It’s not easy to sleep at the best of times, but add pregnancy hormones, a sizeable bump and an overactive bladder to the mix and the chance of some quality zeds plummets. A few choice changes to your routine can make all the difference, as we discover…
Struggling to get your beauty sleep while pregnant? Then you’re not alone. Nearly half of pregnant women in their first trimester experience insomnia, according to one study – and this figure rises to more than 60% of pregnant women in their third trimester!
Thankfully, there are steps you can take during the day; as you gear up for bedtime and once you hit the hay that will increase your chances of a decent night’s sleep, as we reveal below.
During the day…
1. Get moving
According to Dr Michael Breus, aka The Sleep Doctor, exercise is one of the best ways to help you fall asleep more easily, spend longer snoozing and improve the quality of your kip. And this theory stands up whether you’re pregnant or not.
The challenge, of course, comes from the fact that being pregnant means you feel limited to what you can and can’t do when it comes to staying active, which is where we can help out.
The NHS recommends that pregnant women aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week, with walking, yoga and swimming all brilliant pregnancy exercises.
If you want to do light cardio, strength, resistance and yoga, Jessica Ennis-Hill's pregnancy exercise app, Jennis Pregnancy, is just the thing. All our workouts have been designed by physios and they have all been designed specifically to support pregnant women – all of which should help you get a better night’s sleep.
2. Drink up – but not too late
It’s true that you’re drinking for two when you’re pregnant – the fluid you drink is needed to make not just your own extra blood, but your baby’s, too. But, if you’re waking up for lots of night-time pit stops, try tweaking the timings by drinking more fluids during the daytime, and cut back in the last few hours before bed.
Just before bed...
3. Stretch before bed
One in five women experience ‘restless legs’ in the last few months of pregnancy, with the symptoms including an annoying crawling and tingling sensation. Even more annoyingly, the symptoms can only be relieved when you move your legs, making it very tricky for you get to sleep. If you suffer from this during your pregnancy, gentle calf stretches just before you get into bed may soothe the sensations long enough for you to nod off.
To help you out with these, Jessica Ennis-Hill and her physios created a special series of ‘ache and cramp reliever’ exercises for the Jennis Pregnancy app, with specially designed exercises to soothe common pregnancy niggles, including leg cramps and foot swelling. You can find this in the Jennis Pregnancy Extras section.
4. Relax your mind
Whether it’s your to-do list, work niggles or the upcoming challenges of becoming a mum, it can be difficult to nod off if your mind is racing. Deep breathing exercises can help quieten busy thoughts, and meditation – according to a 2015 study – can relieve insomnia in pregnancy. To help you out with this, check out the meditation playlist in the Jennis Pregnancy app.
Once you’re in bed...
5. Use pillows as props
Pillows are really useful in bed to ease pregnancy-related discomfort, so get creative. As your bump gets bigger, place a pillow underneath it to give it some extra support. Another popular pillow placement is between the knees, as this helps to ease pressure on your hip and knee joints.
Heartburn? Then there’s a pillow trick for that, too. To combat this, place extra pillows under your head or shoulders so that you’re propped up. Stomach acid isn’t keen on travelling uphill while you sleep, so this should do the trick.
6. Zap the night sweats
If you’re waking up in the middle of the night boiling hot – and possibly drenched in sweat – you’re likely experiencing night-time hot flushes. A study found that 35% of pregnant women reported the occasional night sweats – and they peaked at the start of the third trimester. One reason is the hormonal swings and roundabouts that happen in pregnancy, and another is the increased blood flow which affects your body’s in-built temperature control system. It can also be caused by low blood sugar, hypoglycaemia.
If this sounds like you, get ahead of the night sweats by wearing cotton pyjamas or nothing at all – and make sure your bedroom is super-cool at night. A fan may help, too. If you’re experiencing night sweats very regularly, it’s worth talking to your GP or midwife, as it can be a sign of other health conditions.
7. Make side-sleeping easier
A full-body pregnancy pillow can help you not only keep aligned and supported during pregnancy, but it can also help you to sleep on your side.
This is important for a number of reasons. 1) You’ll probably find it comfier sleeping on your side as your bump gets bigger anyway. 2) Side-sleeping is believed to be safer, as your placenta and baby will receive more helpings of blood, and also more nutrients (and sleeping on your back has been linked to stillbirth).
Please note: if you wake up and find yourself on your back, that’s completely fine. Do not worry. It’s the position you fall asleep in that’s most important as it’s the position we sleep in for longest, according to scientists.