Pregnancy Week 31: Sleep Support

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I’m super late with this week’s pregnancy post. It’s supposed to be a recap of LAST week, but we’re almost in a new week already!

Weeks 30-32 have been a bit fraught with anxiety and subsequent lack of sleep which, at least partially, explains my lateness. I’ve been zombie-Chef for the past couple of weeks and haven’t felt super inspired to put my thoughts to page or, let’s be honest, even have thoughts at all.

Now that I’m feeling a bit more energized, I want to address the issue of sleep during pregnancy because it’s a BIG DEAL. It’s also one of those things that people are constantly “mentioning” when they’re aware of your pregnancy. “Better sleep now!”, “Store it up!” Unfortunately, this is not a realistic solution. I hate to deflate this well-meaning though annoying suggestion, but sleeping more now is not an effective strategy for an anticipated period of sleep deficiency. Our bodies need a full night of sleep EVERY NIGHT. The metabolic damage has to be repaired and restored after every full rotation of the Earth. From the moment we wake up we are using brain, muscle, emotional, hormonal, and every other kind of cellular power to exist, survive, and thrive. Sleep is when the body cleans up those vital systems so that when we wake up in the morning we can do it again without too much difficulty. You can’t override this process by sleeping for 3 weeks straight before a newborn arrives and completely dismantles your sleep cycle and catapults you into the depths of sleep deprivation.

Even though we cannot really prepare for lack of sleep by preemptive sleeping, it is important to rest and restore during all of the stages of pregnancy. Pregnancy is hard. It’s taxing. You are sustaining your own life and GROWING another one.

Here are some strategies that can help encourage more restful sleep, even when pregnancy makes you uncomfortable, hot, constantly needing to pee, and chronically worried. It should be said that these suggestions are not only helpful for pregnant folks, but pretty much anyone who needs sleep.

Support your adrenal function

When I find myself overwhelmed and lacking sleep I know I need to take great care to not overburden my adrenal system with more stress in the form of caffeine, high intensity workouts, and excessive worrying and negative thoughts. Coffee, chocolate, and sweets will also ramp up my internal stress, so I avoid those.

Besides removing stressors, I also add in some adrenal support in the form of supplements with rhodiola, ashwaganda, eluthero, and schisandra (like this one). Additional carbohydrates can also be calming to the nervous system. Herbal teas like chamomile, lemon balm, and peppermint are also helpful for me. Taking time to be silent and forced relaxation like reading, praying/meditating, journaling, or naps are great for slowing down my external pace of life which translates into a slower internal life.

Try to avoid reading pregnancy books or articles before bed.

This is HUGE. There is such thing as being OVER-informed, especially when it’s having negative consequences on your sleep. I often found myself restless at night because I would crack open a book about childbirth as I was winding down for bed. There’s nothing like reading first-hand accounts of transition periods, pain management, and episiotomies right before slipping off into dreamland. Leave the research for the day-time. Trust me.

PILLOWS!

I have a medium-sized body pillow from Ikea that I bought years ago. I have never been more thankful for that purchase than I am today. Instead of going out and buying a big ol’ pregnancy pillow, I can use the Ikea pillow in between my legs at night and it perfectly supports my knees and feet so my hips don’t get too sore throughout the night. It’s really important to not let your feet drape off the pillow and lay together. The foot on top should be elevated away from the other foot at the same height as your knee. This has also made sleep much more enjoyable upon waking up as I’m not struggling with the same knee soreness as I was when I was just using a standard pillow.

Move to another room.

I actually do this quite frequently. Sometimes it’s better to change the venue of sleep rather than continue to lay in frustration in the bedroom with your partner. Couch, guest room, whatever… give it a try. Sometimes the psychological impact of not wanting to disturb my husband makes it even harder to sleep because I’m hyper aware of any movement I make. Or sometimes I’m hyper aware of his movements. Or sometimes I feel like I need more room to move around. The guest bedroom is a lifesaver. Ultimately, the best solution is whatever helps me get a full night of sleep.

Drink more water in the morning hours.

I’m thinking of writing a book. Peeing, A Memoir. My midwives told me to try concentrating most of my hydration efforts before noon. As the day goes on drink less, and even less around dinner and after. Getting up to pee is sometimes unavoidable but there are ways to potentially lessen the frequency of trips to the loo without becoming dehydrated.

Topical magnesium and essential oils.

I LOVEEEEEE Fatco’s Calming Body Butter. Why? 1. It includes incredible moisturizers for my sometimes dry and constantly stretching skin 2. It has calming sage and lavender essential oils. 3. They infused it with topical magnesium oil! Topical magnesium has wonderful calming properties, especially for tired muscles that have been carrying around and extra 20 (30, 40, 50… ) lbs all day. You can also get your own topical magnesium oil from Ancient Minerals, use lavender oil in a diffuser or candle, or make your own calming lotion using essential oils, magnesium, and shea butter. All great options for encouraging a calm mind and body for sleep.

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