My son was never much of a sleeper. It took him several years (not months!) to sleep through the night, and he’s always happily up with the sun. So it was especially frustrating when I was just back in the routine of getting a full night’s sleep when I got pregnant again and immediately started having trouble sleeping.
Insomnia while pregnant – what’s up with that?
Of course, I know that it’s likely due to shifting hormones, being excited (or sometimes anxious) about a test result or pondering names. But after a while, it gets old. Here are some things to try if you find yourself unable to get to sleep or stay asleep while you’re pregnant.
- Listen to a guided meditation as you’re falling to sleep. We are doing Hypnobirthing, so had some audio tracks that came along with the program that had soothing positive birth affirmations and relaxing meditations available to listen to. If that’s not your thing, then there are lots of other tracks on YouTube or through various apps and websites. You can choose the ones that appeal most to you – or make up your own!
- Focus on something fun and calming. While it may be tempting to watch your favorite thriller movie or mystery series right before bed, it’s probably not a great way to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep. The light from your screen (whether it’s on a TV, a tablet, computer, phone, etc) confuses your brain and your hormones into thinking it’s time to be awake. Also, the suspense or drama on the show may cause you to be anxious, even if it doesn’t necessarily feel that way in the moment. Instead, try journaling, reading a comedy or fantasy book, listening to a light podcast, or practicing some guided meditation or deep breathing before you drift off.
- Eat, but not too much. We usually eat around 7 pm and then I’m in bed by at least 10 pm (if not earlier). So there’s usually plenty of time for me to digest my food, but not so much time that I’m hungry again. If I feel even the slightest twinge of hunger before bed, peanut butter is my go-to. I’m sure peanut butter isn’t for everyone, but I find nut butter to be a good balance of healthy fat, protein, and carbohydrate. I can smear it on a couple of apple slices or a cracker, or down spoonful right out of the jar (no double-dipping!) to satiate me. Other good snacks that have helped me are a piece of cheese and a bit of natural turkey (no nitrates or nitrites, of course) or a scoop of plain yogurt (preferably full fat) with some chopped nuts. Another good one is avocado with a few plantain chips. The point is, eat something small and quick that will satisfy you, but won’t spike your blood sugar.
- Avoid stimulants – of any kind. It was heart-breaking to discover that no matter what time in the day I nibbled on dark chocolate (even just a square or two – of the really dark stuff, even!) I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night. My last vice!! But I also have found that my client suffer the same with some of their supposedly “safe” not-so-guilty pleasures that also have a stimulating effect on the body: green tea, decaf coffee, a sugary treat…even a good workout enjoyed a bit too late in the day. If you’re frustrated by insomnia, keep a little journal of foods and activities for a week and see what exacerbates the situation and what helps relieve it.
- Upgrade your sleeping environment. If you don’t already have one, try a pregnancy pillow or create a nest for yourself with pillows that will support you in the position that works best for you. If you like essential oils, use a drop or two on a tissue near your bed or put a little in a diffuser near you. Make sure your pajamas (or whatever you sleep in) isn’t constricting you in any way – this is especially important as your belly grows. And find a good way to adjust the temperature in your room so that you are comfortable. You may have to try different things to create the right environment, including ear plugs or blackout curtains. And if you share your bed with others (your partner, other children, a pet) you may have to work out an arrangement that honors your sleeping needs as they change.
- Challenge yourself to have fun being awake when no one else is. Years ago, one of my yoga teachers began the class by reading a teaching by one of her favorite gurus. In this passage, he explained that night wakefulness was actually a blessing to be relished. That may feel like quite a stretch when you’re exhausted and know that you have to be up and chipper early in the morning for your family or work. But if you can let go of any attachment to getting a certain number of hours of continuous sleep, you may be able to actually calm yourself enough to get back to sleep…or at least enjoy being awake. Think about it: how many times at the end of a busy day did you wish you had time to read a magazine or listen to a podcast you’ve been wanting to hear? When’s the last time you just stared out the window at the moon in the night sky? Can you allow yourself to enjoy wondering what color your baby’s eyes will be or what color his or her hair will be? Jot down a thought or a wish for yourself or your baby.
What’s your favorite way to have a good night?