Last night was another among many that I just simply did not sleep. I have analyzed this to death. I’ve compared the time of day I take my prenatal on nights I sleep versus night I don’t, the food I’ve eaten that day, the activities I’ve engaged in, etc. In talking with other people, including pregnant women, the two main suggestions I’ve heard for how to manage this during pregnancy are:
Get a body pillow. I have, it’s awesome and super comfortable. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable.
Just relax and calm your mind, there’s nothing to worry about. I’m honestly not worried about anything, I’m not even really thinking about anything.
Ok so it’s not those. As a therapist I work with people a fair amount on nighttime routines and working to improve sleep. So I know a couple basics that are supposed to be helpful. Here’s what I’ve tried:
Make your room completely dark. Our bodies are made to sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light. Because we are programmed this way, light inhibits secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin. I’ve done this. We have blackout shades, closed door, it’s DARK in there.
Eliminate noise. Noise interrupts sleep for pretty obvious reasons. I have done this as well. Our neighborhood is generally silent at night. We have one neighbor (who doesn’t?) that will decide to work on his car at 2:00am on a Wednesday, and in those cases I throw in some ear plugs I keep right on my nightstand, and it’s back to silence.
Be consistent in your bedtime. People who go to bed at the same time every night will develop an internal clock. Your body will start to shut down and prepare for sleep on its own as that time approaches. I am pretty good about this. I have a window of about 45 minutes that I usually head upstairs for bed. There are of course exceptions, but I am giving myself this one.
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. This one is obvious as to why it’s recommended. Check and check. I don’t drink coffee anyway (I just don’t like the taste). Being pregnant I am extra cautious of my caffeine intake through sodas and teas.
Now for what I’m not doing great at. Here’s what I “should” do, that I am not doing:
Turn off electronics 30-60 minutes before bed. Similar to making your room dark, electronics that emit blue light (cell phones, TV, tablet, etc.) inhibit the release of melatonin. I don’t do this. Ever. In fact we watch (and re-watch, and re-watch, and re-watch) episodes of The Office in bed. My husband falls asleep to TV, he has done this since he was a child, and it was a marriage compromise I was willing to make.
Dim the lights in the evening. Again because our bodies are “supposed” to be on a sleep when it’s dark, wake when it’s light schedule, dimming the lights in the evening can help jump start your sleep response and the release of melatonin. Nope. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Use your bed ONLY for sleep (and sex). The idea is that if you avoid using your bed for work or any other non-sleep activity, your bed will be associated with relaxation, calm, and sleep. Then simply by being in it, you trigger the initiation of your sleep response. See above. I watch TV in bed. I’m pretty good about not doing work or much else, but… TV counts against me on this one.
Keep the temperature on the cooler side. Our bodies naturally cool down to initiate sleep. By making your room cool, you are supporting this process rather than fighting it. Yes and no. Can I get a half point? We run the swamp cooler when we’re home to cool down as much as we can. We have a fan going at night. But we also live in the desert and it’s been in the 100’s so…. I can’t control Mother Nature.
Have a nighttime routine. Similar to going to bed at the same time every night, it is helpful to have a regular routine. Bath time, teatime, reading, whatever it is, if you do the same (hopefully calming) activities every night around the same time, you can help your body prepare for sleep. Nope. Just nope.
Here’s the thing. I see that my “don’t” list is a bit longer than my “do” list. Clearly I’m not trying everything possible to improve the situation. But I have maintained this same pattern of behavior for YEARS. It is just now that I am struggling consistently to sleep. I believe that, along with many other pregnancy struggles, this is hormonal. I have nothing to back that up. I am not a doctor. But it is all that makes sense to me and it just feels like that’s the cause. It is an awake feeling like I have never had (and hope to never again).
Have any pregnancy sleep suggestions? Let me know!