FUNDAMENTALS: Breath – Move – Eat – Sleep – Repeat.
Sleep is the pre-eminent force in the healthy trinity: sleep—eat—move. It’s the single most eﬀective thing we can do to reset our health every day, pregnant or not. Research shows we need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily to function optimally. If we are sleep deprived, our immune system is compromised, our mood is negatively impacted, and in pregnancy we are at risk for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth. On the contrary a good night’s sleep, including a nap here and there can be the secret to well-being.
How to optimize your sleep? Build a SLEEP SANCTUARY
- Make sure your room is dark – blackout curtains and eye-pillows are great.
- Keep your room on the cooler side, somewhere between 60 and 68 degrees. Our bodies can keep us warm a lot easier than they can keep us cool.
- Quiet the room, ear plugs and for some a white noise machines can help.
- Have a ﬁrm mattress and pillows for support (e.g. a long pregnancy body pillow)
Develop a strong PM RITUAL with
- a digital sunset and a clear ‘shut down complete routine’ to wind down. Marking our boundary when to go from work to rest mode has a strong impact on the quality of our recovery. Consider leaving electronics outside your bedroom.
- Avoid all blue lights at least one to two hours before bed, and avoid screens as it will interfere with your melatonin production.
The IPad Effect — 50% suppression of melatonin
- In general, it’s an advantage to have your last food intake more than 2 hours before you go to bed. If nausea is an issue (especially in the 1st trimester) you might need a little snack handy.
- Take an Epsom salt bath to relax (will help to empty your bladder fully), CALM magnesium powder will sooth restless legs, ease leg cramps, help constipation and over- all will relax your body.
- Keep a journal to review the day: What went well? What am I grateful for? What needs work?
- Ideally give sleeping on your left side your preference for optimal blood ﬂow and to support optimal fetal positioning for the birth. Lying on your back may compromise the placental blood ﬂow as the weight of your uterus presses on the vena cava, the major vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart. Lying on your right side will tax your liver.
So, change sides and make lying on your left side a priority. For alignment a pillow between your knees AND ANKLE will take oﬀ pressure of your pelvic.
What else is supporting your sleep?
Exercise — ideally in the morning, will have a positive impact on your sleep. It will increase your blood ﬂow which you will experience as a mood booster, lasting up to 12 hours. Vigorous exercise late in the day can raise your body temperature and is more invigorating than toning down and calming, so rather go for a gentle stretch before bedtime.
Bodywork like massage, acupuncture or chiropractic adjustments can overall help your well-being, general alignment and ease pregnancy discomforts; all of it will have a positive impact on your sleep.
Meditation in the morning will set a centered and grounding tone for the day and supports a good night’s sleep! Yoga Nidra is an amazing practice for deep relaxation and could set you up for a restful, deep quality sleep – for instructions check here: www.doyogawithme.com/content/yoga-nidra-jennifer-piercy-0
Have a caﬀeine curfew. Caﬀeine has a half-life of around 5-8 hours. Breath through your nose!
Pregnancy specific issues which can interfere with sleep
“The tenfold increased progesterone levels simulate the respirator center, increases the basal body temperature, increases the amount of sodium excreted by the kidneys, relaxes smooth muscle, and decreases gastrointestinal motility as well as the muscle tone of the bladder and ureters.” (Anne Frye (1998): Holistic Midwifery, Vol 1, p 190). Who would not feel extra fatigued? Howeve sleeping might be challenging.
In pregnancy it is common to experience a frequent urge to urinate especially in the third trimester with the extra pressure of the baby on your bladder. You could start with extra hydration in the morning and slow down your fluid intake before bedtime.
The hormone relaxin and the increased blood volume often bring on a stuffy nose making breathing through your nose a challenge. Mouth breathing will trigger snoring and in extreme cases sleep apnea, which puts you at risk for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth. It is a huge issue. Nose strips can help to support to open your airways, so can a neti pot. For instructions check here https://wellnessmama.com/440987/use-neti-pot/
So what is the magic about NOSE BREATHING?
Your nose warms, filters, humidifies and conditions air in ways your mouth simply can’t. When you breathe through your mouth, you tend to “over-breathe” via short, shallow, fast breaths that disrupt the oxygen to carbon dioxide levels in your body. Although it might sound weird, it’s the carbon dioxide that actually gets the oxygen out of your red blood cells and into your tissues and organs and you need to slow down your breathing (via your nose!) to get the CO2 right and, as a result, the O2 where you want it (The Oxygen Advantage, Patrick McKeown). So optimal breathing is slow and gentle. Imagine a feather under your nose you want to keep still – breath gently, mellow, tender, softly.
So here it goes:
1. Breathe through your nose. All day, including nights. Every day.
2. Into your belly, slowly filling your lower lungs, moving your diaphragm down with a mellow, quiet deep breath.
3. And exhale slightly longer than you inhaled. It will calm your nervous system and support detoxification and elimination from the gentle massage of your mellow breath.
1 + 2 + 3 = Magic. Will help you to sleep soundly. First go to if you can’t fall asleep.
We know anecdotally that dreams in pregnancy have a tendency to be more vivid as if the veil to the unconscious is lifted more easily. It might be connected that we spend more time in light REM sleep and it’s easier to remember our dreams. They can be drastic showing us that we are working hard to process and prepare for the big transition.
They often accent what information is especially needed, what needs extra attention. To keep a dream journal can be insightful to see what topics are emerging, how themes are shifting.
Sleep is the symbol of rebirth. In creation myths, souls go to sleep while a transformation of some duration takes place, for in sleep, we are re-created, renewed… In sleep we are remade. We are reassembled from the inside out, fresh and new as innocents.
Woman Who Run with the Wolves,
Clarissa Pinkola Estes (1992, p 151)
“Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night
demolishes your immune system, more than doubling
your risk of cancer”.
Mathhew Walker (2018): Why We Sleep
“Getting more sleep now that you are pregnant is important. Your emotions will be steadier, your digestion easier, and you will be less susceptible to infections, constipation, headache, and morning sickness. Lack of sleep
can lead to depression, irritability, and weepiness”.
Aviva Romm (2003) The Natural Pregnancy Book, p 198
Holistic Midwifery, Anne Frye (1998)
The Natural Pregnancy Book, Aviva Romm (2003)
The Mama Natural Week –By-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth,
Genevieve Howland (2017)
Why we Sleep, Matthew Walker (2017)
Sleep Smarter, Shawn Stevenson (2014)
The Oxygen Advantage, Patrick McKeown (2015)