It’s yet another challenges that expectant mums can face in pregnancy. Just when you most want to relax and prepare for those sleepless nights after your baby is born, you start to experience them during your pregnancy. Pregnancy insomnia affects up to 75% of mothers and is most likely in the third trimester, right when everything is becoming scarily real and you most desperately feel the need for a good night’s good sleep.
Pregnancy insomnia is related to a complex mix of causes, including some of the biological and physical effects of pregnancy - not least the challenge of getting comfortable whilst carrying another little person around with you. These of course can combine with obvious and understandable stresses and anxieties about birth, which are enough to keep anyone up at night.
Luckily, by following some good habits it’s possible to lessen the effects and improve your sleep. By working a few simple and very achievable things into your daily routine, you can give yourself the best chance of sleeping well.
During the day:
- Create a buffer around bedtimes, where you don’t eat too close to going to bed, or speed through dinner. This will help you avoid the increased risk of heartburn, as well as the energy surge that anything sugary will give you.
- Try to do some pregnancy exercises. Pregnancy can make you feel frustratingly limited physically, so by exercising you can regain some control of your body and focus anything that’s stressing you out into the routine, hopefully getting tired and sleepy in the process. It’s best not to work out too close to bedtime and important to ensure that you follow all the do’s and don’ts.
- Avoid caffeine and chocolate, especially as you get into late afternoon. Caffeine stays in your system for a surprisingly long time, and if you are having trouble sleeping it makes sense to avoid it as much as possible (you can also read our midwife's advice on what to eat and avoid during pregnancy)
- Don’t drink a lot of fluids once you get into the early evening (especially as baby is probably using your bladder a nice comfortable pillow) - although a warm glass of milk can help.
Just before bed:
- Do something you know relaxes you - lying in a warm bath surrounded by candles is a clichéd but always effective method, and one the benefits of meditation in pregnancy is that it deeply calms you down, slowing your heart rate and putting you in the best state of mind for dropping off
- Try to get a bedtime routine going. Go to bed at the same time every evening and make sure you wind down in the hours beforehand, for example by reading, engaging in an absorbing but undemanding task like knitting, or listening to some calming music or ambient sounds
- Once you get into bed, don’t be tempted to do work or look at your phone. Resist the temptation to scroll through social media, Facebook can wait until morning
- Make the room as comfortable as possible - is there something that is bothering you? The pillows, the temperature - work out what it is and fix it. Lavender oil on your pillows is a popular trick
- Remember, in the night don’t focus on counting sheep and counting the hours - you are likely to be getting more sleep than you realise, and even if you are wakeful focusing on this fact will make the issue worse. If you absolutely can’t sleep, you are much better off doing something else rather than worrying about it.
If your sleeplessness is caused by anxiety, these tips and routines may not impact much, but there are a others things you can do to help yourself. First and foremost, recognise if your anxiety is at a perfectly normal level for a mum-to-be. Having a baby is a pretty big thing after all, and you’d need to be an extraordinarily chilled person not to be anxious about it. However, if your anxiety is building up to such a level where it is effecting you profoundly, then seeking some support could be the best course of action.
In either case, your anxiety could be eased by talking about it and how it affects your sleep, whether with a friend, partner or even in a pregnancy diary. It is always worth focusing on the fact that pregnancy insomnia cannot harm your baby.
Furthermore, meditation (which as is explained above can help you sleep) is also an excellent way to deal with stress and worry. Not only is this a relaxing pre-bedtime and even daytime activity, meditation also helps clear the mind of the repetitive and often negative thoughts that can build up during the day. Much of anxious thinking is carried out in patterns, where you worry about scenarios and often catastrophise them, which is something that meditation can help you break free from.
Pregnancy insomnia isn’t something that you simply have to put up with, and by using whatever combination of the above that works for you, you can put a stop to those sleepless nights. Happy sleeping!
Make sure you also read our posts on common questions about pregnancy, tips on preparing for labour and our interview with midwife Clemmie Hooperfrom Gas and Air.
This post was written by Holly Ashby, a writer who works for Will Williams Meditation, who provide courses and classes on meditation in London.