By:  Karen Sullen

Sleep.  It's the one thing pregnant women crave but can't seem to get enough of.  They would love to get 8-10 hours of sleep, but must often settle for 4-6 hours due to the discomforts of pregnancy, work schedules, family responsibilities and other sleep interruptions.  Sleep is a restorative time that needs to be maximized for themselves and their babies.  To get every possible minute, apply these positions, techniques and aids recommended by physicians and experienced moms.

Instead of counting sheep, try to relax by taking at least 15 minutes to wind down from the day before going to bed.  Play soothing music during your nighttime routine, take a relaxing bath or simply enjoy a cup of herbal tea.  Sometimes, overactive thoughts and worries keep sleep at bay.

Sleep positions
Doctors recommend that sleeping on the left side with knees bent is best to take pressure off the liver and allow maximum blood flow to the baby.  This also improves the mother's kidney function, which aids in reducing swelling.  Sleeping on your stomach causes pressure on the baby and will be most uncomfortable as the baby increases in size.  Avoid sleeping on your back, as well, as it causes pressure on the main vein that carries blood to your heart from your lower body.  Hindered flow can result in numbness and lightheadedness.  Back-sleeping can also lead to hemorrhoids and impaired breathing, circulation and digestion.  If you prefer sleeping on your back, stomach or right side, train yourself to sleep on your left side early on, so you'll have an easier time falling asleep when your belly is bulging later.

Sleep Aids
Changing your normal sleep position can be uncomfortable.  But making the adjustment can be eased by using sleep pillows.  Whether you purchase a body-length pillow, wedge with back support or simply stack pillows along your back side, pillows provide support and keep you from going to sleep on your side only to wake up on your back.  A soft pillow in front of your ribcage and beneath your stomach can cradle you with all-around support.  Placing a pillow between your knees reduces pressure on the lower back.  Some women have found relief by sleeping in a recliner or on an air bed that is specifically contoured for a pregnant women's frame. 

Skip the pajama dance
You know the routine.  All night long, you find yourself waking up and adjusting your pajamas or gown because they have gotten twisted during the night.  Choose cool, comfortable clothing (i.e. t-shirts, shorts, jogging pants, etc.) made of fabrics that breathe.

Avoid the after-meal nap
Lying down after a heavy meal can cause heartburn, which definitely interrupts sleep.  Avoid spicy foods, and eat smaller portions instead.  It's sometimes hard to stay awake after a heavy meal.  So try sleeping propped up in a chair or recliner.

Admittedly, tossing, turning and waking up every few hours during pregnancy are sometimes unavoidable.  To revive your body after a not-so-good night's sleep, try a warm mineral bath or a few yoga or cat-like stretches for your lower back.  They might not get you a good night's sleep, but at least it will help you get through the day.