By Barb Duncan
It’s 2:15 a.m. and surely the whole world is asleep but you. Even the owls are napping and the neighbourhood squirrels are probably catching some shuteye before resuming their daily hijinks. After getting up to pee for the second time since going to bed, you, of course, are wide-awake.
You can hear the sound of steady breathing as you settle back under the covers. It’s so quiet. Despite the near-silence, the cozy mattress, the dark, your eyes won’t stay closed. Tick tick tick…. The sheets feel itchy, the blankets are too heavy, your legs are restless or the baby has decided to do an acrobatic routine in your belly. It happens.
And forget sleeping on your stomach. In any position, you might have trouble getting comfortable. Or have leg cramps. Or heartburn. Certainly, some nights there’s no getting eight hours of uninterrupted rest. Sigh.
But you do need your Zs. During pregnancy, adequate sleep is especially necessary, although disruptions are par for the course.
In the first trimester, breast tenderness, morning sickness and an increased need to urinate can all impact the quality of your slumber. When you’re dealing with morning sickness, it’s helpful to keep crackers by the bed to munch on before getting up.
During the second trimester, the morning sickness may disappear but heartburn might kick in. To avoid the heartburn, don’t eat before going to bed. During the day, steer clear of greasy or spicy foods and don’t eat too much at a time. Small, frequent meals are best.
In the second and third trimesters, you might also occasionally be dealing with leg cramps when you hit the hay. Affecting the calf, foot or both, leg cramps are painful muscle contractions. When one happens, stretch and massage your calf muscle, pointing your toes up and out. You may want to walk around for a minute or two to allow the muscle to relax.
To help prevent leg cramps, keep active (if you’ve gotten the okay from your physician), drink plenty of fluids and leave the stiletto pumps, slingbacks and mules at the back of your closet. Your feet—and the rest of your body—will thank you for choosing comfortable, sensible shoes for the next few months.
Another common sleep-related condition in pregnancy is called restless leg syndrome. It involves an overwhelming urge to move your legs. Try to stretch before bed, keep active (if it’s permissible) during the day and steer clear of caffeine. A regular sleep routine can help too.
As the weeks pass and baby grows and grows, sleeps tends to be more unsettled. The third trimester is a time to put your feet up often and to rest the best way you can.
Pillows can help you get comfortable. And a small, nutritious bedtime snack, such as a cup of warm milk or a banana, may allow you to unwind if heartburn’s not an issue. Prenatal massage can also work wonders.
But alcohol and sleeping pills, including herbal preparations, are not safe and must be eschewed.
With your doctor’s approval, regular, gentle exercise earlier in the day can often help with sleep. Swimming, prenatal aquafitness classes, prenatal yoga and walking are all good options.