress now."