How to Optimize Sleep During Pregnancy
Pregnancy, especially the third trimester, comes with its own special challenges. There are increased hormone fluctuations as your body prepares for labor, baby is starting to infringe on the space your lungs and bladder used to occupy, and heartburn becomes a constant occurrence.
All this fun impacts sleep. Now it’s no secret that new parenthood is also a time of limited R&R, so I find it especially rude that it becomes harder to get a good night’s sleep towards the end of pregnancy.
While deep, perfect slumber may not be in the cards for a little while, there are some things we can do make most of that attempted shut-eye time.
Supplement with magnesium
Magnesium is an essential mineral that is involved in more than 300 processes in the body including blood sugar regulation, protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, and blood pressure regulation. (1) Magnesium naturally calms muscles and nerves and helps engage our parasympathetic nervous system (our rest & digest mode).
Magnesium is most easily absorbed and utilized in liquid form (1). I prefer these Trace Mineral drops containing Magnesium Chloride. Add them to sparkling water or a small amount of kombucha to mask the minerally taste.
Watch out for bowel tolerance if you choose to use a product containing Magnesium Oxide or Magnesium Citrate (I.e. Natural Calm) as it can have a laxative effect.
Don’t take your prenatals before bed
Realistically, it’s best to take your prenatal vitamins at whatever point in the day you can consistently remember and causes the least nausea. For many, including myself, that is right before bed! But be warned that the prenatal complex contains several B Vitamins, which can give you an untimely burst of energy as you're trying to catch some zzzs. If you find yourself especially sensitive to this, try taking your prenatal vitamins at lunch to pep up your afternoon and hopefully still avoid the nausea!
Set a time each night that screens go away, giving yourself at least an hour of no screens before calling it a night.
Exposure to the blue light emitted by electronic devices tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime, so it’s harder to calm down. (2)
If you need a way to check out, try reading a book (like a real paper one) or listening to an audible book. I recommend an audible book you’ve listened to before, so you aren’t fighting to stay awake to hear what happens next! My go-to is the Harry Potter series.
Need to do some late night work? Setting up night shift mode can be a nice compromise, but think twice before you scroll yourself to sleep. Emails, instagram stories, or watching episodes of The Office keeps our brains up and racing, releasing the stress hormone cortisol.
Stop drinking water 1 hour before bed
If baby is using your bladder as a pillow, middle of the night bathroom trips can feel unavoidable. While hydration is very important during pregnancy, try slowing down on the water and tea an hour before bed to reduce midnight trips to the bathroom!
Make your room as dark as possible
Just like with the light from screens, other light can trick our bodies into thinking it’s party time. Consider installing blackout curtains to block street lights. Take a peek around the room for any excess light from power strips, indicator lights, alarm clocks etc. Prop a book in front of the alarm clock or put a small square of painters tape over indicator lights. Too much trouble? Try sleeping with an eye mask! You’ll feel real fancy and it’s a great tool to block out light.
Install a motion sensor night light in the bathroom
Trips to the bathroom in middle of the night are fairly unavoidable during pregnancy, but if you can avoid turning on all the lights, you can complete this process in a solid half asleep state.
Check out this amber hued, battery powered night-light!
Sip some herbs
Wind down your evening with some herbal tea. Chamomile, skullcap, peppermint, and cinnamon are some of my favorite herbs included in nighttime teas.
Check out this Anxiety Release tea from Herbal Element
Practice deep belly breathing before you sleep
Deep breathing calms the autonomic nervous system helping your body move into a parasympathetic state (as opposed to the sympathetic “fight or flight” state). Find a comfortable position either lying or sitting in bed, close your eyes and breathe deeply down into baby feeling your core expand in 360 degrees. Try incorporating slow, peaceful breathing; inhaling for a count of twelve and exhaling for a count of twelve.
Want to learn more about the science of breath work? Check out this post from BIRTHFIT
Here’s my wind down bedtime routine.
After our kiddo is down for bed and dinner is cleaned up, I start to wind down for bed! My routine typically looks something like this.
Brew a little pot of tea. I’m really loving the Anxiety Release from Herbal Element.
While tea is brewing, I move through the BIRTHFIT Breath & Flow movement meditation with emphasis on breath work. Sometimes I’ll listen to the Expectful Podcast at the same time. All the mindful mama movement.
Screens are typically off or away by this point. I’ll sip on my tea while I read, journal, chat with my partner or get prepped for the next day.
After nighttime skincare and toothbrushing, I get real cozy into bed, turn my phone to airplane mode (to avoid temptation to scroll), and hit play on my audible book, setting a 1 hr sleep timer. If I’m still having trouble calming my brain, I’ll practice 10 peaceful breaths. I’m typically passed out well before my audible book is done!
What’s your calming bedtime routine?