The topic of sleep is becoming more and more at the forefront of health and wellness. And yet, 78 percent of women report more restless sleep throughout their pregnancy.1 But quality sleep, or lack thereof, affects our immunity, our energy, and our ability to function at our best.2 And when it comes to pregnancy, a time when our bodies are working especially hard, it is no wonder that sleep is vitally important. It’s also a time when women hear that they should sleep now while they can since it becomes much more difficult once the baby arrives—but no pressure, right?
As a pregnant woman’s body shifts, your typical sleeping position may have to change as well. It’s generally recommended to sleep on your left side to increase the blood flow to your baby. However, it’s still important to sleep comfortably so you don’t end up with aches and pains. Pillows can help with that. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and you may need to shift throughout your pregnancy, but I suggest starting to sleep with a long body pillow behind you, in front of you, and of course under your head. The pillow in front goes in between your arms and your bent legs. And the pillow behind you will support your spine and allow you to roll back slightly so you don’t have to be directly on your hip. This position aligns the body and decreases strain on the pelvis to keep your core in a lengthened position so the baby has plenty of space. Bonus—use your body pillows postpartum as a barrier to protect your baby from sharp corners.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
We do it for our babies, but creating a bedtime routine is incredibly beneficial for us as well. Pregnant or not, winding down before bed creates and maintains a rhythm to promote a good night’s sleep. Here are some ways to destress from a long day and get your body into a state of relaxation before bedtime.
- Limit your screen time at least one hour before bedtime. Phones, TVs, or laptops all contain blue light, which interferes with your body's natural sleep cycle because it blocks the hormone melatonin that makes you sleepy.3
- Charge your cell phone away from your bed so you’re not tempted to scroll in the middle of the night.
- Start your bedtime routine at the same time each night to get your body in a habit of falling (and staying) asleep.
- Keep a pad of paper next to your bed to capture those late-night thoughts and to-dos.
- Use an alarm clock instead of your phone.
- Put a glass of water on your nightstand to avoid any middle of the night trips to the kitchen.
- If you wake up to use the bathroom, don’t look at the clock. This avoids any anticipation of when you need to be up and what you have to do the next day.
Take a Breath
Breathwork is a wonderful way to quiet the nervous system and tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is known as our rest and digest system.4 A simple practice of taking slow, deep breaths while sitting at the edge of your bed or while lying down will help prepare your body for sleep:
Sit with your feet on the floor or lying down. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds. Your ribcage should expand 360 degrees, not up into your shoulders and neck. The belly will also expand slightly. To help visualize this, imagine breathing into the baby. Hold your breath for seven seconds. Then, exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. The ribcage will recoil and the belly will pull in gently. Breathe like this for a few minutes and with each exhale imagine that you're sinking further down into the earth, feeling a heaviness that surrounds the entire body.
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1 Pregnancy & sleep - sleep foundation. Sleepfoundation.org.
2 Boost your health with better sleep - sleep foundation. Sleepfoundation.org.
3 Harvard Health Publishing. Blue light has a dark side - Harvard Health. Harvard.edu.
4 Russo MA, Santarelli DM, O’Rourke D. The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human. Breathe (Sheff). 2017;13(4):298-309.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.