3 Products & 5 Tips for Pregnancy Insomnia
Nov 11, 2019
by Christine Sterling, M.D., FACOG
It’s really not fair. Just when you need every last drop of sleep, the physical and hormonal changes of pregnancy snatch precious hours away from you. There are many, many causes of pregnancy insomnia including: smaller bladder capacity, increased urine production (yes, you actually make more pee when pregnant), back/pelvic discomfort, and likely hormonally-driven changes to your brain. It’s no wonder pregnancy insomnia is so common.
Problem is, it’s not just annoying, it can have a real impact on your health. Poor sleep at the end of pregnancy has been associated with decreased chances of a vaginal delivery, longer labors and postpartum depression.
But let’s not dwell on the negative. I have 5 tips for you that can make a difference in your sleep tonight! Let’s dive in...
(If you are serious about getting better sleep, you'll want to download my Pregnant Momma Sleep Guide too).
1. Consider allowing for more than 8 hours of sleep
I know, this one can be a tough pill to swallow. If you are already a momma, this may mean going to bed right after you put down kiddo and potentially disrupting you time. But hear me out…
Sleep is an essential component of a healthy and happy pregnancy. If it’s taking you forever to fall asleep, or you are wide awake for hours in the middle of the night, you need to carve out more time for sleep.
Sure you can have some bad nights here and there, but bad sleep every night for weeks...momma you’re seriously limiting your ability to enjoy life and handle stress. Having time to read, watch tv, or chat with your spouse at the end of the day shouldn’t be at the expense of needed sleep, at least not every night.
2. Go to bed at the same time every night
Our bodies crave routine. Going to bed at the same time every night actually trains your brain to make melatonin so that you are sleepy at the right time. For those of you who had to stop taking melatonin when you found out your were pregnant (it hasn’t been well-studied for safety in pregnancy) a regular bedtime is the natural version of a melatonin pill.
An equally important component of bedtime is giving yourself time to process the day.
What do we usually do?
We run around like crazy all day and then try to go straight to bed. The first mental quiet we give ourselves is when our head hits the pillow! No wonder we are running our to do list as we try to fall asleep, or thinking about our meeting the next day when we wake up at 3am! We need to give our brain the space to have these thoughts before we go to sleep. I have an entire checklist I go through as part of my bedtime routine, which I like to pair with some baby bonding. You can check out my checklist in my Baby Bonding Bedtime Ritual pdf.
3. If discomfort is the issue, here are 3 products that can help:
Pregnancy Pillow: It may be huge but it can be a lifesaver.
Maternity Support Belt: Worn during the day, this can reduce back pain that limits sleep at night.
Warm Bath + Episom Salts: This can help relieve muscle tension, PLUS the increase in temperature right before bed has been shown to help with insomnia.
4. Minimize fluids at the end of the day (and consider elevating legs above the level of your heart for 1 hr before bedtime)
In pregnancy, we should be drinking about 2.5 L of fluids per day. But it’s important not to pack that fluid in at the end of the day, or you’ll be up to the bathroom all night. For the 2-3 hrs before bed just drink to quench your thirst.
If nighttime trips to the bathroom are keeping you up, elevate your legs above the level of your heart for an hour before bed. This allows the fluid that has accumulated in your legs during the day (thanks to gravity) to return to your bloodstream and be processed by your kidneys. It the job of your kidneys to take excess fluid out of your bloodstream and turn it into urine. When elevate our legs before bed we allow gravity to move the fluid from our legs back into our bloodstream to be processed and turned into urine before we fall asleep.
5. Do not use phones or tablets when you have nighttime awakenings
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it bears repeating. The blue light from your your phone activates light sensors in your eyes and tells your brain it is morning, triggering a cascade of events that makes you feel even more awake.
If you like to read to fall back to sleep, try an e-reader like the Kindle paperwhite.
Don't give up on getting good sleep in pregnancy. It may not be perfect, but it is worth your effort to maximize those Zzzs. Download my Pregnant Momma Sleep Guide for more tips and products to support sleep.
Sweet Dreams Mommas!
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