You’re so tired, and all you want is a restful night of sleep. So what's stopping you? We asked a couple of sleep experts: Sam Sugar, MD, director of MedCheck and Sleep Health Programs at the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami, and Matthew Mingrone, MD, lead physician at Eos Sleep in San Francisco, to share their sleep secrets for pregnant women.
Skip the late-night snacks
We know baby’s hungry, but seriously, don’t consume anything—we’re talking about food and drink—less than two hours before bedtime. “There’s the likelihood that it will cause reflux or heartburn,” says Dr. Sugar. And that would keep you wide awake and uncomfortable.
Move to the side
You probably know you should sleep on your side if possible, since it’ll reduce the amount of pressure on your uterus and help you breathe better. Plus, the position will help relieve backaches. And there actually is a good side. According to the American Pregnancy Association, sleeping on your left side can help increase the amount of blood and nutrients that flow to baby.
Prop your body
Get a firm pillow, and use it to prop your head and upper body up a few inches. This position allows gravity to put less pressure on your diaphragm and help you breathe easier. “Strategically placed pillows help support the stomach and can help you get to sleep—try a full-body pillow for this kind of support,” says Dr. Mingrone.
Quit tossing and turning
Seems counterintuitive, but if you can’t sleep, don’t just lie in bed miserable. “Get up and do something that might make you bored for a few minutes,” says Dr. Sugar. Try walking around your house or folding laundry. It might feel weird, but we all know that mundane chores are sometimes a bore—so use it to your advantage. After you’ve calmed down a bit, go back to bed and see if you can fall asleep.
Make your bed comfy
A comfortable bed is key. Since your spine feels more pressure than normal, get different size pillows and rearrange them to elevate your body or relieve back pain. You might need more to get comfy. Also, if you’re not getting enough support from your mattress because you’re finding that you have a lot of back pain or sore muscles, you might need to add a mattress pad.
Keep naps short and sweet
If you have time to nap (lucky you!), go for it, but don’t nap for more than 30 minutes, says Dr. Sugar. If you sleep for longer than that, your body will enter the stage of deep sleep and this will make it harder for you to wake up and will leave you feeling groggy. Don’t worry—even though you’re only allowed a half hour for a nap, you can take a few each day. It’s the perfect treatment for daytime fatigue.
Turn down the temp
Your body heat increases during pregnancy. You might be feeling hot all the time, and if your room is too stuffy, you might have trouble sleeping. So experiment with the thermostat to find a temperature that’s most comfy for you — maybe a few degrees lower than you normally set it to. “For most people, setting the thermostat to the low 60s [degrees Fahrenheit] is an ideal sleeping temperature,” says Dr. Mingrone.
Unplug well before bedtime
A few minutes before you go to sleep, stay away from any external stimulation — that means books, smartphones, newspapers, television or any potential source of noise or light. Also, you should stay away from doing any strenuous activities like late-night workouts or deep-cleaning the house—they’ll keep you wired.
Keep the bed for sleep and sex only
Don’t do work on your bed, like responding to emails with your laptop or paying your bills. Your body needs to know that your bed is for resting, so you need to train it to think that way.
Turn off the lights
Keep your room quiet and dark. If you have an alarm clock with a bright light or any other electronics that have light sources (like smartphone and iPad screens!), make sure the brightness isn’t facing you. Put a piece of cloth over them or turn them around. “Artificial light can disturb natural sleep and inhibit the production of the hormone melatonin, which can mess with your sleep cycle,” says Dr. Mingrone. Keep your blinds or curtains closed, if there’s too much bright light in the morning, invest in some blackout curtains.
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