Being pregnant basically feels like you’ve constantly got a hangover – without the fun of the night before. Because the reality (and irony) of pregnancy is that you’ll probably never get worse sleep.
Sure when the baby comes the sleep is broken and you’re up at all hours, but for the most part when your head hits the pillow you are out cold thanks to the sheer exhaustion. But the cruel twist of fate in pregnancy is that when sleep is actually available to you – you just can’t do it. And sorry to say but it only gets worse as you get bigger.
But there are some things you can – and should – do when you’re pregnant to make sure you’re getting the most out of your pillow time.
Pillows become your best friend during pregnancy and your partner will probably loathe them as they encroach on to his side (#sorrynotsorry). But this is really about finding what works for you, there are a number of different pregnancy pillows on the market you can buy in an array of different shapes and sizes – or you can just use a few regular pillows to prop yourself up and pop between your legs for added comfort.
2. Prop yourself up
Speaking of propping yourself up, sleeping on a slight incline can help with a number of things from general comfort to reflux, to back pain to nasal congestion. How high you go depends on you.
3. Sleeping position
That brings us to one of the major ones – sleeping positions. If you were a side-sleeper pre-pregnancy then lucky you because this is the recommended sleeping position for expectant mums (ideally the left side if you can manage it).
As your pregnancy progresses you should avoid sleeping on your back after week 20 as the weight of your uterus can restrict blood flow to your baby and leave you feeling nauseous, dizzy, and short of breath. There is also some research to suggest sleeping on your side can help prevent stillbirth but if you’re worried, speak with your doctor about the best sleeping positions and how to manage them.
4. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water during the day so you don’t wake up dehydrated and thirsty – and this is a good general rule for pregnancy – bubs needs plenty of fluids!
5. Limit liquids in the evening
That said, try and keep the majority of your fluid intake during the day, and after around 6 pm limit how much you drink – otherwise you’ll be up 15 times to pee during the night.
6. Keep the house dark
When you do have to make those dreaded trips to the loo, try not to turn too many lights on as this will make it harder to get back to sleep. If you have trouble navigating your way in the dark maybe try a night light…
Exercise might be the last thing you feel like when you’re pregnant but doing some form of gentle exercise (speak with your doctor if you’re not sure what type of exercise is best for you) even if its just a walk it can make a huge difference in helping you sleep at night. Just make sure you don’t do anything within two hours of hitting the hay because exercise releases adrenalin and that’s not what we want right before bed.
Sex during pregnancy can be great all around, and the feel-good endorphins that are released can help you sleep better. Win-win.
Always speak with your doctor before taking any supplements during pregnancy, however if your doctor gives you the all-clear magnesium can help you sleep as well as treating leg cramps and restless leg syndrome that plagues some women during pregnancy.
10. Take a bath
A warm (be sure to keep it warm and not too hot) before bed can help you relax and switch off as well as help ease achy limbs – a little Epsom salts and lavender oil thrown in can also work a treat.
11. Clear your mind
If you find yourself tossing and turning and your brain ticking over with a million thoughts in the dead of the night it can help to get them out. Keep a notebook by your bed and write things down – whether it’s your to-do list for the next day, or just thoughts or feelings, the power of the pen cannot be underestimated.
12. Address the stress
Stress can be one of the biggest hindrances to our sleep – pregnant or not. So try to look at what is making you stressed and see how you can address it, is it work, finance etc, and then figure out if there is something you can do to manage it.
If you’re feeling really stressed or anxious then it might pay to speak with your partner, a friend or a professional. Feelings of anxiety and nerves are 100% normal (and expected) during pregnancy – the fear of the unknown can be overwhelming so try and get it out whatever way works best for you so that it’s not keeping you up at night.
13. Switch off electronic devices before bed
At least half an hour (if not more) before bed switch off all devices and instead opt for a little light reading. Ideally something that will help switch off your mind and thoughts (so if you’re nervous about the birth maybe don’t read a book about giving birth right before bed…) and ideally not a page-turner that you can’t put down and find yourself reading into the wee hours either.
14. Manage heartburn
Heartburn doesn’t affect all women during pregnancy but it is very common and can strike in the dead of night. Propping yourself up so you’re not sleeping flat can help, as can ensuring you eat at least two hours before bed. There are some over-the-counter medications that are safe to take during pregnancy, but speak with your doctor before buying any of these.
Also look at what foods you have eaten when your heartburn strikes to see if you can eliminate anything that is making it worse – spicy, fried and acidic foods tend to be the main culprits.
15. Managing hunger
While it’s not ideal to eat just before bed (because of the aforementioned heartburn) if you know you tend to wake up hungry then maybe try having a light snack before bed (or when the hunger does strike) but keep it light, for example, wholemeal crackers or toast, low-fat yoghurt, nuts or cheese are good options.
Caffeine can be hard to avoid (especially if you have other kids to look after!) but trying to limit how much caffeine, and when you’re consuming it, can help with your sleep. If you just can’t go without, try and have it in the morning or early afternoon – and definitely not at night.
17. Keep cool
When you’re pregnant your body becomes like an oven (bun in the oven takes on new meaning!) – even if you’re pregnant in winter you will probably find yourself sweating up a storm and especially during the night. Peel back the layers on the bed, keep your pyjamas light (and breathable fabrics) and if the rest of your family is complaining about being cold with the air conditioning on either tell them to suck it up or be nice and keep a fan by your bed just for you.
Whether you opt for a professional one or enlist your partner to do it at home, massage during pregnancy can be amazing for relaxation and soothing those tired achy muscles. There are a couple of pressure points in the wrists and ankles that can stimulate the uterus to start contracting so just be sure to avoid those – or make sure your massage therapist is a trained professional if you’re outsourcing.
19. Vivid (and downright weird) dreams
While there’s not a lot you can do about these, unfortunately, the problem comes when you then lie awake thinking about what the hell those dreams mean. Analysing – or rather overanalysing – them in the dead of the night will get you nowhere.
No there’s nothing wrong with you, they don’t mean anything it’s just all the hormones and emotions and anxiety playing. If you are tossing and turning thinking about it then maybe turn to that trusty notebook and write it down to get it out of your head, or get up and go to the bathroom and reset.
20. Yoga/meditation or stretching
While we don’t want to be doing a full-on yoga class right before bed, some simple yoga poses or stretches or meditation can work wonders for soothing the body and clearing the mind.
There are some great apps that can guide you in what to do before bed to achieve this.