Sleep is an extremely important element of your overall health, especially when you're pregnant. Even outside of pregnancy, lack of sleep can lead to serious problems including depression, hypertension and dangerously debilitating fatigue. So, you can imagine the ill effects it has when your body is also dealing with the changes caused by pregnancy. Therefore, getting enough sleep is essential to a healthy and happy pregnancy. If you're pregnant, you're probably saying, "easier said than done." Getting a good night's sleep during your pregnancy can seem close to impossible some nights. The hormonal changes will make your body and mind unpredictable, and it can be exhausting to try and find a comfortable position with your enormous baby bump. If you're feeling particularly exhausted, you'll be tempted to take a nap in the middle of the day. However, research shows that the length of your nap will determine its effectiveness.

According to numerous studies, a nap that lasts longer than 20 minutes at any point in the day will actually make you feel more groggy than refreshed. It's counterintuitive to think that less sleep will make you more awake, but by sleeping too long you let your body fall into a deeper sleep. Essentially you trick it into thinking it's bedtime. Waking up from a two and a half hour nap is the same as waking up at 2am on a normal night and trying to get yourself going. On the other hand, a nap that lasts twenty minutes or less is short enough to refresh you without shutting you down completely. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot actually catch up on sleep as easily as as sleeping more at a later time. Each time you sleep is independent from times before it and after it.

In addition to making you groggy, naps lasting longer than two hours will also negatively affect your ability to sleep at night. You'll have more trouble falling asleep, so the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation will continue.

It's common to have trouble sleeping during your pregnancy, but it's important that you feel alert and positive. Catching up on sleep by taking a three hour nap will actually have the opposite outcome you're hoping for, so make sure you carefully plan your naps to be twenty minutes or less. You'll feel refreshed and you might actually sleep better when it's finally time to go to bed.

Source: Maas, James. Sleep for Success:Everything You Must Know About Sleep But Are Too Tired to Ask. Indiana: Author House 2010