How to Sleep Better During Pregnancyby Dianna Graveman | July 3, 2012 9:15 AM
Getting a good night's sleep has never been more important than it is during pregnancy. Not only do you need that extra rest to help your body prepare for labor and delivery, but you may not get a lot of sleep for several months after the baby is born.
Unfortunately, it's not always that easy. Your changing body, excitement and concerns about the upcoming delivery, and the frequent need to use the bathroom in late pregnancy can all contribute to sleep interruptions.
The most obvious solutions involve food and beverage consumption. While you will inevitably still need to use the bathroom at some point each night during your third trimester, you can avoid multiple trips by limiting how much fluid you drink shortly before bedtime. Coffee and caffeinated drinks are generally not recommended for pregnant women at any time during the day, but that after-dinner cup might just be the barrier to getting your much-needed rest.
Some herbal teas, however, work wonders in helping to aid relaxation and calm the minds of moms-to-be. Teas made from herbs do not contain caffeine, but the FDA does recommend pregnant women use caution when choosing herbal teas, since data is not always available. Commercial brands are usually considered safe. Look for well-known brands that state they use herbs based on an FDA guideline. Also consult your health care professional if you have concerns about drinking any herbal tea.
It may sound like simple common sense, but enjoy a satisfying evening meal and try to avoid late-night snacks that can cause heartburn or indigestion. If you absolutely must eat something before bed, try a few crackers or some other bland food. Eating several small meals throughout the day instead of three substantial meals may help, too.
Diet and bathroom needs aren't the only deterrents to a good night's sleep. As your baby gets bigger, you may no longer be able to sleep on your stomach -- or even on your back, because of sore muscles. You may have to get used to sleeping on your side only. Try lying on one side and placing a pillow between your knees. You can also support your growing belly by propping a pillow underneath it. Research shows that blood flow increases if you sleep on your left side, but it is probably not practical to assume you can sleep on only one side all night without getting too uncomfortable. Occasionally, you will need to move over to your right side. Try to alternate and, if you can, favor your left side.
Even if you avoid spicy foods, you might be plagued by occasional heartburn. If so, try propping yourself up with pillows to alleviate discomfort.
Moderate exercise, especially a walk outdoors in pleasant weather, will exert muscles and reduce stress -- and might be your ticket to pleasant pregnancy dreams. Yoga, meditation, and relaxation exercises aren't for everybody, but they may help you clear your mind and relax enough to get to sleep. If not, consider reading a book before bed instead of watching television. A warm bath may help ease more than just sore muscles -- scented, warm, sudsy water can also go a long way toward easing a busy mind.
Try to make your bedroom or sleeping area soothing and inviting. If possible, purchase one or two sets of soft sheets in your favorite colors -- but nothing bold and splashy. If you enjoy scented candles, use them -- nature sounds and background music can help set the mood for sleep, too.
The longer it takes you to get to sleep, the more you may worry about not getting enough sleep. Your work or family situation may not allow it, but if so, try to relax and tell yourself you'll sleep later in the morning if necessary. Keep the curtains and windows closed to limit outside noise and keep early-morning sunlight from waking you. But set the alarm for a reasonable hour -- sleeping in too long will land you right back in the same boat the next evening -- tossing and turning your way into another restless night.
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