Most moms expect to lose out on sleep after the baby is born. For most moms though the sleepless nights actually starts BEFORE the baby is even delivered. We plan, we try to think ahead, but sometimes those sleepless nights find us regardless of all that. Unfortunately, it’s often hard to sleep while pregnant. The good and bad news: it’s not your fault. Fluctuating hormones are a big challenge and obstacle to overcome. While it’s always important to do your research and have the right pregnancy tools, it’s also nice to have some tips and tricks from someone who has been there before and knows how to handle the challenges your body might throw at you. If you’re facing insomnia while pregnant, then this post is for you!
So if you’re up all night with the pregnancy blues, here are some great ways to ready yourself before bed. From pregnancy specialists to moms, to sleep experts we culled the best of the best to make sure you can get some rest.
How to Beat the Bump: Finding the Right Position During Pregnancy
One of the hardest challenges to deal with is the development of the baby bump. While it’s a cute reminder at first, often it can grow into a bit of a challenge — especially when trying to find sleep in the bedroom. That’s why it’s so important to be able to change how you sleep, especially as your pregnancy progresses.
“In your third trimester, you won’t be able to sleep on your back,” says Shelby Freedman Harris, Psy.D., a psychologist and director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at Montefiore Sleep-Wake Disorders Center. “”It helps if you try different positions, I tried lying on my side, but my arms would fall asleep, [so I experimented with different techniques].”
It’s important to know that what works for the first couple months of pregnancy probably won’t work towards the end. Find what is comfortable for you. Experiment with pillows, and don’t be afraid to get creative. Try a body pillow or a sofa cushion to help you find the right angle and relief that you need. It’s not going to be the same for everyone! Being flexible with your sleep plan is a good recipe for getting the rest you need to have a healthy pregnancy.
Up All Night: The Bathroom Problem
As our pregnancy progresses, the baby gets bigger, which means that you need to make room where sometimes there isn’t any. That means organs like your lungs, and yes, your bladder is sometimes pressed into awkward positions that leave you running to the bathroom every hour or two throughout the night. While it can be uncomfortable, there are ways to manage this so that you don’t feel like you’ve sprung a leak.
You want to stay hydrated, but avoid liquids about three hours before bed,” Dr. Ash says.
If you do have to get up to go to the bathroom, Dr. Ash recommends using a night light instead of turning on hallway and bedroom lights during those nighttime runs. That’s because when artificial light enters the human eye, it can often produce more hormones that keep us awake and mess with our internal clocks. Those clocks are already in a precarious position, so doing what you can to alleviate those stressors can go a long way in getting you back to sleep more quickly than if you turn on the light.
And if you are having trouble breathing when lying down? Ash recommends using pillows to prop yourself up and relieve that pressure. Find the angles that work best for you, and realize that those angles could change as you enter different phases of your pregnancy.
Dealing with Morning Sickness, Heartburn, and Other Fun Issues
Perhaps the biggest cliche of a pregnancy is morning sickness, where you often feel… under the weather due to your body’s fluctuating hormones. While this usually clears up after a month or two, the acid reflux that is also associated with this time can stay much longer into the pregnancy — often lasting the entirety of it. The reason again is simple space management: as your baby grows, it presses up against your stomach and other G.I. organs to make acid reflux a much bigger issue than it might have been previously in your life.
So what can you do? Try breaking up your meals from three big ones to six or more smaller ones. This helps your stomach process the food in smaller amounts, creating less stomach acid, and more space with which to digest it. That should not only limit the amount of acid that has the potential to travel up your esophagus (yuck), but also give it space to not have to do that. It might not be as fun to have six or seven smaller meals, but it will help with your metabolism and could even help regulate emotions and hormones. It’s all about giving your body ample time and energy to deal with the changes as they happen.
Dealing with Anxiety and Stresses That Will (Definitely) Pop Up
Look, having a baby is stressful. Sure there’s the instagram version of pregnancy where everything is happy and clean and smells good, but that’s just not how life actually works. When we have a baby, we’re signing up for sleepless nights, body issues, and worry about the future that you’re bringing your child into. Those thoughts are normal! And while it might not feel like it’s ever going to end, it’s important to put some perspective on those thoughts so that you can relax and get the rest you need.
One way to reduce that anxiety is to plan ahead. You’ve already thought long and hard about your mattress and how to use pillows,, so let’s talk about some other ways you can feel better about the future. Make a list of what you need to get done before the baby arrives. These are called, “nesting tendencies” and they’re totally normal. Once you have the list, check things off as you do them. Not only does this give a finite sense of what needs to get done (instead of a huge formless mass of anxiety), you’ll start to feel a sense of accomplishment and peace as you check things off the list. It might seem silly but externalizing those anxieties in a list is actually a very therapeutic and emotional way to deal with these stresses. It’s positive, and even just checking one box a day could relieve some stress and make your sleep come even easier.
Add Some Sleep Accessories to Your Bedroom to Make Sleep Come Easier
We all know that body pillows, a great mattress, and multiple night lights can add some sleep comfort to otherwise stressful sleep situations, but there are even more items that you can add to the bedroom to help you find the rest you require. One that you can use during the day that could help at night is the maternity band. Maternity bands are worn around the torso, they help support your baby bump so that there is less pressure on your hips and lower back. When you wear a maternity band during the day, it can help prevent less aching from joints at night. This can make all the difference when you’re looking for ways to minimize discomfort when lying in bed at night.
One other great bedroom accessory is a diffuser. Diffusers hydrate the air around the bed, creating a cool and breathable sleeping space that can help soothe nerves and get you to sleep easier. Use different essential oils like vetiver or jasmine to create an aromatherapy regime that is both natural and stress reducing. It may not be specifically marketed toward pregnant women, but with the stress wonders that it works, it may as well be!
Get in a Routine and Stick to it
While it might feel a little trite to say, routines are important. Often times during a pregnancy though, these routines can fly out the window. It’s not just a matter of knowing where you’ll be, creating a schedule can create a sense of normalcy and calm when everything else in life seems to be shifting and shaking. While you might think that this shifting doesn’t affect you in your daily life, it can often manifest in sleepless nights, irregular sleep, and even insomnia.
This also means planning out your bedtime. Try to limit screen time and other activities that can get you geared up for a designated length of time before you lie down. It’s not just a luxury, it’s a requirement for a good night’s sleep.
“Bedtime routines are as important for adults as they are for children,” says Robert Oexman, D.C., director of the Sleep to Live Institute. “Your body needs at least 30 minutes to relax and prep for sleep,” Dr. Oexman says.
Try taking a bath, relaxing with a book, and just chilling out in general before you go to bed. Those comfort items go a long way in creating a safe sleep environment so that you can fall right asleep!
Don’t Forget to Exercise (But Don’t Overdo it Either)
Exercise is important to the body, not just because it strengthens and tones the body, but because it also releases endorphins and other hormones that can help the body get to sleep faster. While it’s obvious that your work out routine is going to change after you get pregnant (no one is expecting or wants you to run any marathons), it’s important to not cut this out of your life altogether. Many gyms and YMCAs offer workout and yoga classes for pregnant women, which is tailored specifically for the different challenges that may arise during each trimester.
If you’re more a solo workout artist, there are different DVDs and streaming services that offer tips on how to best workout when pregnant. Ask your personal physician or a trusted friend for advice on keeping active during this time in your life. It might feel like a chore, but those times during workout can be a nice daily break from the mental stresses of pregnancy and job stuff. Just remember not to work out too close to bedtime, the endorphins and hormones that occur may actually keep you up later if you do them too close to when you’re trying to fall asleep. At least two hours of space between workout and sleep is generally considered a good idea.
Remember That What Makes You Peaceful and Comfortable Also Makes the Baby Feel That Way
So much of pregnancy is about worry. You worry about your baby’s health, you worry about their future, but here’s what we want to tell you: try to set all that aside. Look, if eating some junk food is comforting and peaceful to you, then that’s what you should do. It’s OK not to always eat perfect or to workout every day, or be the supermom that every magazine wants you to be. In the end, it’s about creating a safe and peaceful space for your baby to thrive in — that’s your best and greatest job as a parent.
Use these months to treat yourself well and get ready for the whirlwind that is parenting! Watch the movies that you’ve meant to see for a while, grab another slice of pizza if that’s what you want! As always, it’s good to create positive habits, but don’t let little indulgences get you done. Rather enjoy those times for what they are, and be ready to be your best and brightest self. This is an awesome time for you and your family, so try to savor every moment. These are the times that you’ll think about for the rest of your life. You’re going to be a great parent and we are excited to share this journey with you.
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