For a woman readying to give birth, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of her baby. Along with the nourishment of the mind and body, sleep is of primary importance during pregnancy. Adequate rest and good quality sleep is important not just for the mother to be, but has an important role to play in shaping the memory, learning and decision making abilities of the baby.
An adequately rested mother also has a good appetite and is less likely to have mood swings as hormones wreak havoc in her body! Medical research shows that lack of sleep can be linked to gestational diabetes melitus, as sleep plays an important role in regulating blood sugar.
In the third trimester, sleep deprivation may even lead to other complications such as high blood pressure and in extreme cases lead to a pre-term delivery, a painful labour. This in turn, can take a lasting toll on the vital organs of the mother and put the child at risk with low birth weight. Therefore, the importance of sleep as a part of prenatal care cannot be stressed enough.
Common pregnancy problems that lead to sleep deprivation
As most pregnant women would testify readily, sleep is often a luxury as it gets more and more elusive with the advance of the pregnancy. At least 50% of pregnant women suffer from insomnia while others have a host of problems that makes getting a good night’s sleep nearly impossible.
It begins with general discomfort with fluctuating hormone levels in the first trimester and may lead to a multitude of problems during the second and the third. Different pregnant women experience different pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, frequent urination at night, increased heart rate or palpitations, tender and painful breasts, excessive snoring, leg cramps or a creepy crawly feeling in the legs called the restless leg syndrome (RLS).
Add to that a constant pain in the back with the growing baby bump, a racing mind with a tonne of worries and vivid disturbing dreams can make sleep entirely impossible at night. As a result, mornings are even worse as some of these problems persist along with a constant feeling of daytime drowsiness.
Treatment of sleep problems
While there are no magic wands that can make pregnancy sleep problems go away, there are some treatments that can help with these conditions to a great extent. A common problem during pregnancy is loud snoring caused by what is medically referred to as obstructive sleep apnea. Doctors often recommend a continuous way pressure (CPAP) therapy during the pregnancy term to reduce discomfort.
Further, medical practitioners commonly prescribe antacids for pregnancy related heartburn. They also suggest vitamin and mineral supplementation to deal with leg cramps and other conditions that leads to sleeplessness for mothers to be.
Some even suggest alternative therapies such as spas, massages and physiotherapy to give the mother as much comfort as possible as the pregnancy advances. While there is no textbook solution to each of the sleep related problems, regular consultations with the doctor or GP may help tackle these problems to a great extent and result in better quality sleep for mothers to be.
Sleep hygiene for mothers-to-be
Sleep hygiene is important at any age and assumes greater importance during pregnancy. Some of the things to reduce insomnia and improve quality of sleep during pregnancy are as follows:
Bedroom ambience- It is important for a pregnant mother to be to have a dark, quiet and cool bedroom. Removing electronic devices from the bedroom is a good idea. Keeping away from all devices at least an hour before going to bed is highly recommended. A night light however may be a good idea to avoid risk of stumbling into low lying furniture during the frequent washroom trips.
Developing bedtime routine- The essential idea of a bedtime routine is to slow down. A calming activity such as reading a book, taking a night-time bath or indulging in any other calming activity such as meditation can be a great help.
Watching the meal and mealtime- Caffeine, sugar and spicy foods are best avoided during pregnancy. Meals at night should be light and consumed at least three to four hours before bed to avoid heartburns for mommies to be.
Exercise and hydration- The importance of regular exercise depending on what your body will allow and keeping your body adequately hydrated cannot be stressed enough. It is not a good idea to reduce your overall fluid intake for fear of enhanced night-time urination. However, regulate the intake of fluids as bedtime approaches.
Journaling- A “pregnancy-brain” is often the butt of jokes, but only a mother to be knows how anxious she can get driving sleep away during the mind. If you cannot get yourself to sleep, try journaling right before you go to bed. Putting pen to paper and pouring out your anxiety can help allay your fears to a great extent. What’s more, regular journaling during your pregnancy will make for good memories a few years down the line!
Sleeping positions and pillows
Doctors often recommend sleeping on the left side with slightly curled legs during the pregnancy. This is helpful in regulating optimal blood flow to the blood organs of the mother and improves the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients to the fetus. Pregnancy pillows are a great help during these times.
If you are not agreeable to the idea of one and believe that it will lose its use once the baby is born, you can simply use a few normal pillows to support your belly and thin pillow between the knees to relieve pressure on the lower back.
The entire idea is comfort during pregnancy. Apart from all the above-mentioned tips, bask in the love of your family and partner as you prepare for your newborn to make an entry into the world! Don’t shy away from asking for those foot massages and back rubs from your partner, especially during bedtime. There is indeed nothing that compares to a touch of love when you are trying to relax before bed.