Sleep is one of my biggest talents. I’m almost tempted to put it on my CV; after all, I can happily do ten straight hours. Or at least I could before I became pregnant. At eight weeks, I was already tossing and turning from dusk until dawn — when I would wake early, feeling tired and very frustrated.
What causes sleeplessness?
A survey carried out by the National Sleep Foundation found that 78% of women had more disturbed sleep during pregnancy. Increased hormone production is a big culprit here. A rise in pesky progesterone is why you’re up and down to the loo, and it’s also to blame for those wild dreams and that delightful snoring. Heartburn and nausea can keep you awake too, and then there are those leg cramps and restless legs. Pregnancy can also be an emotional and anxious time, so be prepared for your mind to be racing at night. And all that’s before we even get to the physical discomfort of a growing bump.
How can I improve my sleep?
Don’t resign yourself to feeling exhausted, here’s a few tips on that may help…
- Sleep when you can. Grab naps and early nights whenever possible and catch up at weekends.
- Exercise. A gentle walk or some yoga moves, particularly forward bends, which relax the body, will set you up for sleep.
- Give yourself time to wind down. Avoid TV before bed — and working late. Try listening to relaxing music or relaxation CDs instead. GentleBirth CDs are especially good (gentlebirth.ie). Simple yoga breathing exercises also help.
- Put a nightlight in the bathroom so when go – which you inevitably will, being pregnant – you don’t fully awaken.
- Eat a light supper. Focus on protein and foods rich in vitamin B6 and calcium such as nuts and seeds, yoghurt and wholegrains, which are thought to calm nerves.
- For leg cramps, increase your folate and iron intake (leafy greens, citrus fruits, beans and peas).
- Make your bed comfy. Sleep on your left side from your second trimester, to optimise blood flow to the uterus. A maternity pillow (see littleangels.ie) that wraps under your bump and between your legs is a lifesaver… just don’t be surprised if you wake to find your partner cuddled up to it.
Bump to Birth column, Irish Daily Mail, April 3, 2016