How pregnancy can affect your sleep (and what you can do to help)
Sleep.. and lack of it.. is a very common issue during pregnancy. Most, if not all, women experience some insomnia or sleep disturbance at some point whilst pregnant.
There are many reasons for your sleep to be knocked off kilter during pregnancy — after all, there are a lot of changes happening to your body!
1. PRACTICE DEEP ‘BELLY’ BREATHING
When you are angry or stressed you don’t breathe properly into your belly and this makes your diaphragm tighten up.
Try taking 10 really deep belly breaths. Inhaling with your belly and your baby rising, exhaling with the belly falling. Place your hand under your bra at the front and feel the air fill your diaphragm and then into your belly.
2. DRINK A CUP OF CAMOMILE TEA
Milk-based drinks don’t always agree with everyone but a soothing cup of Camomile tea is easy to drink and can help to slow you down. Some compounds in chamomile (Matricaria recutita) bind to the same brain receptors as drugs like Valium and so offer a relaxing effect.
Just don’t drink it too close to bedtime so as to avoid (even more!) trips to the toilet during the night.
3. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
Gratitude is a great way to get your brain to refocus. Think about the things in your life that you love and are grateful for. Just the act of looking for something to be grateful for can be enough to stop that mental ‘rumination’ or “what happens if” cycle of thoughts. Anger, fear and stress lose their power over you when you express gratitude. It’s that simple.
We have created a “Sleep” session for each trimester in our pregnancy and labour app which you can download free here (iPhone and Android) that helps you to think about what you are grateful for before going to sleep to make it easy for you!
4. KEEP A JOURNAL
The simple act of journaling can be really powerful. Go through the events of the day and jot down anything that is on your mind — just write freely without filtering yourself. Then allow yourself to put your journal (and your thoughts) to one side and give yourself permission to let go of your never-ending ‘to do’ list until morning.
Always end your daily journalling by listing 5 positive things that have happened that day. This can be a difficult thing to do if you are in a tough place but it could be something really simple such as enjoying a hot cup of tea to yourself or taking a walk.
5. TRY ESSENTIAL OILS
Gentle grounding oils such as lavender can work wonders to aid relaxation. Tea tree, lavender or eucalyptus can be burned using a oil burner before bed or put a few drops on a tissue under or next to your pillow.
Pregnancy often causes a heightened sensitivity to smell so find a smell that works for you.
Just make sure the oil you choose is safe to be used during pregnancy (for example, clary sage should be avoided during pregnancy as it can bring on early labour) You can find a list of what is safe and what to avoid here.
6. HAVE A DIGITAL DETOX
It’s easy to get into the habit of checking emails and social media before going to sleep, which may prove to be excellent entertainment, but it can lead to insomnia.
Social media updates can make you feel excited or even stressed which increases the production of adrenaline — the ‘fight or flight’ hormone that tells your body to be alert rather than sleepy. Not to mention the fact that the blue light our devices emit suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. So, dim the lights and read a mellow book or listen to some music that makes your heart happy.
7. TAKE A NAP
If your body gets into an over tired state then adrenaline kicks in. This may help you to get through the day but it even harder to fall asleep at night.
This is not always an easy one to do but having a nap during the day (10–20 minutes) can actually help you to get to sleep at night. Napping can also help to ease morning sickness.
If you find yourself awake during the night then try not to stress about it (yes, this can be easier said than done!). Try writing in your journal again, create a list if you have a lot to do or read a book — something that is interesting but doesn’t make to feel too wired. Avoid looking at your phone or watching TV and keep the lights dim so that you don’t impact on your bodies production of melatonin.
Listening to relaxing and repetitive sounds can always really help you wind down. Try listening to the “Rain”, “White Noise” or “Nature Sounds” on the Preggas app.