A good night’s sleep can leave us feeling refreshed, relaxed and good-humoured, just as a bad night’s sleep can wreck our day! Several nights of poor sleep can affect our health; making us feels tired, irritable, tense and headachey, as well as more vulnerable to infection. It can set up a vicious cycle of insomnia that can be hard to break. In early pregnancy, most women find they need more sleep than normal (if they can get it!) and as the pregnancy progresses their energy returns. It is only in the last 3 months or so, (depending on how big your baby is) that sleep may be harder to come by, especially deep, uninterrupted sleep. Minor physical complaints that can affect your sleep include heartburn, restless legs, cramps and having to get up goodness knows how many times to pee. Pregnant women with toddlers or small children may find that any extra night time demands are the last straw. Any extra emotional stresses and those nine months can seem very long indeed.
Good quality sleep is vital for our sense of well-being, something that we may take for granted until we have problems getting it. Pace yourself at the kitchen/dining table. Leave a couple of hours between dinner (or supper) and bedtime. Make it a light meal, as rich and heavy food can aggravate heartburn or simply make it harder for you to fall asleep because it lies like an extra lump in your tummy. Eat a larger breakfast and lunch instead! Go easy on fluids with a meal or cut them out altogether. They can bloat your stomach and make the heartburn worse. Cut down on your fluid intake in the evening if you are getting up at night to pee and cut out all those drinks that make you pee more, like tea, coffee, soft drinks and squashes. Make sure that you compensate by drinking more in the morning and afternoon, so that you have plenty of fluids (generally) and eating plenty of calcium-rich foods to help prevent cramps dairy foods (go easy on these if you have a tendency to catarrh), figs, almonds, molasses, soya beans and spinach are all high in calcium.
Make sure your mattress is supportive and right for you as some people like a hard surface such as a futon, and others prefer a mattress with some give in it. If you mattress is too hard, you will sleep restlessly and wake unrefreshed or if it is too soft, you will get a backache and wake unrefreshed!
As women put on more weight and their ‘bump’ grows, it becomes harder to get out of bed let alone rolling over in bed at night and women who usually sleep on their tummies find it hard to adjust to a different sleeping position. Learn to sleep, or at least fall asleep, in the recovery position if you are waking with lower back ache in the morning. Learn it even if you aren’t as it’s a brilliant position to sleep in especially towards the end of your pregnancy. Lie on your side with your underneath leg stretched out straight. Bend your upper leg so that your thigh is more or less at right angles to your body and place a pillow (or even two) under it. Roll your upper hip over a little more so that your bump is resting on the mattress, your lower back has its natural curve and your body feels relaxed. You may want another pillow under your upper arm. This is a lovely position to relax in at any time. If you are suffering from heartburn at night then you may want to raise the top of your bed a few inches(with a brick or two under the legs) so that your upper body is slightly raised. This will help with heartburn by preventing acid leaking out (into the oesophagus) at night, and it will also help if your nose is blocking up at night. (You may need to raise the bottom of the bed if you are suffering with varicose veins or swollen legs.)
Above all, make your bed an island of peace that you look forward to going to each night. Don’t take work to bed with you, or read things in bed that are going to upset or frighten you. RELAX! Develop a bedtime routine for yourself, one that includes some relaxing activities: move your body if you have been sitting down for all or most of the evening, to release some of the tension from your muscles. Take a short walk, put some favourite music on and dance, walk or run up and down your stairs (carefully) until you feel energized. Try sinking into a warm bath and soak for 15 minutes or so (unless you find that it wakes you up). Put something delicious and smelly in it, (lavender oil is wonderfully relaxing, use 4-6 drops of the essential oil.) have a hot (caffeine-free) drink, such as hot milk with honey or a cup of herbal tea. Chamomile is good if you find it difficult to get to sleep, or try one of the herbal mixtures such as Sleepytime. Yoga is particularly good for pregnant women and those gentle stretching postures and deep breathing are an excellent way to relax physical tension at any time of day and especially before going to bed at night. There are many yoga classes now that are designed specially for pregnant women.
sweet imaginings/comfy in body and mind
When you turn out the light and lie down, close your eyes and scan your body. Is it tense? Where? Get yourself comfortable and then relax your muscles one by one starting at your head and moving slowly down your body. If you find a muscle or an area that won’t relax, then tense it as hard as you can and then let it go gently. You will find that it will relax more easily. Then check out your breathing. Let it become deeper and more even. Let the stress of your day and any persistent thoughts trickle out of your mind. Now imagine yourself in a happy, peaceful place. It may be one you have been to or one you have seen in a photograph or holiday brochure. Or make one up. It could be a tropical beach, a peaceful lake, a mountain stream, a beautiful garden. Be creative, follow your imagination, and have a good look around.Try and smell the flowers, hear the birds sing, feel the earth or sand under your feet. You may want to play in the water or climb a tree! When you are ready, (finished exploring) find a place to lie down and spend some time soaking up the sun (in your mind!). As you sink into the warm sand or soft grass, let your body to become heavier and heavier and let it sink into the bed. Many people fall into a deep sleep at this point (or even before it). Don’t worry if you don’t fall asleep straight away, you (and your body/baby) can enjoy the sense of relaxation as you find other ways to fall asleep. Some people like to repeat a (short) beautiful poem or prayer over and over as they have found it to be more meaningful (and interesting) than counting sheep! Or you can try counting backwards from 600. Review your day try going through it backwards starting from bedtime. Many people find they fall asleep well before, and get to where they woke up that morning.
General aches and pains: Your muscles feel sore and bruised from over-exertion or an active baby. The bed feels hard and you find it hard to sleep, but oddly you don’t complain. Remedy: Arnica
Your joints feel stiff and sore and hurt when you roll over or get up out of bed. But they also ache after you have been still (lying or sitting) for a while. This makes you generally restless. You just can’t get comfortable in bed and toss and turn all night. Remedy: Rhus tox
Restless legs: Your legs twitch and jerk during the evening and in bed at night and especially as you try to fall asleep. They can go on twitching whilst you sleep. You may feel generally more tired than usual. Remedy: Zinc
Emotional stress: Nervous exhaustion from overwork, mental strain, worry or over-excitement makes it difficult to fall asleep. Remedy: Kali phos
Anxiety and fear about the up and coming birth (like exam nerves) make it difficult to sleep. Your body aches and feels very heavy. Remedy: Gelsemium
Restless, anxious sleep with vivid dreams. You feel great fear about your labour. Remedy: Aconite
Worn out from doing too much, especially if pregnant with small children to care for. You feel ‘saggy’ or heavy, tired, irritable and depressed. You wake at 3 am, can’t get back to sleep and lie there with miserable thoughts. Remedy: Sepia
Physical Tension: You are tense from sitting all day and possibly working too hard and then you can’t get to sleep. And/or you wake in the early hours tense and anxious (thinking about work) and lie awake until dawn. You get caught up in a cycle of tension and insomnia and irritability. Remedy: Nux vomica
Heartburn: Heartburn with burning pains, hiccups and burping which are worse at night. Remedy: Merc-sol
Cramp: Cramps in the leg or foot on stretching the leg at night in bed or on waking in the morning. You may feel generally sluggish. Remedy: Calc carb.
Cramps anywhere in the body that are better by heat and firm pressure. Remedy: Mag phos.
Stuffed-up nose: Nose (and sinuses) are blocked up at night especially in a stuffy room. It is better in the morning (when it becomes runny) and much better in the fresh air. Remedy: Pulsatilla
Blocked-up nose (and sinuses) with catarrh that drips fdown the back of the throat especially at night and is difficult to hawk out in the morning because it is so sticky. Remedy: Kali bich
Itchy skin: Itching (without a rash), which is bad after a hot bath or at night in bed when it disturbs your sleep. Remedy: Sulphur
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