Normal hormonal changes often heighten an expecting mother’s senses, making her more aware of her surroundings — during the day and night. If you’re feeling restless at night, focusing on your physical sleeping space can help improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. The recommendations below were actually created for the young children we work with, but we’ve found they also come in handy for new moms:
Think about how well you sleep at a nice hotel. It’s those thick curtains that create a wonderful sleep cave. A good way to determine if your room is dark enough is to shut off the lights and stand in the room for a few moments. After your eyes adjust, the room should be just light enough that you can barely see the outline of your hand. In an urban environment, this level of darkness is hard to achieve with blinds alone, so we recommend installing blackout liners or heavy drapes. Not ready to make the investment in new window coverings? Try this temporary solution: Tape up black garbage bags in your windows using painter’s tape. More permanent shades may be a worthwhile investment if you notice a difference in your sleep that night.
Most people sleep in bedrooms that are much too warm. This makes it difficult for your bodily functions to slow down and keep you in a restful state. The ideal temperature for sleeping is 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Invest in an indoor room thermometer to see how your room truly measures up. Then make whatever changes you can to achieve the ideal sleeping temperature. If you’re prone to hot flashes during pregnancy, this ideal sleeping temperature will feel fantastic.
White noise is really the must-have ingredient for uninterrupted sleep. We recommend purchasing or borrowing an actual white noise machine rather than using radio static or a bathroom fan. These machines generally cost under $30 and are highly effective and easily portable. But, in a pinch, a loud table fan would work too. White noise is wonderful because it helps cancel out noises that can rouse you out of lighter stages of sleep. It may take a night or two to get used to white noise in your bedroom, but eliminating external noises (ambulance, snoring partner, furnace kicking in) will go a long way in helping you sleep more soundly during your pregnancy.
Another overlooked element of good sleep is adding wind-down time to the end of each day. You wouldn’t put a baby in front of a television right before bedtime, so don’t do it to yourself either. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, put a stake in the ground and declare that the last hour before bedtime is reserved only for calming and nonstimulating activities. Take a bath, read a book, or write in your pregnancy journal — you’ll be thankful you made time for these things once the baby arrives!
The first three hours of sleep are when we’re in our deepest, most restorative sleep. If you can ensure this time isn’t interrupted, you’ll feel much more well rested in the morning. This is especially helpful to know during those first few months home with a new baby when they need around-the-clock care. If new moms can find ways to protect their first three hours of sleep each night (e.g., have Dad do the 10 p.m. feeding), they’ll have much more energy during the day and be able to enjoy their adorable newborns even more!