Before I even take a pregnancy test, I know by my sleep patterns that I’m pregnant. I’m an Olympic-level sleeper – when my head hits the pillow, I’m gone – so insomnia was a really frustrating companion to my pregnancies.
In early pregnancy you may feel like nodding off at 6 p.m., and then you’re lying awake enjoying the company of Facebook at 3 a.m. Pregnancy hormones impact every system in the body, causing frequent bathroom trips, leg cramps and those 20-point turns in the third trimester when your hips ache from lying in one position. Insomnia also can get worse with anxiety and the emotional roller coaster of becoming a parent.
Deep, restorative sleep is really hard to come by for most women in pregnancy, but if you’re consistently only sleeping five to six hours a night, some research now suggests your labor will be longer and more painful. That’s the perfect reason to fit in a guilt-free nap.
Practice saying these words out loud: “I’m going to lie down for a nap.” Getting into the habit of taking guilt-free naps in pregnancy means you’ll also find it a lot easier to give yourself permission to nap in the postpartum weeks, too.
Here are a few tips:
• Tart cherry juice contains melatonin, a natural sleep aid produced in the brain.
• Listen to your body and become an expert in self-care in pregnancy. Eat for 1.1 and sleep for two.
• Exercise – yes it’s likely the last thing you want to do, but it can help you sleep better – even light yoga can be very beneficial – and it releases happy hormones in your brain, too.
• Reduce your caffeine intake.
• Limit your time online an hour before bedtime, as the blue spectrum light from your phone or laptop can affect melatonin levels and make it more difficult to sleep. Go old school and read a book.
• Avoid drinking a gallon of milk right before bed – no matter how bad your heartburn is.
• Take a warm bath before bed. Lavender and chamomile essential oils promote relaxation (try lavender and chamomile in a tea in the evening – from dried flowers, not oils).
• Use a pregnancy meditation app such as GentleBirth. The Sleep Sanctuary is a favorite among parents.
• Talk your partner into giving you a bedtime massage (or more if you’re up for it).
• If all else fails, wake up your partner to entertain you – after all, pregnancy insomnia is half your partner’s fault, too!