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Sleep and pregnancy seem like two words that should go together, but as most pregnant women know, the reality is a totally different story. At a time when you should be resting and everyone is telling you to ‘sleep now while you can…’ it seems like it would be easier to find a proverbial needle in a haystack. But it is possible to help you sleep better during pregnancy. It might not be a 10 hour blissful sleep, but these few tricks should help.
A key point to note also is to speak to your Midwife or health care provider about safe sleeping positions in pregnancy. They will give you advice specific to your pregnancy, including when you should stop sleeping on your stomach (for all of us tummy sleepers) and when you should stop sleeping on your back (it can lead to an occlusion of the inferior vena cava in late pregnancy).
You should also find what works for you. Not all of these things worked for me, but I tried them all, and I have friends who swear by some of these options. We are all different, different shapes, different bellies, different sleeping patterns and different babies, what works for us is different too. Hopefully, some of these will help you get a better sleep during pregnancy.
1 – Get A Pregnancy Pillow
As if we need an excuse to have even more pillows on our beds! Pregnancy pillows are like the best cuddle ever, especially during the third trimester. There are various shapes and sizes of pregnancy pillows, ranging from ones that hug you completely or long body pillows or even just smaller pillows designed to go between your legs, it’s up to you which you choose.
I was never able to use the full body wrap pillows because that would have made me feel too claustrophobic. For me, personally, I found the pillows between my knees while laying on my side provided the best support.
The idea is they can help support your stomach during later stages as when you lay on your side it can feel like it pulls and ‘drops’ to the side. You can also wrap it between your knees (or use a smaller pillow) to help support your hips while you sleep too.
Many women swear by pregnancy pillows, and they can also help you sleep comfortably after birth too. Winning.
2 – Keep A Notepad Beside Your Bed
For some reason, whenever my head hits the pillow it’s like a trigger to my brain to think of all the things I should have figured out during the day, but cannot possibly leave until tomorrow. I found myself in early pregnancy getting up out of bed to do the things I was thinking of, add items to grocery lists (for the next round of cravings) and clean the weird nooks and crannies that for some reason I felt needed to be cleaned.
After a while, it became too difficult to get out of bed, so I had to figure out a better way.
I started keeping a notepad beside my bed and it was amazing. Instead of just rambling through my thoughts and hoping I remembered things, I would write them all down and it was all out of my head an on paper and I felt so much better.
I also found it was good for me to note down things I wanted to talk to my husband about too, rather than just waking him to talk in the middle of the night. He seemed to appreciate that more too!
3 – Create Your Own Bedtime Routine
If you’re a ‘live in the moment’ kind of person, this one might be a bit harder for you, but for all the Type A’s out there, bedtime routines are your best friend! When we talk about bedtime routines we think of kids brushing their teeth, reading a book and going to bed, but they work remarkably well for adults too!
Your bedtime routine can be anything you want, it can be having a shower, watching your favourite TV show, chatting to your husband and then going to bed. Or it could be reading in bed, or anything you want really. Whatever works for you.
The idea is that having a sequence of events sets off a trigger in our mind that we should be winding down and going to sleep. This takes a little while to form, so be sure to stick with it for a while before deciding if it works for you or not.
4 – Have A Relaxing Bath
Baths are amazing during pregnancy… nice warm, deep water, a few drops of your favourite essential oil, low lights, candles… bliss!
Water and floating is actually really good for our muscles and joints in pregnancy and can help relieve some of the aches and pains. Add some Epsom salts to your bath to help with cramping muscles and swelling too.
Hot tip, if you put a folded towel in the bottom of your bath to sit on, it can help with any aches you may have in your hips from sitting on the bottom of a hard bath and can stop you from slipping… even more relaxing!
5 – Consider Magnesium Supplements
Magnesium is an essential mineral that quite frankly, we just don’t get enough of in our day to day diet. Over the years our magnesium intake has decreased, where even our foods no longer contain the same levels of magnesium they once did, as the soil they are grown in becomes depleted of this natural mineral.
During pregnancy, our need for magnesium increases, but considering around 50% of people won’t get enough magnesium from diet alone, adding a magnesium supplement to your prenatal care can be highly beneficial.
Magnesium plays a major role in our body from helping regulate our blood pressure through to how our muscles contract and release. Relate these to pregnancy and you can see why magnesium plays an important role in reducing the risk of pregnancy induced hypertension and pre-eclampsia as well as optimal contractions of the uterus during labour (the uterus being muscle).
How does this all relate to sleep?
Without enough magnesium, our muscles tend to contract more, and in pregnancy, one of the most notable places this occurs in our legs. Those awful, wake up in the middle of the night leg cramps that have you dancing all over the place. Adding a magnesium supplement can help reduce this happening, and help you sleep more at night.
Magnesium also increases GABA, a neurotransmitter that encourages relaxation and sleep. It also helps regulate the body’s reactions to stress, therefore giving you a much more restful sleep at night.
(Remember to always check with your Midwife or health care provider before starting any supplements.)
6 – Wear Loose Clothing Or Sleep Naked
As your tummy grows and your body changes, tight restrictive clothes can start to feel just that bit tighter and that bit more restrictive. Wearing tight fitting clothes can make sleeping difficult and uncomfortable.
To counter all of that claustrophobic inducing restrictiveness, opt for a loose fitting shirt (great excuse to steal hubby’s oversized shirts) or sleep naked. You might find buying a crop top or seamless bra to sleep in is a good option too as it helps give a little support to those tender boobies without being too restrictive.
7 – Keep The Temperature Slightly Cooler
Did you know there’s an optimal sleeping temperature? It makes me wonder how they come up with this kind of thing, but studies have shown that the ideal sleeping temperature is on the slightly cooler side. 60 – 68 degrees Fahrenheit, or 15 – 20 degrees Celcius is said to give you the best sleep.
During pregnancy, it seems like our body temperature swings from being too hot and sweaty one minute to being freezing and needing ALL the blankets the next. So trying to keep your temperature regulated may help you sleep better at night.
If you’re feeling too hot or too cool you’re not going to be comfortable in your sleep, you’re going to way and spend more time in ‘light’ sleep than in restful ‘deep’ sleep.
And remember, there’s always the option of having your blanket on and sticking one foot out from under it for thermoregulation.
8 – Read Before Bed Rather Than Watching TV
The lights from TV act as stimulants for us (even though we often fall asleep in front of the TV) and can mess with our production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Try switching off the TV at least an hour before you want to actually go to sleep and try reading instead.
Keep in mind, this means putting that phone of yours away too. Turning off the TV just to switch to your phone isn’t going to help. Invest in a Kindle if you’d rather go digital as they are designed to be easier on the eyes to read (and they really are amazing).
9 – Reduce Fluid Intake At Night, Pee Twice Before Bed
How many times have you been getting up during the night to pee? Chances are, that’s not going to change anytime soon, but you can help reduce the number of times you make the dash to the loo.
Reducing your fluid intake at night can help decrease how many times you get up to go to the toilet, but you need to be careful in doing so. You must ensure you’re getting your daily dose of fluids throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated. You can try to limit your fluid intake for 3 hours before you go to bed and see if that makes enough of a difference for you.
Another trick is to pee twice before bed. Don’t screw your nose up… hear me out. Being pregnant can mess with your ability to sense how often you need to pee (ever get up to pee and not actually go? Yeah, that feeling…). I’m assuming you already pee before you go to bed, but try peeing when you first think to yourself ‘I’m going to go to bed now’, then pee again after you’ve done all the fussy things before bed, immediately before you go and lay down.
It seems silly but it works! You’ll be amazed that you can go again. It’s worth a try.
While these might not all work well for you, they’re worth giving a go to see which ones work for you and if anything on this list can help you sleep better during pregnancy.