Welcome to Birthing Ayurveda, where we follow one woman's pregnancy experience week by week—from a positive home pregnancy test all the way to delivery.
While sleep patterns in pregnancy can vary from lack of good sleep to excessive sleep, I would venture to say that, more often than not, most pregnant mamas struggle with the former. Let’s put it out there that, outside of pregnancy, I get really good sleep… perhaps too good. I have been known to sleep through fire alarms. I just have never struggled with sleep. That is, until I got pregnant.
As you may have read in an earlier blog, my struggles really stem from excessive vata, and probably a very busy mind churning on and processing so many changes and changes to come. I also had a hard time with my digestion and appetite, decreasing overall heaviness in my body.
Well, it all improved quite a bit, though I still would wake up at certain intervals just to fall back asleep again. But now, during the third trimester, many mothers have difficulties with sleep because of pregnancy discomforts (certainly has been an issue with me as I try to switch positions) and an active mind as the due date quickly approaches (not as big of an issue anymore for me).
Sleep is very important in pregnancy. In fact, getting less sleep while pregnant can potentially lead to longer labors, higher cesarean delivery rates, and other pregnancy complications!1
There is some relief. Give these ideas a try and see how you feel. I’d love to hear from you about what does and doesn’t work by posting a comment below (including anything not on this list!)!
- Do a head and foot massage before you go to sleep. Our head and feet are filled with energy points (marma points that are much like pressure points or acupuncture points) that can calm our nervous systems with oil and touch. Try Sleep Easy Oil for an extra grounding effect.
- Meditate before sleeping. This has always been the one thing that is sure to give me better sleep. My mind is quite active, and clearing the mind and focusing it on the breath does quite a bit for chatter or anxiety.
- Drink some warm milk with nutmeg before sleep. You should be drinking milk daily anyway at this point. Nutmeg has a sedating effect. You can add a teaspoon of ghee as well if you struggle with bowel irregularity.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night at regular times, be aware that this could be your child waking you. I wake up without fail around 4 or 5 a.m., and Charlie (what we call the baby) is absolutely active at this time! At this point I talk to Charlie and imagine myself soothing the baby back to sleep. I also focus on my breath and I am out again pretty quickly.
- Use support pillows. Many women love to support the belly and back with a pillow or a rolled towel and a pillow between the legs. Personally, I initially feel very comfortable with support pillows, but end up feeling claustrophobic at night and pushing them all away. But the pillows between my legs definitely have helped.
- Sleep on your left side (improves blood flow to the baby).
- Be active during the day. I am not saying go run a marathon every day or overexert yourself. But be active and engaged throughout the day to the point where your body is ready for rest (instead of feeling too rested by the end of the day to really be ready to take advantage of sleep). That means avoid napping during the day, which is said to make for a lazy child in Ayurveda.
- If heartburn is waking you up, avoid eating a couple of hours before sleep and avoid spicy, oily foods. Try a soothing glass of milk before sleep to keep you from waking up hungry in the middle of the night.
- Drink plenty of fluids during the day, but avoid too much at the end of the day so you are not waking up in the middle of the night repetitively to use the bathroom.
- If you feel active at night or have a sensation of restlessness in your legs at nighttime, try massaging your legs with warm oil or taking a warm bath before going to sleep. Also check to make sure you are not iron or folate deficient.
- If your partner shares that you have been snoring and you are just exhausted throughout the day (more than you would expect) consider getting checked for sleep apnea. Sleeping on your side and propped up can help temporarily.
Sleep is often underrated in importance. Spend time finding solutions to help you sleep well. The solutions vary individual to individual, so it may take a little bit of patience and experimenting.