Guest Blogger, Emma Gawne, Parent Cloud Infant Sleep Specialist
Typically my clients come to me for sleep support once their child is a few months old. Sleep may have been tricky for a while and they would like some support and coaching. As you will know, many pregnant women also struggle with sleep during pregnancy.
One of the questions I always ask Mums as part of their pre-consultation is “How was your sleep before you fell pregnant? How did you sleep during pregnancy?” A whopping 78% of pregnant women experience sleep challenges of some kind (Mar De Carlo 2019). As a result it is a key place to start when trying to understand why a baby might not be sleeping at their biological best.
You see it almost goes without saying that if a mother has had problems sleeping before her baby was born due to pregnancy insomnia or something else then her baby may also struggle with sleep related issues. This is not a reflection on the mother but can help to identify possible areas to focus on for quick improvements in sleep for the whole family.
This blog focuses particularly on sleep foundations rather than the pregnancy symptoms which can also make it harder for women to sleep at night.
Some typical symptoms that keep mothers-to-be awake include sore hips, the need to sleep on one side, or a frequent need to visit the bathroom.
Help can come in the form of sleeping aids like sleep pillows or a mattress topper for comfort and support.
Most medical birth professionals say that lying on your left side is best, although lying on your right hand side might not harm your baby during pregnancy, your uterus puts pressure on the liver. When sleeping, lie on your left side with your knees and hips bent, place pillows between your knees, under your abdomen and behind your back. This can help to take pressure off your lower back.
Waking frequently to use the loo is also a common symptom of pregnancy but it is important to stay hydrated during pregnancy, so drink lots of fluids during the day then cut down on the amount you drink in the hours before bed. Hydration will play an important role in how well or not you sleep at night, especially as dehydration can lead to disruptive snoring, and a lack of pre-bed fluids can lead to nocturnal leg cramps that could keep you awake at night.
The benefits for your baby of working on sleep foundations during pregnancy
I am huge advocate for starting sleep education during pregnancy, particularly as sleep disturbances are common during pregnancy and can be a risk factor for several serious pregnancy related sleep disorders. These tips are designed to help pregnant women build solid sleep foundations. Pregnancy is the perfect time to prepare and establish new rest and sleep habits for healthy sleep. These will continue long after the baby arrives and for the rest of her and her baby’s life.
By helping parents sleep better during pregnancy, it means that when I work with parents, we can focus on family sleep and rest patterns as opposed to the baby’s disrupted sleep.
There are further benefits to both mother and baby because the psychological and emotional state of the mother is experienced by the baby in the womb, so by helping improve rest and relaxation there will be a positive effect in the womb too.
9 tips to focus on in order to help lay good sleep foundations
There are so many things that can affect sleep. To get to grips with what is causing the problem it helps to work through a list of what has the greatest impact on your sleep in order to rule them out.
- Are you planning, scheduling and prioritising sleep?
- Are you exercising regularly? As long as your GP allows for it try exercising for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Processs your feelings. It is important that you give yourself permission to process any feelings that you might have in relation to being pregnant.
- Trust and develop a strong connection with your body. Tune into what your body is telling you and if it needs sleep listen to it.
- Keep your room very dark. For example, this means not turning on the lights when you go to the bathroom at night, the darkness will help keep you in a relaxed state and prevent light from inhibiting the hormone melatonin that will help you go back to sleep.
- Keep a pen and paper next to your bed. Do you have trouble falling asleep because you have so many unwanted thoughts going through your mind? Either try journaling before you go to sleep or write down your worries when you wake in the middle of the night.
- Be aware of your breath. Focus on deepening your breath in order to calm your nervous system. Your body needs to be in a parasympathetic state of rest and digest in order to sleep and stay asleep.
- Invite regularity – regularity is one of the keys to good sleep. Stick to a similar sleep schedule every night. This allows your body to find its natural rhythm and settle into a regular sleep wake cycle.
- Manage stress – it is helpful to get support systems in place early. Think about joining a local Mums group where you will have the support of people in a similar position to you.
These are just a few things to think about to help improve your pregnancy sleep patterns.
Hopefully this post has given you a quick insight into the importance of building good sleep foundations during pregnancy and why addressing the root cause of your sleep problems will have a benefit for a long time after birth and beyond.
New service: I now offer a pregnancy sleep support plan to help you get as much rest as possible
Are you currently pregnant and finding this post particularly relevant? If you would like some more personalised support, please book your appointment via my bio on the website.