At the start of 2017, I was heavily pregnant and suffering from lack of sleep at night due to the urge to pee every few hours and inability to get comfortable in any position (not to mention the sciatica and heartburn)! It was my third trimester and getting good quality rest during the night and even during the day was proving increasingly more difficult as my body and my baby grew. I was not alone - lack of good quality sleep whilst pregnant is a common problem and one that literally keeps you up at night.
Luckily for me however I was trained in pregnancy yoga and had a few tricks up my sleeve to help me get that well-needed rest in the weeks before baby arrived - believe me you need it ladies! So here are my seven top tips for better sleep in pregnancy:
1. Find the best position for you
Lying on your left side is recommended for the latter stages of pregnancy when your bump becomes a little too big for lying on your back. It will stop you feeling uncomfortable and is also best for baby too! However, if lying on your right or back when earlier in pregnancy feels better, don't worry - just go with it. Even if you start on your left and you end up on your back when you wake in the morning - again don't worry, your body will tell you if something is wrong. The main thing is that you get some sleep!
2. Pillows, cushions and props galore
Following on from the point above, however you choose to sleep, invest in a stack of cushions, pillows and bolsters to prop you up and snuggle you in at night. If lying on your side, a pillow between the knees can take any strain off the hips by keeping the knees at hip distance. Pregnancy pillows (those big D-shaped pillows) are your friend here. Use as many pillows and cushions as you need to get comfortable. I personally really did struggle to sleep on my left and had very bad heartburn at the end (yes my daughter has a lot of hair!), so I used about seven pillows to prop me almost upright to sleep at night and even one behind the back of the knees too. Whatever makes you comfortable - use it. Yes, you may force your partner out of the bed with your pillow mountain, but trust me it does work!
3. Simple daily yoga asanas and movements
Very often lack of sleep comes from the body simply not being able to get comfortable. This can be due to aches and pains that creep in as the body grows, ligaments stretch and baby starts kicking you from the inside! However, daily yoga movements and asanas (postures) can help to relieve achy muscles and tension, assisting you to get better sleep. One student of mine regularly practiced hip circles on hands and knees before bed every night and swore by it! You don't have to attend a full pregnancy yoga class to get the benefits - even 5 minutes a day or a chosen exercise for the shoulders or neck for example can work wonders. Click here for my 7-day online mini-course in pregnancy yoga that can give you some ideas for what to try.
4. Breathing exercises (pranayama)
Practicing breathing exercises in pregnancy is a fantastic way to prepare for labour but they also have the added benefit of improving your quality of sleep as well. Especially as baby grows, many pregnant ladies report that they get out of breath quickly or that their breath is more shallow. This is pretty normal as you are carrying a whole other human being inside of you! Try closing your eyes, sitting comfortably and simply watching your inhale and exhale for a couple of minutes. Think about nothing but the breath - the sound of it, any smells around you, the coolness or warmth of the air, the speed of your breath and the movements in the body caused by your breathing. Let everything else go.
This type of mindful practice, can also help to reduce stress and anxiety and calm the mind, especially when done regularly. There are also lots of other lovely breathing exercises you can use when pregnant or when you are in labour or are specifically helpful for reducing anxiety and improving your lung capacity. Take a look at my online course Relax Mama Relax that includes six specific breathing exercises for pregnant mamas!
5. No screens before bed - and leave Google alone!
Making sure that you turn off the TV, put away the mobile, laptop or iPad at least an hour, before bed will help to calm your mind ready for sleep. Try reading a book, having a cup of herbal tea (Chamomile is good for bedtime), taking a relaxing bath, talking to your partner or doing a spot of breathing, yoga or meditation before bed instead. And more than anything - leave Google alone! No reading traumatic birth stories, online forums about pregnancy worries or new mum problems. Leave well alone anything that could set your mind racing about your impending motherhood, pregnant body, or even give you nightmares. Pregnancy should be about nurturing your body and mind to in turn nurture the little baby growing inside of you - your body knows what it is doing.
6. Lavender on the pillow
Smell is a powerful sense and in my own humble experience I found that a spot of essential oil such as lavender on the pillow or a roll-on aromatherapy treatment on the pulse points really helped me to relax.
7. Yoga nidra and guided relaxation
My final tip and my favourite by miles, is the use of guided relaxation (yoga nidra). As a yoga teacher this was my biggest gift to myself in pregnancy - listening to guided relaxation on a daily basis. I used it before bed, when having a cat nap or even after waking in the middle of the night when my mind was going crazy. Whether you have just 10 minutes spare or time for a full 20-30 minute guided relaxation, this will truly help the mind relax and unwind. Good for a quick recharge of the batteries during the day or pre-sleep preparation. All of my pregnancy yoga classes finish with a guided relaxation and with themes such as baby bonding, self-care and relaxation - what's not to love?
In fact, because I am so passionate about the benefits that you can gain from regular guided relaxation practice, I have created a special six-week course for pregnant mamas that combines guided relaxations with breathing exercises called Relax Mama Relax! One of the relaxations is even specifically designed for before bed (i.e. with no instructions to wake up at the end.)
I have also created a FREE 10 minute guided relaxation that you can download just to try it out and gain some of the benefits straight away - CLICK HERE for full details.
Pregnant mamas, I hope this list of top tips proves helpful and I wish you lovely relaxing and nurturing sleep in preparation for the arrival of your little one!
For more information about Online Courses with Susan's World of Yoga (including Relax Mama Relax and the 7-day Mini Pregnancy Yoga Course) please visit the ONLINE COURSES PAGE of the website.
For more information about Pregnancy Yoga with Susan please visit the PREGNANCY YOGA PAGE of the website.
Susan is a yoga teacher, mum and founder of Susan's World of Yoga – an online yoga space for pregnant and postnatal mamas. Blending expert yoga tuition with specialist knowledge in the field of pregnancy, postnatal yoga, baby yoga and guided relaxation (yoga nidra) she provides a unique perspective on how to find deep relaxation and reconnect with yourself. Join Susan to nurture your body and soul, relax your mind and indulge in essential 'me time' - perfect for tired mamas!