Good quality sleep is essential if we’re to stay healthy but during pregnancy getting a full night’s sleep becomes almost impossible. So this Sleep Awareness Week, we have some fantastic advice for all you mums-to-be out there from sleep expert, Dave Gibson.
Dave has been practising as a Naturopath and Osteopath for over 15 years and he is also a qualified hypnotherapist, providing naturopathic advice across a wide range of conditions to promote good sleep patterns and quality sleep. Dave is the resident sleep expert for Warren Evans bed makers, and is founder of thesleepsite.co.uk.
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 1998 Women and Sleep poll, almost 4 out of 5 women report more disturbed sleep during pregnancy than at other times.
What’s more, poor sleep can have an effect on labour and delivery. Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco found that women who slept fewer than 6 hours per night during pregnancy had longer labours and were 4.5 times more likely to have caesarean deliveries.
It is essential therefore for pregnant women to prioritise sleep and to develop strategies for managing their sleep problems as early as possible.
Ten sleep tips for pregnancy
- The key to good quality and quantity of sleep is to establish a consistent sleep schedule (whether pregnant or not). This includes having a relaxing bedtime routine, and a comfortable sleeping environment. Keep all technology out of the bedroom, including mobile phones, TV and computers.
- Get your sleep position sorted early. Sleep on your left side to improve the flow of blood and nutrients to your foetus, and your uterus and kidneys. When sleeping, lie on your left side with your knees and hips bent. Place pillows between your knees, under your abdomen and behind your back. This may take pressure off your lower back.
- Drink lots of water/fluids in the day and cut down at night, and avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.
- Take naps when you need to in order to keep you out of sleep debt, however if you are wide-awake at night reduce your daily naps, as they may be interfering with your nightly sleep cycles.
- If you suffer from morning sickness, ginger can help (including ginger biscuits). Have lots of bland snacks such as crackers, keeping your stomach full should help to avoid nausea. Cold drinks tend to be better than hot drinks; peppermint tea can also help, but let it cool down first.
- Manage heartburn by avoiding large amounts of spicy, acidic or fried foods. Also, eat frequent small meals throughout the day.
- Regular exercise is well known for improving quality of sleep. Exercise for 30 minutes a day unless told not to by a health care provider, this can also help to reduce cramps at night.
- Learn relaxation techniques and breathing techniques, which will also come in handy during labour and delivery.
- Talk to your doctor if insomnia persists.
- If you can’t to sleep, get out of bed, and go back when you are tired.
Conditions and tips for common sleep disorders
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and leg cramps
About ¼ of women report RLS getting worse in pregnancy and about 15 % of pregnant women develop RLS in the third trimester. Moving your legs can stop these symptoms temporarily, but the irritation returns when the limb is still.
- Stretch out your feet bringing your toes towards the knee. If you get a cramp in your leg, straighten your leg and flex your foot upwards. Try doing this before going to bed several times to help ward off future cramps.
- Get checked for iron or folate deficiency, as these can cause RLS.
- Stop drinking coffee as it interferes with iron absorption and increase your Vitamin C intake, which helps with folate absorption.
- Iron supplements can help, but they tend to be poorly absorbed (liquid supplements such as Spatone will be more easily absorbed than tablets), eating red meat, spinach, whole grains, cereals and bread are good ways of increasing iron.
- Avoid carbonated drinks and soda that can aggravate leg cramps.
Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Somewhere between a third and one half of pregnant women experience GERD almost constantly during pregnancy. However, night time symptoms of GERD can damage the oesophagus and disrupt sleep during pregnancy.
- Prop yourself sitting upright to sleep, and use over the counter anti-acids.
- To prevent heartburn, do not eat large amounts of spicy, acidic (such as tomato products), or fried foods.
- Avoid eating within two to three hours before bed.
- If it’s severe go to your GP who may give you stronger anti-acids.
Sleep apnoea is when you temporarily stop breathing during sleep – it can become a serious problem if it is severe. Overweight or obese women who become pregnant, women who gain excessive weight, and women who report snoring should be evaluated for sleep if they experience sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea needs to be fully discussed and checked out with your GP.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a safe and effective treatment for sleep apnoea during pregnancy.
General symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early or feeling unrefreshed.
Napping is ok, but shorter is better – around 20 minutes in the siesta period is best, if your nap is too long or too close to bedtime, it could interfere with night time sleep.
Increased night time urination
Many women will get up more than once during the night to relieve themselves, and this interrupts valuable sleep time.
- Drink lots of fluids during the day, especially water, but cut down on the amount you drink in the hours before bedtime.
- Put a nightlight in the bathroom instead of turning on the light to use the bathroom, this prevents the increase in light switching your brain back onto daytime and helps you get back to sleep more easily.
Warren Evans bed makers and sleep expert, Dave Gibson, have created a free sleep guide for all adults called The Art of Falling Asleep, giving you simple, easy to follow advice and techniques to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Find out more at: Warren Evans. Warren Evans currently has up to 50% off some of their best beds and mattresses so it’s worth checking out.