How to Sleep Well During Pregnancy
For many new mums-to-be, sleep disturbances can be an ongoing concern during their pregnancy. Nausea, hormones, pain, cramping, reflux and kicking are just a few of the potential candidates triggering poor sleep and resulting in daytime tiredness. The good news is that this guide is packed full of helpful tips to ensure that you get the best sleep and rest possible during your pregnancy.
1. Sleeping position
Finding a comfortable sleeping position is the key to a great night’s sleep. During pregnancy sleeping on your side (ideally your left), is deemed to be the best position for both you and your baby as it maintains your circulation and promotes a more peaceful night.
2. Pain relief
Pain and sleep do not go well together and so managing it is essential. Applying a hot water bottle to areas of pain during the night is a time and tested way of soothing pain away and enabling you to sleep soundly.
3. Pillow support
Using pillows to support your body during the night can make all the difference to your sleep quality. Placing pillows between your knees to keep your spine in line can reduce sciatic nerve pain. Propping yourself up can reduce shortness of breath and heartburn.
4. Racing mind
With the imminent arrival of a new baby it’s commonplace for the problem solving part of your brain to go into hyperdrive. Running through everything from baby names to your birthing plan can mean that getting a good night’s sleep can be a real challenge. Being mindful in the night can be helpful as it shifts your perspective on your thoughts, moving you from being trapped by them to gently watching them come and go, much like clouds in the sky.
An easy way to practice is to focus your attention on the rise and fall of your chest. If your mind wanders, which it will, then notice this fact and then return your attention back onto your breath each time it happens. Learning to notice and let go of your thoughts like this helps to slow the mind down making it easier to fall asleep.
5. A problem shared
Worry and insomnia go hand in hand and so doing all you can to manage them during the day is essential to sleeping well at night. Scientific research has shown that when you talk through a problem, rather than bottle it up, you move from the amygdala (your brain’s stress centre) to the modern rational part of the brain, known as the pre frontal cortex. Creating a good support network of friends, family members and work colleagues and openly sharing your worries can reduce the risk of taking them to bed, and so can improve your sleep quality.
6. Eat Small Meals - as your baby grows the space for your organs unfortunately gets smaller and, together with the relaxing of the sphincter that acts as a gate between your stomach and oesophagus, results in acid being pushed up towards your throat causing reflux and heart burn, particularly when you lie down to sleep.
Eating smaller more regular portions can be helpful as this prevents the stomach from ever over filling. Leaving at least 3 hours between eating and sleeping also ensures that you’re not going to bed with a full stomach. If you’re hungry just before bed, then have a light small snack such as some natural yoghurt with honey.
7. Toilet trips
Your bladder is another organ that feels the squeeze as your baby grows, which explains why excessive night time toilet trips are a common cause of sleep disturbance during pregnancy. To stay hydrated and yet not be awake all night aim to drink more in the morning and then start to taper your fluid consumption from mid-afternoon onwards. Aim to limit or avoid caffeine containing drinks such as tea and coffee as the diuretic effect unhelpfully increases the need for the toilet.
8. Wind down
Having a good wind down is the first step on the way to slumber. Aim to make the last two hours before bed a time for ‘resting and digesting; such as reading a good book, listening to music, watching TV or pottering around the house. In the last 30-40 minutes before bed switch off your smartphone and other electronic devices, dim the lights and start preparing for bed.
9. Make time for sleep
If your existing sleeping pattern involves regularly cutting sleep short, then this needs to change. Increased energy demands from your baby means that you’ll need all the sleep and rest you can get to feel energised during the day. Setting a go-to-bed alarm is a simple way to remind you to stop what you’re doing and get a few extra zzz’s.
10. Keep your sleep on time
Irregular sleeping patterns create a jet lag type effect whereby the brain starts to sleep and wake at the wrong times. During pregnancy this can exacerbate daytime tiredness and increase the risk of insomnia.
Going to bed and getting up at ‘roughly’ the same time helps to keep your internal body clock on time, strengthening the link between the night time and sleep and daytime and being awake full of energy.
11. Let go of the struggle
Sleep is a natural biological process that can’t be controlled and battling against it could be likened to an endless game of tug of war, which only wakes you up more! Choose to let go of struggling against your
sleeplessness by lying in your bed and benefitting from the rest that you get from simply being still. Giving yourself permission to be awake in this way paradoxically encourages natural sleep to emerge.
12. Daytime napping
Given that poor sleep and tiredness are an inevitable part of pregnancy taking time out to power nap during the day can provide a much needed energy boost. Aim to keep it short, no more than 30 minutes and ideally between midday and 3pm. Even if you don’t sleep, it is beneficial to spend the time resting, rather than ticking off an endless ‘to do’ list will be beneficial.