With UK birth rates peaking in September, TEMPUR ® sleep expert and chartered psychologist provides pregnancy sleep tips for a better night’s rest
Did you know that birth rates in the UK are highest in late September? Although 2020’s lockdown may well throw all the usual data out the window in the coming year, winter is typically peak conception time in the UK. The “Christmas conception” boom makes September the most common birthday month in Britain.
Women expecting a baby, especially if it’s the first pregnancy, experience several changes taking place in the body and these can disrupt usual sleep patterns, making expectant mothers feel more tired than usual.
So here to help, TEMPUR® sleep expert and chartered psychologist, Suzy Reading, provides her tips to aid better sleep through pregnancy, exploring sleep positions, good daily practices and solutions to help calm an anxious mind.
“Expecting a baby is a really exciting time for parents,” says Suzy, “but of course, growing a human being is going to impact your sleep, comfort and energy levels among many other things. It’s common to feel tired, or even exhausted, during pregnancy, especially in the first and final 12 weeks.
“Hormonal changes taking place in your body can make you feel tired, nauseous and emotional, which can in turn lead to poor sleep. The best thing you can do is rest as much as possible, eat healthily and try to make time for quality sleep. Find moments to rest and accept offers of help from friends, family, neighbours and colleagues.
“Being tired and not sleeping well – especially during the later stages of pregnancy as your bump gets bigger – can be very frustrating, but it’s also very normal. The trick is to find techniques that help you relax before bedtime and rest frequently during the day to allow for the best possible sleep when you head to bed.”
Read on for Suzy’s full tips.
Bump-friendly sleep positions
The safest sleep position while pregnant is on your side, either left or right. Don’t sleep on your back as this can reduce blood flow and oxygen to the baby, but don’t worry if you wake up on your back. If you’re finding it hard to roll over, roll onto your hands and knees and then onto your side rather than rolling onto your back. Aim to keep your knees in line with your hips to avoid any strain.
Extra pillows can really help support your back, legs and bump in bed. Use the rule of three for pillows: you will need one behind your back, one under your bump and one between your knees. This technique supports your bump and stops your back from twisting, plus it takes the pressure off the bladder and pelvic area. During pregnancy, cartilage around the pelvis softens, so pillows can help to support joints and relieve any pressure on your pelvis.
You may suffer from indigestion because of increased pressure on your stomach and diaphragm as baby grows, so it may help to sleep slightly propped up to avoid heartburn. Avoid eating too late, and avoid eating too much sugar, carbs or fat before bedtime, as these increase the likelihood of heartburn and digestive issues.
Feeling too hot
During pregnancy, increased blood flow boosts body metabolism by about 20 percent, creating more body heat. A pregnant woman’s core body temperature can rise to 37.8°C, when it is usually 37°C. Because of this, it’s normal to feel too warm to sleep well at night.
Make the bedroom as cool and ventilated as possible to avoid overheating. Create a through-draft by opening windows and doors, keep shutters and curtains drawn during hot days and swap a heavy winter duvet for a light summer duvet or sheet. Use cotton or linen bedding and nightwear as these are naturally breathable, absorbent and cooling, and avoid using any man-made materials such as polyester which trap heat and make you feel warmer.
Fans can also keep a room cooler but position the airflow away from you directly, so the air circulates around the room as much as possible. You could also cool your pillow by putting in a ziplock bag and popping in the freezer for 10 minutes before bed.
During the day
Gentle exercises, such as walking, yoga, swimming and Pilates will help you feel more naturally tired and ready for sleep at the end of the day. Try to get out into the fresh air at least once a day. Keep your exercise light and enjoyable, don’t overdo it as your body is already working hard and carrying extra weight which means you’re centre of gravity is changing and you mightn’t be as agile.
Get plenty of rest during the day if you’re able. Sit or lie down frequently to rest and keep your feet elevated to avoid swollen ankles. If you feel like napping it’s fine to take breaks to sleep during the day, but equally, sitting peacefully and resting quietly is just as beneficial. Build guided relaxations and meditations into your day, as these will help build your mindfulness muscles. Yoga nidra guided meditation helps you relax your body while also keeping your mind anchored.
Before bed, take a warm bath or shower and have a warm drink to help ready you for bed. Try to stick to the same bedtime and wake-up time wherever possible as the body functions best on a solid sleep routine. Keep water by your bed to hydrate during the night and make sure to stretch your legs and arms before going to bed to avoid muscle cramps.
In the later stages of pregnancy, your bigger bump can make it much harder to drop off. If sleep is evading you, try not to worry too much. Get up and move rooms. You could try a guided relaxation or meditation session, listen to a calming audio book or soothing music. With regular practice, these things can form a key part of your pre-bedtime wind down routine and aid better sleep in the longer term.
Alternatively, read quietly, do some yoga stretching or breathing exercises. Avoid scrolling social media, answering emails or doing work late at night, as this will only stimulate your brain and prevent drowsiness.
Invest in plug-in soft lighting options to light the way to the bathroom, as you’ll inevitably need to go to the loo more often during pregnancy. Avoid keeping the bathroom light on as this tends to be very bright and can make you feel too awake to fall back asleep.
Calm your mind
It’s natural to have worries, anxieties and fears during pregnancy and normal for these to fill the mind as you’re settling for bed at night. Many women also report having strange dreams during pregnancy.
Use the ‘candle breath’ breathing technique to calm the mind and manage nausea. This technique can also help you while giving birth. This is a soothing practice integrating breathwork and meditation: find a comfortable seated position, sit with a tall spine, close your eyes and place one hand on your tummy and one hand on your heart – extending love towards yourself and your baby. Breathe in through your nose and breathe out slowly through pursed lips, as if you are very gently blowing out a candle. Repeat at least three times or for a few minutes, soothing your nervous system and connecting with your baby.
Interestingly, there is a link between your jaw and your cervix – tension in one area creates tension in the other. Use ‘candle breath’ to relax your jaw as this will help you birth your baby.
If you’re worrying, try watching something light-hearted before bedtime or read a favourite book or magazine to avoid going down an internet rabbit hole. Once you’re ready for bed, avoid using your phone or screens as these can be distracting and make you feel more awake.
If you suffer with insomnia or struggle to sleep consistently, it is important to consult your GP.
For more information on Tempur, visit www.tempur.co .uk