Having sleepless nights is hard enough. Never mind when you are having hormone fluctuations and dealing with all the other many pregnancy-related ailments that Mother Nature throws at you. All this on top of work and family life.
Insomnia during pregnancy or night wakings is very common during pregnancy and it’s something that regularly crops up at the sharing circle in my weekly prenatal yoga class. I have put together some pregnancy specific tips to help you get some rest.
1. Reduce screen time
If you can avoid it after 7 pm that’s ideal, But that’s not most of us, right? If the thought of being disconnected from your phone or laptop for all that time just gave you palpitations then there is another way! At the very least, get a filter on your devices to filter out the blue light emissions. Blue lights trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and can interrupt our sleep-wake cycles (aka circadian rhythms) so we want to replace blue with red light and maybe think about reducing your tech use in the late evening to help you switch off.
2. Are you lying comfortably?
Maybe you’re a back sleeper or even a front sleeper and you know about the benefits of left side sleeping in pregnancy but you just can’t get comfy! Some women swear by a pregnancy pillow. Good news is just a couple of extra strategically placed pillows can help. I always suggest an extra pillow or blanket UNDER the bump for support and one between the knees to help align your pelvis and avoid aching hips which can wake you up in the night. For anyone worried about rolling over onto their back then pop a pillow behind to help wedge you in. If you do wake up on your back it’s OK, it’s just nature’s way to wake you up and remind you to roll over on to your side.
3. Dealing with heartburn
Heartburn or acid reflux is super common in pregnancy due to changing hormone levels and your baby taking up extra room.
But as far as sleep goes, if heartburn is ramping up at night, avoiding late night eating helps. If you prop the head end of your bed up with a couple of sturdy books then you have gravity on your side and it can help reduce the symptoms.
4. Tackle worries
Do you find things popping into your head right before you go to sleep, things you should have done in the day or are worried you will forget? It can help to have a notebook at the side of your bed to write down anything that you need to deal with the next day.
5. Guided Relaxation
A guided relaxation or yoga nidra is a great way to wind down before bedtime and when practised is super beneficial to the nervous system. This works equally for night wakings if you find yourself always wide awake at 4am. You don’t need anything to meditate but lots of people use an app to help them with it.
Hypnobirthing MP3s are designed to get you nice and relaxed too and they also help you prepare mentally for your birth. I used to listen to mine in the bath before bed and it was a lovely bedtime ritual and a chance to connect to my pregnancy.
6 Breath your way to calm
Over and above the deep belly breathing there’s a couple of different breathing techniques you can have a go with. If it’s anxiety then buzzing bee breath is a good one to help calm your nerves and you can see how to do that here. For a racing mind I suggest alternate nostril breathing, it takes a bit of practice but that’s part of the beauty, it allows you to narrow your focus and takes your mind off all the things.
7 Pregnancy Yoga
So many of my ladies tell me how well they sleep after their evening class with me so I know this works! Find a pregnancy specific class and your teacher can show you safely modified moves for pregnancy which you can then practice in the comfort of your home. I always recommend a couple of minutes in extended child’s pose for night wakings. It’s easy to modify so you can make lots of room for your growing bump. This way you can rest in the nourishing posture for a good couple of minutes. Having your forehead on the ground helps to regulate the sleep/wake cycles. See how to access it here
8. Leg Cramps
Some women suffer from extreme leg cramps that wake them up in AGONY! It’s called Charley horse syndrome and although pretty normal can be quite scary when it happens! It could be that your body isn’t absorbing enough electrolytes. Common during pregnancy are magnesium or potassium. Dealing with this involves a bit more of a pre-emptive strike. Having some coconut water or a banana before bed can help if it’s potassium as can using a magnesium spray on the leg muscles for that.
9 Complementary therapy
Acupuncture, Reflexology, Herbalism. They all have their place. Just make sure you work with a qualified practitioner who is used to dealing with pregnant women as there may be some contraindications when treating you. What are you instinctively drawn to? Start there first
Gone through all of these and still find yourself waking up? Personally, I think it’s just Mother Nature’s cruel way of preparing you for those almost inevitable sleepless nights you have to come with a baby.
If you find this is the case, my advice is, focus on getting quality rest over getting sleep. The biggest irony is the more we worry about the sleep we are not getting and TRY to sleep, the harder it gets. Focus on getting REST and that takes the pressure off a bit. Let go of any idea of going back to sleep and do something nice and relaxing instead. Maybe reading or listening to a podcast, whatever downtime means to you.
I hope that helps you Mamas’ get a good nights rest.