According to the National Sleep Foundation or the NSF, a recent showed that 78% of women report more disturbed sleep during pregnancy than at any other time in their lives. There are many reasons for this, including discomfort, insomnia, anxiety, or fear about what lies ahead. Several sleep disorders, also according to the NSF, can also be made worse. A study of 600 pregnant women revealed that 26% of them reported restless leg syndrome, while between 30%-50% experienced GERD.
Fortunately, while there isn’t anything to relieve your distress completely (except for going into labor) there are a number of things you can do to increase your comfort in the months ahead.
Adjust positions & add pillows
In general, people who are unable to sleep will often “toss and turn” at night time. When you’re pregnant, your increased weight and size make sleeping super uncomfortable, even somewhat painful, and tossing and turning could be tricky for mother and baby. Sleeping on your left side will increase blood and nutrients to your womb, which is better for baby, and is preferable to sleeping on the right side. However, avoid laying on your back in the 3rd trimester, because the weight of the baby can apply pressure and strain to your vena cava, and you may be at risk for reduced blood flow to your own heart.
Some women also find it helpful to put a body pillow in front of or behind them, or a large pillow in between their legs while they lay on their side. This action alleviates sciatic nerve distress, and is easier on your back.
Try creative locations
A second thing you can do to increase your physical comfort at bedtime is to be creative about where you’re sleeping. It doesn’t have to be your bedroom. You can try another bed that’s softer or firmer, a couch, or even a mattress on the floor. Anything goes, and it’s whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. You may even need to change locations several times during your pregnancy. When I was in my third trimester with my youngest, I found a great deal of comfort, as have some of my friends, from lying in a recliner that was slightly back with my feet slightly up, It was the only way I could sleep the last month and a half.
Avoid eating or drinking before bed
After the age of 25 we really should stop eating meals late at night, because heartburn is a real problem. It’s even worse, as you probably already know, for pregnant women. Eliminate drinking and eating all together before 8pm, and definitely 2 hours before bed time. You can also eat six smaller meals per day instead of three large ones, as it may cut down on that over full feeling, as well as heartburn and GERD issues. Finally, keep a food journal, because there may be something specific, like red based sauces, that are causing you more acid reflux than other things. Generally anything acidic will not be welcomed by your stomach, and you can also try basic water (Evamor is a great brand), to balance out your body’s PH levels. Always consult with your doctor or physician before changing your diet, however.
Limit Caffeine, Increase Tryptophan
Limiting caffeine is probably a no brainer, because you’re probably trying to do that already during your pregnancy, but if you’re allowing yourself one cup a day it definitely shouldn’t be anywhere near night time. You can also try eating foods rich with tryptophan before bed to help you get to sleep more soundly.
Maternity bands to ease the pain
If you haven’t gotten a maternity band yet, you should! They’re amazing for reducing the stress on your body throughout the day, and keeping pain down, (not to mention keeping your pants up!) You shouldn’t wear them at night, but if you wear them during the day, you’ll feel better and likely have less muscle strain as you’re trying to get into bed and get comfortable.
A sleep routine is important no matter what, but especially when sleep is vital, like during pregnancy. It’s important to establish a routine and stick to it as closely as possible. Similar types of pajamas, a relaxing hot shower or bath at the same time, are all things that trigger your body that it’s time for bed. Limiting activities in bed to just calming activities (not paying bills or reading stressful books), and limiting your exposure to electronics, as the light can wake up your brain are necessary. You should also keep a night light in the bathroom, as turning on the overhead light can wake you up on all of your trips to the bathroom overnight.
Yoga & meditation
Your body needs to be in the right state for peaceful sleep, and yoga and meditation can both help with this a lot. You can try either of these activities (or praying, if you’re religious) before bed. If you’re unfamiliar with how to do either, just start by closing your eyes, and picturing what makes you feel peaceful. It may be your beautiful baby’s face or smell, or a sunny beach. Then, one at a time, tense and relax each of your muscles, starting with your toes, legs, thighs, arms, fingers, going all the way up your body. You should be falling asleep by the time you get to your head!
Are you pregnant and struggle with sleep? Have you tried any of the above? Do leave a comment and share your experiences.
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