From a burgeoning baby bump to painful leg cramps, getting a good night’s sleep during pregnancy is no easy feat. Here are some tips to help you catch some z’s.
“You better get your sleep now, before the baby gets here!”
I am pretty sure this seemingly helpful statement falls under the category of worst parenting advice ever. When I am not pregnant, I consider myself to be a champion sleeper. I fall asleep easily and snooze peacefully all night long. During pregnancy, especially in the final few months, it is a different bedtime story (pun intended) altogether. My mind races. I have to get up and pee several times a night. As a preferred belly sleeper, I cannot always get comfortable, especially when my four-year old requests snuggles at 2:00 AM and takes up most of the bed.
I know I’m not alone.
The truth is, we need our sleep, mamas! Sleep debt (less than 6 hours of shut eye) and poor quality sleep may put us at risk for gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, longer labors and postpartum depression. What are we to do?
Since it is not recommended to down mugs of caffeinated java all day while pregnant, here are a few top tips that have helped me:
1. Find the Proper Pillows
First, I always make sure to have a pillow placed between my knees to give my hips and lower back some love. This is usually a full body pillow that I can use for my head too. Apparently, placement of the pillow in this way also prevents your top leg from falling forward, moving your spine out of alignment.
Second, for the nights when my hips are absolutely aching and I can’t fall asleep, I use a pregnancy pillow that I wish I had found during my first pregnancy. The specially-designed Cozy Bump allows me to fall asleep comfortably on my belly, giving my hips a rest. This inflatable pillow has a hole right in the center, allowing baby to safely catch some hang time and mama to sneak in some relief! This pillow has also been amazing for cat naps and relaxing. I just have to figure out how to keep my son from jumping all over it (he loves it, too).
You may also consider a trick from one of my favorite websites, Spinning Babies. Use a breastfeeding pillow (the kind with the hole in the center), to create a “nest” allowing you to almost sleep on your belly. This may also help ease back pain and tension.
Third, extra pillows are handy to keep around should the dreaded heartburn strike (prop your head up on an extra pillow or two).
Other helpful sleep tips to know:
- Sleeping on your left side is recommended to increase nutrient flow to baby.
- Sleeping on your back is not recommended as it may reduce circulation to you and baby.
2. Create a Sleep Routine
This tip could benefit most of us, pregnant or not. Preparing your body for sleep can be done several ways.
First, avoid artificial light for at least an hour before bedtime to prevent disruption of your natural circadian rhythm and melatonin (sleep hormone) suppression. Yup, this means putting the cell phone down! Tip: Getting plenty of sunshine during the day can help boost melatonin.
Second, consider a warm bath one hour or so before you plan to get into bed. The drop in body temperature you experience after a bath can make you feel sleepy.
Third, find a quiet, relaxing activity, such as reading or journaling in bed. If you find a racing mind keeps you awake, get your thoughts down on paper so you don’t have to fret about keeping them in your memory. My “to do” list has even the tiniest of reminders on it because pregnancy brain has gotten the best of me!
Aim to establish a routine that has you going to bed at a similar time every night.
3. Try Gentle Evening Yoga
One of my favorite ways to relax and ease any tension in my body is with a gentle yoga routine. Dim the lights, light a candle, and play relaxing music. Move through gentle yoga poses (such as flowing between cat and cow pose) or set yourself up in a yummy restorative yoga position.
Two of my favorite restorative poses during pregnancy have been side-lying savasana (with a pillow between my knees) or a reclined (propped up on pillows or bolsters) bound angle pose. Add a lavender-scented eye mask and you are all set!
4. Rid of Leg Cramps
Leg cramps brought me to tears some nights during my first pregnancy — this time around I am determined not to get them! There are a few things you can do:
- Stay hydrated
- Daily ankle and calf pump exercises
- Avoid getting too hot at night by choosing appropriate bedding and nighttime clothing
- Eat plenty of potassium and magnesium-rich foods. Potassium all-stars include bananas, avocados, spinach, sweet potatoes, and white beans. Magnesium boosters include leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and figs.
If you do get a cramp at night, stretch the back of your leg by gently wrapping a towel, scarf, or yoga strap around the head of your heel, and then flexing your toes up toward your shin. You can also try a calf stretch at the wall.
Happy sleeping, mamas!