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Trouble sleeping?

Having difficulty in sleeping is very common during pregnancy - here are some ways to help you get the most of your nighttimes

Posted: 8 September 2009
by ThinkBaby

Having problems sleeping is a very common occurrence during pregnancy, and can happen at any stage. Most often mums-to-be find that they have difficulties in the second half of the pregnancy as their bump grows, baby starts to move and getting comfortable is more of a challenge. But it's also common for sleeping trouble to start much earlier, even in the first weeks of pregnancy.

There are all sorts of reasons why this can be, ranging from the mental adjustment to being pregnant through to physical changes and even late-night hunger. Knowing that it's a common problem is of limited help when you need to be fresh for a morning meeting though, and while you could just write sleeplessness off as good preparation for the months and years to come, some simple measures might help you sleep more easily.

1. Try to relax - A tough one, we agree (and we have really been there), but often the fear of not sleeping can contribute to the sleeplessness. Try to remember that most people having trouble sleeping get more rest than they think they're getting. Often, when you've had a fitful night's sleep, the shallow dreams you have can leave you feeling restless and tired even though you have actually been asleep. If you approach your night's sleep thinking about the disturbances of the previous night and how important it is to catch up, then you may make it more difficult for yourself to sleep well.

2. Try a warm, milky drink - A warm, milky drink is an age-old remedy for relaxing you into sleep by raising the serotonin level in the brain. A miky drink can also help relieve heartburn, which is another frequent cause of nighttime discomfort. If warm milk and honey isn't your thing then you could try Horlicks or a similar malted drink. Other milk products and eggs can have a similar effect, though not many people want to eat egg before bedtime.

3. Have a bedtime routine - Preparing your body for sleep can make a big difference. Try to wind down towards the end of the day and let your mind slow down with some light reading, television a bath or massage. Choose your entertainment matter carefully though, anything dark, violent or disturbing may affect your sleep. A few drops of lavender oil in the bathtub may help you sleep, or try spritzing your pillow with a lavender spray. Try saving getting into bed for sleeping or lovemaking: You may think it will be relaxing to watch a bit of television or read in bed, but encouraging associations between the bed and other activities can undermine the ability to sleep there for some people.

4. Ward off hunger - You may not realise it, but if you're having trouble sleeping you may be hungry. Being pregnant you'll probably have noticed that you need to eat more often in order to keep your energy up. These needs don't just stop at nighttime when you're making a baby. A well-timed suitable snack before bed of oat cookies, crackers, a little whole-grain toast or cereal could make all the difference. And if you wake up in the night and are unable to get back to sleep a small snack could also help. What you don't want to do however, is to have a big meal too close to bedtime, when digestion might then keep you awake.

5. Check your environment - Being too hot or too cold is another common cause of restlessness at night, and one that you might not be fully aware of. Make sure that you're using suitable bedding for the time of year - that down quilt might be snug in winter but a bit too much in the summer or early autumn. A hot water bottle might warm your bed nicely before you climb in at night, but it might be wise to remove it once you're snuggly settled. If you can, leave a window open to prevent the room becoming stuffy and air the room well during the day.

6. Get comfy - You might not need to wait until later in pregnancy for finding a comfy position to be problematic. Even in the early weeks you may prefer a different sleeping position to your usual one, and if you're usually a front or back sleeper it might help to make the switch to sleeping on your side earlier rather than later. A sufficiently firm mattress can help you get comfortable, and in later pregnancy specially designed maternity pillows can help support your bump in a comfortable position.

7. Exercise! - Yes, it's the all-conquering remedy again. A little exercise every day will help stimulate you during the day, and make you sleepier at nighttime (provided you don't exercise too closely to bedtime, which will have the opposite effect). Even as little as a 20-minute walk can have a dramatic difference on your frame of mind and ability to sleep.

8. Time your fluid intake - A common cause of waking in the night during pregnancy is frequent loo trips. If this is something that disturbs you then try to take on more of your daily fluids earlier in the day. Avoiding caffeine makes sense on two counts, not only can it keep you awake, but it's also a diuretic, so will have you running to the loo more frequently.

9. Try a little music or radio - Many people find that some background noise can help them sleep, whether that's quietly playing the radio, a soothing piece of music or a sleep time compilation. If the noise bothers your partner then invest in a set of earphones that are comfy enough to wear at night.

10. Clear your head - If you're being kept awake by a racing mind then try to deal with the issues that are keeping you awake. If you can, get them out of the way before bedtime, but if something you hadn't thought of earlier is flying around your head and bothering you then get up and get the thoughts out on paper at least, or come up with a plan of action for the next day.

What not to do

1. Lie in bed awake for hours - If you really can't sleep then don't wait around in bed to get frustrated. Instead get up and read, clean, watch tv or come on to the ThinkBaby forum and see who else is up in the middle of the night.

2. Resort to medication - All the pointers above should help you get a good night's sleep. If you're still having problems then talk to your doctor rather than reaching for an alcoholic nightcap, a sleeping pill or a herbal remedy.

3. Give yourself a digestion problem - Eating substantial meals late at night or eating foods that are likely to cause indigestion and wind can make settling to sleep a lot more difficult. If wind is keeping you awake at night then make sure you read our tips on how to avoid it.

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Discuss this story

I stopped smoking b4 i was pregnant. Now im 5 months pregnent and have been smokin 4 the past month. I feel really guilty buit i dont know wot ot do please help x

Posted: 11/04/2007 at 16:22


I gave up smoking a few weeks b4 I found out I was pregnant and then started again, but I put a stop to it again within a couple of weeks. I set a day when I was going to give up and just stopped. I also made my partner give up as well. It is really difficult, but smoking while u are pregnant will make you really uncomfortable as you will find it harder to breath anyway and the pregnancy snuffles will not help either. Your midwife should be able to give you some advice on what you can do.

But I will say, I gave up the second time without much effort at all. I found it alot easier. x x x

Posted: 11/04/2007 at 16:35


i smoked before i got pregnant and i cut right down but never gave up completly.

in the end i smoked only a couple of times a week after cutting down from 20 a day to just 2, and i used to put my cigs next to a photo of my 12 week scan, and it used to make me feel so guilty i put the cigs back.

it is so so difficult to stop, especially if your baby came as a shock as ours did. I was in a high pressure job and it really isnt any excuse, but thats the way it was. My body was changing,my life was too and i was scared! try cutting down hun as best you can and if you manage to stop completly thats absolutly fab. i am certainly in no position to lecture anyone about smoking in pregnancy but i can hold my hands up and say i tried my best, thats all any of us can do.

Posted: 11/04/2007 at 21:50

Dont beat yourself up if you cant give up smoking completely. The important thing is youre trying, and any reduction is helpful to the baby.
Im not going to judge anyone, not a smoker but have similar issue with booze. I have cut down a lot, but admit to still having the occasional glass of wine. Its obviously difficult to totally cut out what has been a regular habit pre pregnancy so we just have to do our best.

Posted: 12/04/2007 at 21:04


i think the key is moderation in anything we do, but i am a total hypocrite judging by the amount of chocolate eggs i monstered lol

it bothered me a bit with booze too mainly cos that was the norm, finish work, go to the pub,its where all my friends were and it was an evbitonment i was used to. etc

were not all perfect, at least were honest enough to admit it. xxxxxxxxxxxx

Posted: 12/04/2007 at 23:07

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