Sleep in Pregnancy

Getting a good night’s sleep is critically important under any circumstances, but is especially important during pregnancy. Studies suggest that poor sleep can affect your immune system, increase inflammation in the body, might lead to lower birth weight, longer labour, increased likelihood of caesarean sections, and other complications at birth1, 2.

However, pregnancy also brings with it many symptoms that can interfere with sleep such as heartburn, nausea, frequent urination, leg cramps, increased snoring, and just plain old insomnia. So do keep in mind that sometimes no matter what you do your sleep might not be the same as before pregnancy, but it’s definitely worth it to set yourself up for the best sleep you can get.

Here are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep while pregnant:

Support with pillow
A woman’s changing body can be one of the biggest obstacles towards getting a restful sleep. After about 20 weeks into the pregnancy, it is best to sleep on your left side. This can be challenging to do all the time. A good body pillow can help you maintain this position comfortably. There are a few great body pillows on the market that are specifically designed for pregnancy. They can really help with getting into a comfortable position.

Journalling
With pregnancy often comes excitement but also some anxiety and fear. Journalling your thoughts can help to acknowledge your feelings and can help you seek help and resources when necessary. It can also serve as a nice keepsake to show baby many years down the road.

Exercise during the day
Getting some light to moderate aerobic exercise during the day can help you get a more restful sleep. It is best to do this at least 3-4 hours before bedtime as exercising too close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep at night. Check with your health care provider as to which exercises are safe for you during your pregnancy.

Get your room right
Your bedroom should be your sanctuary for sleep or for sex. Don’t confuse your body by doing work in bed. Also, make it as dark as possible for sleep (e.g. black out blinds, eye cover). Light during the night can disrupt your pineal gland and melatonin production. Using your computer or mobile phone before bed can interfere with melatonin production too, so try not to use digital devices 1-2 hours before bed.

Establish a sleep routine
Regular sleeping and waking hours helps the body establish a regular circadian rhythm. This will allow the body to start to feel ready for sleep at the right time, and wake up more refreshed at a regular time as well. Shift work with irregular nighttime hours has been associated with some poorer health outcomes in some studies – hopefully you can avoid this! A calming wind-down routine before bed also helps the body get ready for sleep. Consider some light pleasant reading or deep breathing before bed as part of the routine. There are a number of great websites/apps that can help you wind down or incorporate mindfulness into your routine. One I like at the moment is Stop, Breathe, Think (www.stopbreathethink.org) which also has an app.

Check with your naturopath before trying any nutritional supplements or herbal products to aid with sleep in pregnancy as some should be avoided during pregnancy.

We hope these tips help you get a few more winks!

 

References:
1. Disturbed Sleep and Inflammatory Cytokines in Depressed and Non-depressed Pregnant Women: An Exploratory Analysis of Pregnancy Outcomes
Okun, Michele L. et al. Psychosomatic Medicine. 75(7):670-681, September 2013.
2. “Pregnancy and Sleep” article by the National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/pregnancy-and-sleep. Accessed Oct 19, 2015.

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