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Sleeping While Pregnant

Sleeping While Pregnant

How to Get Better Sleep When Pregnant

By Andrina Wilson


Getting a good night’s sleep while you’re pregnant can feel impossible. It is estimated that up to 80% of women will struggle with sleep insomnia during pregnancy. This is thought to be partly biological, due to hormonal changes and fluctuations, increased fatigue, baby’s movements, stress/anxiety and due to the increasing size of your uterus putting pressure on your bladder and nerves/ligaments. However, there are many things to try to improve your quality and hopefully quantity of sleep.  

Take Natural Light

Try to make it part of your morning routine to spend 10-15 minutes outside in direct sunlight. This is important for melatonin production and your own circadian rhythms, which will set your body up to invite sleep more easily in the evening.

Eliminate Stimulants in your Diet

While is it generally considered safe to have small amounts of caffeine in your diet during pregnancy, it is best to avoid caffeine in the late afternoon – evening. Coffee is the most obvious stimulant which most people avoid from mid-afternoon, but chocolate can also become a problem if eaten in excess. 100g of dark chocolate has around ¼ the amount of caffeine in a regular sized coffee.

I absolutely wouldn’t suggest that a pregnant woman deprive herself of chocolate but instead, try to enjoy it earlier in the day and/or limit intake to small amounts in the evening. If you find yourself hungry in the evening time, replace chocolate with another snack which will promote sleep rather than hinder it.

Nutrition

Bananas are an excellent source of potassium which can help calm restless legs and prevent leg cramps, which can both be very common during pregnancy. They also contain magnesium which helps relax muscles and promote healthy circulation.

Greek yoghurt is also a great pro-sleep food because it contains tryptophan, required by the body to produce serotonin and melatonin. The unsweetened kind is best but paired with a banana and a cup of non-caffeinated herbal tea, would make a delicious, satisfying snack before bed, which may also have the extra benefits of improving your sleep.

Other foods which may improve sleep include:

  • Almonds

  • Salmon

  • Oatmeal

  • Eggs

  • Leafy Greens

  • Chickpeas

  • Kumara

  • Tart cherry juice

 

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is unfortunately very common during pregnancy and the usual pain relief, Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s) are not safe to take during pregnancy.

Increasing foods in your diet which are high in omega-3 fats and B6 can help to reduce the inflammation and pain. These foods include: salmon, spinach, walnuts, pineapple and turmeric.

Wrist splints may also help to reduce the stress on your wrist joints, which can reduce the pain. Splints are readily available from most pharmacies.

If you are concerned about Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, speak to your Lead Maternity Carer or General Practitioner for advice – they may be able to refer you to a pregnancy physiotherapist for help.

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome that begins during pregnancy will often resolve shortly after delivery once the body begins to clear all the excess pregnancy fluid. However, sometimes the pain may worsen due to fluid retention and/or extra strain of holding your baby and if this occurs, it is important to seek medical help. Options are available that weren't during pregnancy, such as a cortisone injection or as surgery may be required.

Bedtime Routine

During pregnancy, expectant mothers often find themselves extremely fatigued at the end of the day (and often during the day too). The ideal bedtime is 10pm as this is the time our bodies naturally begin the process of repair, so aim for lights out around 10pm.

If possible, take yourself to bed a little earlier and read or meditate, or whatever enables you to relax and prepare for sleep.

Try to keep lights very dim for at least 1-2 hours leading up to bedtime. Use lamps and/or candles rather than bright lights to evoke a relaxing, peaceful space where you can wind down.

Avoid using your phone or computer during this time. The artificial white/blue lights are very stimulating for our brain and make it much harder to fall asleep.

Try to avoid consuming too much fluid in the evening time. It is likely that with the added pressure of your growing uterus, you will need to empty your bladder once or twice overnight, but you can minimise these trips to the bathroom by keeping well hydrated during the day and just drinking to quench your thirst closer to bedtime.  

Sleep Environment

Ensure that your bedroom is your sanctuary. Avoid working or doing chores in your bedroom as much as possible, keep this space for relaxing.

Keep your room very dark. If you need to get up to go to the bathroom during the night, avoid turning on bright lights. There are sensor lights you can pick up from hardware stores which provide just enough light to see yet maintain your relaxed state so it may be easier to get back to sleep.

Try to keep the room between 18-20oC for the most relaxing sleep. This may seem cool, but we tend to sleep better in cooler environment with blankets. Air conditioning or a fan could be a good option, or keeping a window open for a draft can work too.

It is recommended that during pregnancy, you sleep on your side (preferably your left side) rather than your back. For many women, this is not a natural sleeping position and it can be difficult to get comfortable.

There are plenty of sleep aids such as pregnancy body pillows, mattress toppers etc. or you can just use pillows to get yourself comfortable. I would suggest using at least four pillows for yourself. One or two should be placed under your stomach which will support your back and pelvis, one between your knees which again, stabilises the pelvis, and two behind your back so that if you roll over slightly, you are not sleeping flat on your back. If you are still waking overnight after implementing these changes, consider any potential stressors that could be responsible.

A good technique to use is taking 10 deep, slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. While you are doing this, imagine your whole body relaxing beginning with your toes, working your way up through your legs, abdomen, shoulders and finally your head. Focus on how relaxed you feel and maintain your slow, deep breathing. This will help to put your body back into a state of calm and invite sleep.

Sleep is essential!

One thing I suggest – prioritise sleep while you’re pregnant!

It may seem like you have a thousand other things to do but sleep is so important for your wellbeing. There will be plenty of time for sleep deprivation when your baby arrives so for now nourish your body with pro-sleep foods, take a nap whenever you get the chance and prioritise that 10pm bedtime.