Sleep is vital for good health, even more so when you’re expecting. However, sleep patterns are one of the many things that are affected during pregnancy, making a good night’s rest difficult to achieve. One study found that even if you’re getting the hours in, sleep quality is often compromised. Prolonged lack of sleep has been linked to problems such as preeclampsia, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, longer labours, and a higher rate of C-sections.
If you’re having trouble snoozing, try the following:
Getting comfortable is one of the biggest challenges for a peaceful slumber, especially if you can’t sleep in your preferred position. Stomach sleepers will find that it’s no longer an option as their bump grows and sleeping on your back is not recommended in your third trimester because of the increased risk of stillbirth. The recommendation is to sleep on your left-hand side, and a pregnancy pillow can really make things easier. You can also try putting one pillow between your knees and another behind your back to provide extra support and reduce backache.
Time your evening meal
Avoid eating a big meal in the evening as your body will be busy trying to digest it when you’re ready to drop off. Too much sugar and caffeine from mid-afternoon onwards can also overstimulate your system, while spicy food is likely to make heartburn worse. If you tend to wake up feeling hungry have a small snack before bed, such as cheese and crackers, fruit, or yoghurt, which are all easy to digest. You’ll want to stay hydrated, but too much liquid late at night will only increase those pesky twilight toilet trips.
Relaxation techniques have lots of benefits. As well as helping you sleep better, they’re also an effective way to manage anxiety and promote feelings of calm. There are specific meditation practices and breathing exercises designed to support you safely during pregnancy. Plus, prenatal yoga and Pilates are great additions to your exercise routine, especially towards the end of the day. Both of these types of exercise help with flexibility and muscle strength, which are important for the birth, as well as your recovery period.
Don’t lie awake
If you do wake up during the night, don’t be tempted to lie there for hours willing yourself to fall back off; it will only make the problem worse. Try reading or listening to a podcast or get out of bed and do something relaxing in a different room for a while. And, whatever you do, don’t reach for your phone as the blue light from the screen supresses melatonin and keeps the brain buzzing. Where possible, fit a short nap in the next day if you still feel tired from a restless night.