Between fluctuating hormones and at least one nightly trip to the bathroom, it’s hard to log a good eight hours or so of sleep — especially late in pregnancy. So what are some good drug-free ways to help ensure quality pillow time? Start by shoring up what sleep experts call your “sleep hygiene.” Begin by establishing good habits, getting yourself to bed at a reasonable hour (ideally before 11 p.m.) as often as possible. Keep the lights dim in your room (turn off lamps, clocks and other electronics), because light can also interfere with your sleep cycle. Avoid getting on the computer or watching the news before bed, since you’ll want to enter dreamland thinking of pleasant things, not stressful ones. And finally, make sure you’re getting enough natural light during the day (at least 20 minutes) to help regulate melatonin levels; the hormone can influence your sleep/wake cycles.
Still not snoozing? Start with a cup of herbal tea an hour or so before bed (favorites for inducing sleep include chamomile, catnip and oatstraw). You can find these herbs already made into teas at many health-food stores. Try having it with a light, high-protein snack like a slice of turkey or a handful of nuts, which takes a while to digest and can help keep glycemic levels steady (so you don’t wake up starving at 5 a.m.). Magnesium supplements may also be helpful, since the mineral is known to alleviate muscle pain (something that may be interfering with your sleep as you cope with your ever-growing tummy). Just ask your doctor about the right dosage for you, since too much magnesium can cause diarrhea. You can also consider the amino acid L-theanine, which is known for helping to safely moderate nighttime cortisol levels. Finally, check with your doctor if you are considering taking a melatonin supplement — it’s highly touted for its role in regulating sleep cycles, but there are conflicting opinions (and not a lot of good clinical evidence) about how safe it is when you’re sleeping for two.
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