Sleeping for two: Tips for getting better sleep when pregnant

Written by Dr Sarah Cummings for her blog The Sleep Advisor.

You can follow her on Twitter here!


Sleeping Better When Pregnant…

If you’re about to bring a little human being into the world, chances are you’re not sleeping properly. Maybe it’s your first, and anxieties like “Will I be a good mum?” and “How will I get through the birth?” and “What if he/she senses my fear?” might plague your midnight mind.

Or maybe it’s your fourth and you’re pretty chilled out about the whole thing. Even then, you may still have to deal with an uncomfortable bump, unforgiving heartburn, relentless back pain and restless leg syndrome.

In any case, you’re bound to be getting less kip than what the experts recommend (7–9 hours, to be exact). The result being you’re even more irritable that your hormones make you already, you’re at a greater risk of falling ill and you’re not giving yourself – or your baby – the TLC you both deserve.

Fear not – there is sleep at the end of that weary tunnel. Follow these tips and you and bump will be gliding towards dreamland in no time!

1) Take a “Time Out” before bed

Ok, you’ve got a million and one things to do during the daytime and two million and two thoughts running through your mind in the evening. That’s why it’s so important to set aside some quiet “you time” every night to help your body relax and your mind calm down.

So around an hour before you head to bed, turn off devices like your TV, laptop and smartphone (yep, your phone too!) These bad boys are great for work and entertainment purposes but they also emit blue light, which keeps our minds stimulated rather than sleepy. Not the best sleep aid.

Use your new-found time to have a long bath, read a book, practise some yoga nidra movements or do a guided meditation. Try to go to bed at the same time every night after following these steps and with routine a better sleep shall follow!

2) Snack on the sleepy stuff

Of course, the foods you eat affect your soon-to-be Mini Me…but they also affect your sleep. That’s right, pregnancy nutrition just got even more important!

Instead of reaching for so-called “convenient” snacks like cereal bars or dried fruit (often high in sugar and thus a good friend of hyped-up minds everywhere), try some sleep-promoting foods for an evening chowdown. For instance, bananas contain magnesium (which results in the production of serotonin, or the “happy hormone”). These yellow fellows are also rich in potassium, which acts as a natural muscle relaxant. The result? A healthy snack that offers up a calmer body and mind.

If a mere banana isn’t going to cut it in the excitement stakes for you, chop one over some almond butter on whole-grain toast (FYI, almonds contain magnesium too…yay!) Or blend a frozen banana with a tsp of cacao powder for homemade icecream without the guilt factor. See, lots of ways to snack your way to a better sleep!

3) Embrace naps

Nope, I’m not talking about the anxiety of being a new parent (NAPS); although a lack of one probably feeds into the other. I mean taking a good old-fashioned power nap. Because you may be missing out on some valuable hours of sleep every night, which you really should make up for during the day.

So in the midst of flying around every waking moment – reading baby books, buying stuff for the nursery, going to Lemaze classes – remember to slow down and listen to your body. If you’re exhausted, take a nap. This will get you into good napping habits for when bubs is born and you’ll find it easier to sleep when he or she sleeps; a really important thing to remember for those first weeks!

4) Change how you sleep

Although it may seem impossible to get comfy in bed these days, there are a few pointers to bear in mind that can help:

The SOS (sleep-on-side) position is hailed as the optimal pregnancy one; better still, the left side as it increases the flow of blood and nutrients reaching the baby. Bonus!

Bending your knees and placing a pillow between your legs can offer some respite. Another pillow under the abdomen can ease an aching back.

If you’re suffering from heartburn, try propping up your upper body with pillows. And avoid having a heavy meal at least 2–3 hours before bed, if you can.
So have sweeter dreams, tonight and every night…

Hopefully these tips will help to put a spring in your step again, no matter how far you are along in your pregnancy! Because you’ll feel more rested, more healthy and more ready to face the challenges and adventures that lie ahead.

Sarah xx

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