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You’re probably not expecting to get much rest once your baby arrives, but pregnancy can also affect your slumber skills. Here’s how to sleep well while you’re expecting
Check the temperature
A bedroom that’s too warm or cold could mean you’re constantly flipping the pillow and doing the hokey cokey with your arms and legs as you try to get comfortable. ‘Many women find they feel hotter during pregnancy, which can disrupt their sleep,’ says Sammy Margo, author of The Good Sleep Guide. ‘Keeping a cool body temperature allows the sleep hormone melatonin to be released. The optimum room temperature for this is around 16 oC -18oC.’ If your partner is cold while you’re too hot, think about getting a duvet each – a thin one for you and a thicker one for your other half.
Turn off technology
As much as you’d like to update Facebook with your latest scan photo or catch up on One Born Every Minute on your tablet, it’s best if you turn off all these devices at least an hour before bed. ‘Mobile phones, televisions and tablets all emit a type of blue light that can stop the release of melatonin, effectively keeping you awake for longer,’ says Margo. ‘Think of your bedroom as a cave – cool, quiet and dark.’
Find your pregnancy sleep position
Finding a comfortable sleeping position during pregnancy that supports your growing bump gets harder. Pregnant women should sleep on their left side rather than their back. When sleeping on your back, the weight of your bump puts pressure on the blood vessels that run behind your uterus, reducing circulation. Your left side is better than your right, as it helps the flow of blood and nutrients to the placenta and aids kidney function. ‘Wedge a body or bolster pillow under your bump to reduce strain on your back,’ says Margo. ‘And a pillow between your legs can support the pelvis.’
Tackle your anti-sleep ailments
Typical pregnancy side effects that could affect your ability to fall asleep include leg cramps, nausea and heartburn. ‘Cramps are quite common in pregnancy because of hormone fluctuations. If one strikes, flex your foot and massage your leg,’ says Margo. ‘If that doesn’t work, get up and walk around, stretching out the muscle.’ If you’ve got pregnancy sickness (it can happen at any point, not just in the morning), keep some plain crackers by your bed, as a small snack can sometimes help. ‘If heartburn is keeping you awake, eat a small meal in the evening and use pillows to prop yourself up slightly, as this will help stop the acid in your stomach getting into your oesophagus and causing heartburn,’ says Margo.
Stop counting sheep
It may be an old favourite, but counting sheep to try to fall asleep is not the best plan of action because the automatic nature of counting fails to block out any other thoughts or worries that might be keeping you awake. Try visualisation instead. A study by scientists at the University of Oxford found people fell asleep 20 minutes faster by using visualisation techniques. ‘Imagine relaxing scenes, such as deserted beaches, peaceful meadows or a calm lakeside, and focus on the sights, sounds and smells,’ says Margo.
By Hannah Fox