One of the most frustrating things about being pregnant – especially heavily pregnant – is the fact that while you rationally know you should be stockpiling that sleep store in order to survive the newborn phase, it’s sometimes near impossible to sleep well. The solution may come from recognising the triggers for your pregnancy insomnia, and then taking steps to address them.
One of the most common reasons that pregnant women can’t sleep is that pregnancy is just plain uncomfortable. You’re a whole new shape now and that often means a new sleeping position is in order. The optimum sleeping position when pregnant is on your left side, which increases blood flow to the uterus and your baby, and will be the most comfortable option for most women in the later stages of pregnancy. A good quality pregnancy pillow can be an investment in months of more restful sleep. Alternatively, commandeer the spare pillow to sleep with support under your knees and belly.
Create a Sanctuary:
Because of the discomfort, you may wake more easily, so optimise your bedroom as a sleep sanctuary. Block out noise and light where possible and make sure that the room is kept cooler than you might have tolerated before pregnancy, as your body may be running slightly warmer now. If you had been in the habit of doing work tasks while in bed, it might be time to eliminate that practice and reserve the bedroom for sex, sleep and other relaxing activities.
Another hint is to consider your daily schedule. Be aware of general sleep hygiene tips such as limiting your intake of caffeine in the afternoon and evening, avoiding working out in the hours before bedtime and turning off backlit devices (iPads and other tablets especially) an hour before you go to bed. Pregnant women may be more likely to need to wake for bathroom visits during the night so cut back on liquids in the late evening too. Heartburn is common in pregnancy and will keep you awake so eat heavy meals and spicy foods at lunchtime instead.
If you find yourself tossing and turning, with no physical cause, consider what might be weighing on your mind. Are you stressed about your upcoming birthing experience or the challenges motherhood will bring? Maybe you’re worried about living on one income for a while or how well your partner is going to cope with the transition to parenthood? Some useful strategies including making lists of your questions for later research (keep a pencil and notepaper by your bed), writing in a journal or even attending prenatal or parenting classes to help you feel more ready. Relaxation exercises such as breathing and yoga practices can also be helpful.
What you don’t need to worry about is that this sleeplessness is going to hurt the baby growing inside you. Our bodies are amazing and you can trust that your baby is getting all they need to grow and develop. Do what you need to do to get through this time, take naps if you can, and remember that like all of the not-so-fun side effects of pregnancy, this too will pass.