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Ask an Ottawa Birth Doula – Prenatal sleep suggestions

Pregnant woman sleeping.
Ask an Ottawa Birth Doula – I am in my third trimester and am having so much trouble with my sleep. Any suggestions?

Unfortunately, most women experience some type of sleep problem during pregnancy. The fact that it is common doesn’t make it any easier! Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep can lead to daytime sleepiness or downright exhaustion.

The third trimester is the time most women experience sleep issues. This may be due to a variety of factors including nighttime waking from frequent urination, feeling uncomfortable, muscle cramps and heartburn. Sometime fetal movement alone is enough to keep you awake. You might be exhausted while your baby is ready for a party!

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to improve your daytime energy levels AND increase the likelihood of having a good night’s sleep. Here are our top suggestions to get you started.

  1. Movement is key. When we are tired, we are less likely to exercise. However, moving your body and expending energy can be incredibly useful in increasing energy during the day. Exercise also helps us feel tired enough to fall asleep easily and stay asleep during the night. Try going for a brisk 20-minute walk once daily.

  2. Get outside! Being outdoors is energizing. Fresh air and sunshine are so good for the body and mood. Whenever possible, try to go for a walk in the woods. Walking in the forest, also known as forest bathing, is not only rejuvenating but also reduces circulating levels of stress hormones. ( High cortisol levels can contribute to interrupted sleep. Keeping cortisol levels in check allows for a good night of rest.

  3. Eat sleep supportive foods. I bet you didn’t know that some foods support sleep. It’s true! While some foods may keep you awake (avoid caffeine, chocolate, sugar and overly fatty or spicy foods that may contribute to heartburn) others promote a good night’s sleep! Choose from foods that are rich in the amino acid tryptophan which support the production of melatonin (the hormone produced by the pineal gland that helps us feel sleepy at night). Excellent options include oatmeal, eggs, turkey, chicken, salmon, and pumpkin seeds. Pistachios and tart cherry juice also support the conversion of tryptophan into melatonin, making them excellent bedtime snack foods as well.

  4. Avoid drinking too many fluids close to bedtime. It is important to stay hydrated during pregnancy. However, drinking too many fluids in the evening can contribute to frequent waking and nighttime bathroom visits. We suggest you take a balanced approach by drinking lots of fluids to stay well hydrated during the day, and then limiting fluids after about 6 pm.

  5. Sleep in a cool, dark room. Research shows that we sleep best in a cool and dark environment. Consider setting the thermostat to drop down a degree or two, setting up a fan, or opening a window. Try turning off all lights including anything coming from small appliances or try using a sleep mask!

  6. Purchase a noisemaker. Some people find that playing a low level of white noise during the night makes falling asleep easier as it eases anxiety and provides something to focus on other than the business inside of our minds. White noise also blocks out disruptive noise and noise pollution, making it less likely that your sleep will be disrupted by outside sounds.

  7. Turn off your tv and your phone at least one hour before bedtime. This is a tough one. In today’s society, many of us are checking our email or browsing Instagram until the very moment we turn off the lights. Unfortunately, the artificial light emitted from electronic screens interferes with normal circadian rhythms and the release of melatonin (a hormone that controls our wake and sleep cycles.)

  8. Adopt an evening routine. The same way that reading a child a bedtime book, tucking them in, and singing them a lullaby signifies their brains that it is time to sleep, adopting an evening routine as an adult can have the same effect. Create a customized evening routine for yourself that makes you feel relaxed and comfortable. Maybe it’s journaling and reading in bed or listening to soft music and then practicing an evening meditation.

  9. Try meditation and yoga! A gentle prenatal yoga routine or a calming meditation right before bed is soothing to the nervous system and calming for the mind. Curious about which yoga poses are suitable for pregnancy? Looking for a trimester specific prenatal yoga plan? Contact us to schedule a prenatal yoga consultation!

  10. Consider supplementation. Did you know that there are natural pregnancy safe supplements that can help you have a good night’s sleep? Talk to your main healthcare provider or schedule an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor or Holistic Nutritionist, such as Nurtured Birth's Julia Davie, for sleep supportive supplement recommendations.

  11. And, when all else fails, take naps! In our fast paced society it can be very hard to give ourselves permission to rest when needed. However, especially during pregnancy, it's so important to allow for rest. You are not lazy. You are not unproductive. You are pregnant and your body is deserving of rest. Consider it to be honoring yourself when you allow yourself to take an afternoon nap, sleep in for a few hours in the morning, or stay home instead of attending a social event. Be good to yourself, growing a baby is hard work!

This blog post was written by Ottawa Doula, Julia Davie. Her approach to birth work is heart centered, holistic and inclusive. She is honored to support families in Ottawa, Gatineau, and the surrounding areas.

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