Growing a baby doesn’t need to mean forgoing precious zzz’s
During pregnancy, getting any sleep (let alone the recommended eight hours) can seem almost impossible. And it’s not just getting to sleep that’s the issue – it’s staying asleep. From classic first trimester nausea, frequent bathroom breaks and heartburn to growing pains, cramping, and snoring in the third, there are plenty of factors preventing you from a deep, long, and much-needed slumber.
So, this all adds up to a lot of time spent lying awake at night and not a lot of sleeping. But if it’s any consolation, as you toss and turn, you’re in good company: It’s very rare for pregnant women to sleep through the night.
They say that the sleep disruption is all part of the process; preparing you for waking up intermittently to tend to the newborn once they arrive. But any mother that’s been around the block a few times can tell you that despite the books, the blogs and the classes, nothing prepares you for broken sleep – or the demands of a newborn. But, there are some age-old techniques you can try to get a better night’s sleep during your pregnancy.
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Make Sleep a Priority
It’s mighty boring but you need to establish a robust nighttime routine. You’re retraining your brain and your circadian rhythm. Try and keep the bedroom off-limits until it’s time to sleep. Take a warm shower, slip into fresh, clean, comfortable pyjamas, and make sure the room is running slightly cooler than usual. Dim the lights, massage your neck and shoulders – or better still, get someone else to – and focus on your breathing. If you find yourself lying in bed awake for a length of time, willing yourself won’t work. Rather, you should get up, leave, and go and do a relaxing activity such as reading until you’re ready to retire.
Nap When You Can
Typically, when people are struggling to sleep in the evenings, naps are discouraged, but it turns out there are some surprising benefits of a quick nap, especially for expectant mothers. Particularly in the first trimester, where getting any sleep you can is the end goal. That being said, naps should be reserved for during the day and be no longer than 20 – 30 minutes to prevent making your evening snooze even more challenging.
Hydrate During the Day
Keeping on top of your fluids is paramount for health and wellbeing, particularly during pregnancy. During the first and third trimesters, the baby will be positioned in a way that props up against your uterus giving you the urge to pee (like, all the time). By cutting back on the liquids from mid to late afternoon, this should hopefully reduce the number of trips to the bathroom overnight. It won’t remove them altogether, but it will help. Keep a nightlight in the bathroom so that you’re not being overstimulated by turning on the light. This will help you fall asleep faster.
Exercise can make a significant improvement to your sleep quality during pregnancy. Even a moderately paced walk for more than 30 minutes during the day will improve your circulation and ward off any nighttime cramps. If the thought of getting your heart rate up makes you feel even more nauseous, consult with your doctor about whether prenatal yoga might be a suitable option. It provides beneficial stretching and helps relax your mind and body. Avoid exercising too close to your bedtime as it can be known to release adrenaline and in fact make it even harder to doze off.
Unwind Your Mind
Feelings of stress and anxiety are completely normal during pregnancy, especially if those worries stem from your inability to put away a decent night’s sleep. Keep a journal nearby to jot down all of your troublesome thoughts and make sure you’re chatting with friends and loved ones regularly to help carry the load. If you’re being repeatedly plagued with vivid dreams or nightmares, consider looking to a counsellor or therapist to nip these in the bud.
Avoid Spicy Food
In a bid to reduce heartburn, avoid reclining for 1 – 2 hours after a meal and sleep with your head elevated on pillows. Also, steer clear of spicy, fried, or acidic foods as these are known aggravators for heartburn symptoms.
Get Your Pillow Situation Down Pat
There are so many pillows available to assist with a wide range of pregnancy needs. As you progress into your pregnancy, your body is put under a lot of pressure causing pain to creep up in your joints and lower back – not to mention tender breasts, creating the need for a pregnancy pillow. Using pillows to prop between your legs, under your abdomen and behind your back can help balance out any weight distribution that’s causing discomfort. “When there’s a lot of pressure in the [pelvic] area as the belly gets bigger, having your legs rested together sometimes isn’t as comfortable as having something between them,” Dr Boester explains in SELF.
Learn to Love Your Left Side
Beyond the 20-week mark, medical professionals advise that you sleep on your left side with your knees bent to allow for optimal blood flow to the fetus, uterus and kidneys. Do yourself a favour, ideally when you’re getting your pillow situation down pat, and learn to sleep on your left side as soon as you can. This way you have one less adjustment to worry about when you’re further into your pregnancy and consumed with other pressing problems (literally).
Breathing and meditation do wonders to calm a wandering mind. Some expectant mothers experience congestion due to the increase in blood volume and hormone changes making it difficult to breathe. Using a dehumidifier will help keep your nasal passages moist and clear giving you one less thing to interrupt your sleep.
No two stages of the pregnancy are the same, nor are any two pregnancies. What might work well now, may not work in three months’ time and vice versa. Be persistent, mix and match techniques and always reach out to a medical professional if you’re concerned about much – or how little – you’re sleeping.