Although pregnant women need more sleep than most, many find it difficult to relax and get comfortable at night. Hormone fluctuations, back pain and leg cramps can all make it difficult to sleep when you’re expecting, as well as anxiety, stress and even depression. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be worried about getting the rest you need before the baby arrives.
With so many physical and emotional changes, it’s no surprise that pregnancy insomnia affects almost 80% of women, but that doesn’t provide much comfort when you’re lying awake at night. Luckily, there are things you can do to help maximise sleep and help yourself unwind – here are nine pregnancy sleep tips to try tonight.
Cut the Fluids
It’s important to drink enough water during pregnancy, but you should aim to cut the fluids an hour before bedtime, so you’re not running to the toilet during the night. In the early days of pregnancy, it’s the hormone HCG that makes you urinate more often, but you move into the second and third trimesters and the baby grows, he or she will press down on your bladder and make toilet trips even more frequent.
Fatigue and insomnia can become a frustrating cycle: as much as you know you need to sleep, the more fatigued you feel, the harder it is to drift off, and you start to feel anxious that you’re not getting enough rest. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to sleep – know that just lying down and resting is also beneficial. Try to nap during the day to reduce fatigue, or at least take regular breaks to unwind. The more stressed and burned out you get, the harder it’s going to be to switch off at night, so try to put yourself (and your baby) first whenever possible.
Many women are reluctant to exercise during pregnancy, but physical movement is vital to both yours and your baby’s health, and it will help you sleep better at night. Exercise in pregnancy helps to reduce any backache, leg cramps, pelvic pain and constipation, all of which are known for keeping pregnant women up at night. Unless you’ve been advised by your doctor not to exercise, you should aim to do 30 minutes of moderate activity per day. Recommended exercises include yoga, brisk walking, swimming aerobics and Pilates. Make sure that if you go to a class, your teacher is qualified to teach pregnant women.
Look After Your Mental Health
There is a huge focus on the physical health of expectant mums, such as eating right, exercising and taking vitamins, but sound mental health is just as integral to a healthy pregnancy. Anxiety and stress will keep you up at night, so try and deal with your emotions head-on. Speak to your doctor or health visitor about anything that’s worrying you, and ask to be referred to a counsellor if feelings of anxiety or depression become a regular occurrence.
To help you unwind at night, try listening to a guided meditation, or practice some gentle yoga before bedtime. If you can build these restful activities into your evening routine, your body will start to recognise when it’s time to fall asleep, and you’ll find it easier to drift off.
Heartburn is a major complaint among pregnant women, and it can be incredibly disruptive and uncomfortable at night. To help keep heartburn and indigestion at bay, try not to eat too late at night, and avoid reclining for an hour or two after your meal. Keep away from spicy, fatty or acidic foods as these can worsen symptoms. You should also avoid tight-fitting bras and tops, so you’re not putting any more pressure on your digestive system! There are plenty of over-the-counter medicines that can help with heartburn, but many women find that drinking a glass of milk before bed can also alleviate symptoms.
Find a Comfortable Position
Finding a comfortable position is not as easy as it sounds when you’re heavily pregnant, but there are things you can do to help yourself sleep. Invest in a good pregnancy pillow that supports your bump, like the Leachco pregnancy pillow, and keep your head elevated to ease indigestion. After 20 weeks, you should sleep on your left side to allow for the best blood flow to the foetus, as well as your uterus and kidneys. Doctors don’t recommend sleeping on your stomach or back at any stage during pregnancy. For optimum comfort, try sleeping on your side with one pillow under your knee and another under your bump.
Watch What You Eat
Nutrition is never more important than in pregnancy, but nausea, indigestion and hormone fluctuations can make it difficult to maintain a healthy diet. You should eliminate caffeine and alcohol during pregnancy. Not only is this healthiest for your baby, but it will also help to prevent insomnia. Make sure you give your body the right nutrients and you go to bed feeling satiated. If you get hungry at night, don’t ignore your hunger pangs. Keep healthy snacks like crackers, fruit and granola bars on hand, and try to eat little and often throughout the day.
Get Up at Night
If sleep doesn’t come after 20-30 minutes of lying in bed, get up and go into another room. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to get out of bed when you’re trying to sleep, doing this will help break your association with your bed and “not sleeping” and reduce your anxiety as the hours tick by. So read, listen to music or do something else to relax in another room until you feel drowsy enough to get back into bed. Repeat these steps until you eventually fall asleep.
Talk to Your Doctor
If sleep problems persist, talk to your doctor. While it’s not usually possible to take sleep medicines during pregnancy, there may be other things your doctor or health visitor can do to help. There are also plenty of herbal medications you can take to relieve insomnia, but you should always check with your healthcare provider before taking anything new. It’s important to note that while getting enough rest is important during pregnancy, sleep problems won’t affect your baby, so try not to panic.