Pregnancy Insomnia GRRRR.
Having sleepless nights is hard enough. Never mind when you are having crazy hormone fluctuations, holding down a hectic job and dealing with all the other many pregnancy-related ailments that Mother Nature throws at you- she’s a cruel mistress!
Believe me when I say I feel your pain with insomnia because this is something that popped up at regular occurrences throughout my pregnancy!
As well as being a hot topic with the pregnancy yoga Mamas in my Hackney class, Insomnia is always something that crops up at my Walthamstow Hypnobirthing classes so I thought it would be good to share with you some of my hints and tips for coping with pregnancy insomnia and here’s hoping it helps you get a bit of decent rest!
Ready? Okay, let’s do this then. Starting with your pre-bedtime routine
Chances are you’re not caffeinated up to the eyeballs or getting super boozy through your pregnancy so let’s just strike those common causes of insomnia right off the list straight away (not long until that espresso martini Mama, I promise!)
1. First of all ditch the tech.
If you can avoid it after 7 pm – ACE! Well done and hats off to you. But that’s not most of us, right?
If the thought of being disconnected from your phone or laptop for all that time just gave you palpitations then there is another way! At the very least, get a filter on your devices to filter out the blue light emissions. Blue lights trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and can interrupt our sleep-wake cycles (aka circadian rhythms) so we want to replace blue with red light and maybe think about reducing your tech use in the late evening… if you can.
2. Are you sitting comfortably?
Maybe you’re a back sleeper or even a front sleeper and you know about the benefits of side sleeping in pregnancy but you just can’t get comfy! Well for every pregnancy-related problem there’s usually an expensive solution…and there are special pregnancy pillows that some women SWEAR by to help get them into a comfy sleeping position. Good news is you don’t actually need any of those. Just a couple of extra strategically placed pillows can help. When it comes to final relaxation in my pregnancy yoga classes I always suggest an extra pillow or blanket UNDER the bump for support and one between the knees to help align your pelvis and avoid achey hips which can wake you up in the night. For anyone worried about rolling over on to their back then pop a pillow behind to help wedge you In – snug as a bug in a rug!
OK, so you are comfy. What next?
3. Dealing with heartburn
Maybe the dreaded heartburn is keeping you awake? Heartburn or acid reflux is super common in pregnancy due to changing hormone levels and your baby taking up extra room.
But as far as sleep goes. Certainly avoiding late night eating helps and If you prop the head end of your bed up with a couple of sturdy books then you have gravity on your side and it can help reduce the symptoms. Tried and tested method from one of my current pregnancy yoga ladies in Hackney!
Are you having trouble switching off? Swirling thoughts? Maybe your pregnancy has caused you to feel a bit more anxiety than usual and that’s totally normal! You are going through a huge period of change both mentally and physically so be kind to yourself and try some of these next few tips.
4. Tackle work worries
Do you find things popping into your head right before you go to sleep, things you should have done in the day or are worried you will forget? It can help to have a notebook at the side of your bed to write down anything that you need to deal with the next day, that way you can put it to bed- pun intended.
5. Release tension from the body
A guided relaxation or yoga nidra is a great way to relax before bedtime and when practised is super beneficial to the nervous system.
This works equally for night wakings if you find yourself always wide awake at 4 am (or whatever unsavoury hour that not so long ago you used to be getting home at) You can find some good examples here on the lush tums website.
6 Calm a racing mind
Meditating and focusing on deep breathing before bed, are equally as helpful to relax. You don’t need anything to meditate but lots of people use an app to help them with it. The headspace app is very popular to help with mediation and I use one called relax melodies which is ace and you can pick your own relaxing sounds!
7 Breath your way to calm
Over and above the deep belly breathing there’s a couple of different breathing techniques you can have a go with. If it’s anxiety then buzzing bee breath is a good one to help calm your nerves and you can see how to do that here. For a racing mind I suggest alternate nostril breathing, it takes a bit of practice but that’s part of the beauty, it allows you to narrow your focus and takes your mind off things.
8. Get your Yoga on.
Quel surprise, the pregnancy yoga teacher suggested pregnancy yoga! Only with good reason and because soooooo many of my ladies tell me how well they sleep after their evening class with me. Find a good class where you can tell your teacher about your sleep troubles and they can show you safely modified moves for pregnancy to help with your sleep issues, which you can then practice in the comfort of your home. I always recommend a couple of minutes in extended child’s pose for night wakings. It’s a lovely modified with lots of room for your bump so you can rest in the nourishing posture for a good couple of minutes, helping to regulate the sleep/wake cycles. See how to access it here
9 Cramping your style?
Some women suffer from extreme leg cramps that wake them up in AGONY! It’s called Charlie horse syndrome and although pretty normal can be quite scary when it happens! It could be that your body isn’t absorbing enough calcium, magnesium or potassium. Dealing with this involves a bit more of a pre-emptive strike. Having some coconut water before bed can help if its potassium as can using a magnesium spray on the leg muscles.
Ok. Gone through all of these and still find yourself waking up? Personally, I think it’s just Mother Nature’s cruel way of preparing you for those sleepless nights you have to come and this like her way of softening the blow.
If you find this is the case, my advice is, focus on getting quality rest over getting sleep. The biggest irony is the more we worry about the sleep we are not getting and TRY to sleep, the harder it gets. Focus on getting REST and relaxation takes the pressure off a bit.
For me, the big thing was night wakings. In the last trimester, Especially last few weeks, I was awake about 4 am pretty much every night. I would have a wee and usually a snack (I was such a night eater!!) before trying some of the relaxation techniques. Sometimes it worked other times I was still wide awake.
At that point, I could have fought it and got frustrated but where would that have got me? Awake and pissed off. So this brings me to the final suggestion
Let go of any idea of going back to sleep and do something nice instead. Maybe reading or controversial as it may sound (given that I said ditch the tech) I would watch nature documentaries and let the soothing sound of David Attenborough lull me back to sleep. It might have taken an hour, maybe more but I enjoyed that hour way more then I would have being pissed off about sleeping.
I hope that helps you Mamas’ get a good nights rest.