|Sleeping on your side makes things just that much easier on your circulatory system.
- Photo ©iStockphoto.com/kupicoo
Sure, you expected sleep deprivation to come with having a baby - but chances are you didn't expect it to come until you'd had the baby. But now you know: It's almost as hard to get a good night's sleep during pregnancy as it is when you're a new parent. And maybe harder, since there's no sweet-smelling, cooing infant in your arms to make up for the dark, puffy circles under your eyes.
Sleep problems during pregnancy start in the first trimester, when frequent trips to the bathroom during the night (to pee, to puke, and then to ponder) dash your sweet dreams.
Then, your beauty rest starts facing a whole other cast of sleep-interrupting characters, who parade out nightly just as your spouse starts snoring: Heartburn, hunger, vivid dreams and nightmares, leg cramps, restless leg syndrome, anxieties.
And in your third trimester, just when you need sleep the most (if only to rest up for new-parent sleep deprivation, which is right around the corner), slumber becomes even more elusive. Adding insult to injury, you can't even toss and turn comfortably (without a helping hand or a crane). Instead, you'll be hosting a repeat nocturnal guest as pregnancy draws to a close: Urinary frequency. As your uterus flattens your bladder, storing an entire night's worth of urine becomes mission impossible.
To make matters (and the bathroom runs) worse, your kidneys - which have to filter up to 50% more blood than usual - are putting out more urine than they ever did before (you're also peeing for two, if you didn't know).
The right sleep position
You may be lacking sleep during pregnancy for another reason as well - position. For instance, inveterate stomach sleepers soon find that their favourite sleeping position is about as comfortable as balancing on a basketball during pregnancy; while back sleepers also have to search for a new path to slumber (back sleeping isn't advised after the first trimester, since being flat on your back can put unnecessary pressure on your most important and overworked blood vessels).
Sleeping on your side - your left side, if possible - makes things just that much easier on your circulatory system, though if you're not used to the position, it can also make things just that much harder when it comes to falling asleep.
Tips for a good night's sleep
What can you do to solve your sleep problems during pregnancy? Here are some tried-and-true suggestions:
- Avoid caffeine (in all its forms, so put that chocolate bar down) after noon.
- Get your eight glasses of water (or other fluids), but taper off at night. Drink if you're thirsty, but don't down a 16-ounce water bottle right before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly - during the day or early evening. A daily workout will help you sleep better, but if it comes too close to bedtime, it could actually sabotage sleep (exercise is energising).
- Have a light snack before hitting the hay to stave off midnight hunger pangs. Include protein and a complex carb (think cheese and a whole-grain muffin), as well as some warm milk (it really works!) or decaffeinated tea. Stay away from sugar, which will give you an energy boost when you least want one, and then leave your blood sugar levels wobbly during the night (yet another strike against chocolate).
- Take a warm bath just before bed. The soothing and relaxing effects of the bath should help you summon the sandman sooner.
- Crack a window - as long as the weather's comfortable (which for a pregnant woman means anything from 18 degrees Celsius on down - way down). The fresh air can be soporific. If the weather's not cooperative, keep the room comfortably (for you, not your spouse) chilled. Remember, your heat's up, the thermostat's should be down.
- Make love, if you're in the mood. Or at least ask your man for a massage - both of which can relax you.
- Try some relaxation exercises - visualisation, deep breathing, meditation, or even yoga or chanting before hitting the sack. And actually, counting sheep can work the same way - the monotony of watching those little guys jump over the fence can be truly relaxing (unless you associate them with insomnia).
- Leave a night-light on in the bathroom - switching on the overhead is way too much of a wakeup call and will make it much harder to fall back asleep.
More ways to beat insomnia
When you're ready to climb into bed, remember: There's no such thing as too many pillows. Use them to prop you up, rest body parts on, whatever you need them for. If at first (or second, or third) you don't succeed, don't sweat it (though since you're pregnant, you probably will already be sweating - so turn the thermostat down some more).
Get up, read a book, watch some TV, then try again. Stressing about shut-eye will only make it harder to grab.
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