One of the most common wishes amongst pregnant women is better sleep in pregnancy! I hear of countless pregnant women who have trouble getting comfortable in bed – negotiating their belly or pelvic pain, trying not to sleep on their back, and then there is that never ending to-do-list swimming around in their head!
The last thing any woman needs during her pregnancy is sleep deprivation, because let’s be honest, it’s a form of torture! So, since sleep is the cornerstone of health, I have dived into the best ways you can achieve better sleep in pregnancy.
And the research backs up the importance of sleep in pregnancy too – showing that good quality sleep in late pregnancy has been found to assist with labour outcomes. So mamas-to-be, you need to take your sleep seriously!
Here are my 12 Best Tips for Better Sleep in Pregnancy:
1. Consistent sleep schedule
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps to set a pattern for your body clock, and encourages optimal sleep quantity and quality. Stick to this regime during both the week and weekend, and soon your body will naturally wake up at the same time without that dreaded alarm!
The National Sleep Foundation states that adults need between 7-9 hours sleep a night. So find your sweet spot by experimenting. Aim to be asleep by 10pm each night, as your cell repair is maximised between 10pm and midnight. Since sleep cycles last for 90 minutes, aim to wake up at the end of a 90 minute cycle, rather than smack bang in the middle. e.g. If you go to bed at 10pm, wake up at 5:30am.
Typically during the first trimester, tiredness can hit hard. Some nights you might find yourself needing to go to bed at 7pm and this is totally fine! Make sure you listen to your body and sleep more if you need it, especially in those early months.
2. Stretching before bed
A common reason pregnant women find sleeping difficult is due to pelvic or hip pain, or leg cramps. This is one reason why I created my Pregnancy Stretches E-book. This E-book will teach you safe stretches to do during pregnancy to help reduce muscle tension, and help you sleep. Do these stretches before bed each night!
One of my lovely clients did these stretches every night before bed and not only slept better that night, but had much less pelvic pain the following day!
Buy your Stretching E-book here!
Taking a magnesium supplement before bed during pregnancy can help reduce leg cramps during the night and aid sleep. I highly recommend Bioceuticals Ultramuscleze Night – which is safe to take in pregnancy.
4. Circadian rhythm and sun exposure
Humans are designed to wake with the sunrise and wind down with the sunset. So if you can change your daily habits to reflect this – i.e. wake earlier and wind down after dinner – you will ultimately sleep better.
Get yourself out into the sunshine first thing in the morning – ideally between 6 and 8am. Even if you can only manage a 15-minute walk in the sunshine, this is better than nothing. Doing this sets you up for the day, as it sets our circadian rhythm and hormone production to release serotonin during the day and melatonin at night.
If you are a shift worker, I suggest you speak to your boss about altering your work hours during pregnancy to working daytime hours, as shift work messes with our circadian rhythm and sleep.
The mattress you sleep on makes the world of difference! When you are pregnant, you need to be comfortable and roll over with ease. This is why I love the Koala mattress! It provides a firm yet super comfortable with 5 zone panelling for optimal spinal support, and made from environmentally friendly material – so no springs or nasties for you and bubs.
You can also roll over with ease, with zero partner disturbance – I mean how good is that?!
I am super excited to offer my tribe $150 off your Koala order by using the code “MATESWITHWHOLEMOTHER“!!
Get your very own KOALA here!
Getting comfortable in bed during pregnancy can be a mission! It is recommended that you avoid sleeping on your back from >20 weeks gestation. This is to avoid compression of a major blood vessel, the inferior vena cava. Lying on your side is a safe way to sleep, but many women complain of hip discomfort after some time.
This is why belly pillows are a great option! You can place it behind your back, allowing you to lie in a quarter turned position so you are not lying directly on your back or hip. Win! I also recommend placing the belly pillow between your bent knees to keep your pelvis in a neutral position. You can use a normal pillow to achieve this also.
To support your belly you can place a pillow or wedge under your belly. If you suffer reflux then you can try a wedge pillow to tilt your head up on more of an angle.
Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, the hormone we need to go to sleep. So make sure you dim the lights in the evening, or better still use candles. When you go to bed, make your bedroom as dark as possible. Use block out blinds and/or an eye mask.
We’ve all heard it before, but it really is true – turning off technology an hour before going to bed makes a huge difference to your sleep! Not only does the content on your device stimulate your brain, but the screens omit blue light screens which tell our brain it’s daytime – eek!
So be sure to put your iphones on “night shift” if you have to use it after 8pm. Blue light glasses are another good option.
If you use your phone as an alarm clock then make sure you put it on aeroplane mode before going to sleep, otherwise keep it out of the bedroom.
Turning off Wi-Fi overnight is also a good idea to reduce EMF (electromagnetic field) exposure.
10. Bedtime routine
Remember how as kids we had a bedtime routine and it worked a treat? Well the same applies for us adults! The specific routine you adopt will be different for each of us but the essence is the same – in the lead up to bed, do things that help to unwind you. This could be an Epson salt bath or warm (not hot) shower, meditation, gentle stretching, journaling, chatting to your partner or reading.
I also recommend writing down anything that is worrying you or anything you have to get done the next day. Writing it down helps to get it out of your head so you are not stewing over it as you try to go to sleep. Keep a notepad next to your bed.
11. Eat early
Try to eat dinner as early as you can, so you have digested your meal prior to going to bed. This is especially important if you suffer reflux during your pregnancy.
12. Fluid intake
It’s a known fact that your bladder is going to disturb your sleep during pregnancy, but there are a few tricks you can try to minimise this. Try to only sip fluid after dinner and have most of your fluid intake during the day. Avoid fluid that is going to irritate your bladder such as caffeine, carbonated drinks, fruit juice or any other sugary drinks.
I really hope you have taken away a few nuggets of sleep wisdom today! If you know a fellow pregnant mama struggling to sleep, flick her this blog and she will be forever grateful!
If your sleep issues are due to pelvic, back, hip or leg pain, please see a Women’s Health Physio, as we will help you! If you are unsure what the cause is, I recommend seeing an Integrative GP who can establish what is going on in your body, and how to best help you.
Dolezal et al (2017) Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review. Advances in Preventative Medicine.
Hirshkowtiz et al (2015) National Sleep Foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations: final report. Sleep Health 1:233-243.
Lee and Gay (2004) Sleep in late pregnancy predicts length of labor and type of delivery. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 199: 2041-6.