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  • Kate Jiggins

So You Can't Sleep?


Third trimester insomnia is one of the most common complaints I hear - you are not alone! Misery may love company, but that doesn't help much when you're tossing and turning at 3am. The bad news is there's no surefire cure for pregnancy-related insomnia. The good news? There are a lot of things you can try, and some of them may even make your nights a little more peaceful!


The first thing you need to identify is what's keeping you from sleeping. Is it discomfort? Anxiety? Just cannot seem to fall asleep? All of these may be issues, but let's break them down one by one to try to get you some ZZZs.


Discomfort

Sleep discomfort in late pregnancy can be caused by any number of issues - backache, hip or joint pain, heartburn, or even just being a stomach sleeper who can no longer sleep on your stomach. Some solutions you might try:


Changing positions/places

This can be as simple as adding some pillows under your back or trying a sleep wedge. This can also help with heartburn. Pregnancy pillows can help raise your stomach and relieve pressure on your hips. You might change rooms or even try sleeping in a recliner. Reframe your ideas about sleep - your entire body has changed, so you shouldn't expect a solid uninterrupted 8 hours in the same bed and position you have always found reliable.


Wearing a belly band during the day As simple as it seems, an elastic belly band can help take the pressure off your hips and lower back during the day, making it easier and more comfortable to sleep at night.


Taking Tylenol

If you're really struggling, ask your provider if it would be okay to take Tylenol at night before bed. It could be pain you're not even aware of is making it hard to get the sleep you need.


Magnesium

As with the Tylenol (and any supplement or medication), ask your provider if magnesium might help you. It's been shown to ease cramps as well as aid in sleep.


Cool towels

If hot flashes or sweating is plaguing you, try using a cool towel. You wet them, shake them out, and they remain cool for hours. You can tuck one between your breasts to help moderate your temperature or for middle of the night forehead cooling.


Sleep When You Can

Don't limit yourself to sleeping only at night, only in bed. If you're tired during the day and can make time for a nap on the couch, do it! Don't worry about how it will affect your sleep at night - you're already not getting any. Being able to snooze when the opportunity presents itself will also come in handy after the baby arrives!


Anxiety

There's a lot to worry about during pregnancy - and sometimes your brain decides to rehash all of it as soon as you try to close your eyes.


Meditation

Even if you've never meditated before, it's never too late to start. Meditation has become so popular that you have your choice of apps, YouTube videos, and practitioners. I particularly like the Headspace app on iTunes.


Lavender

Inhaling lavender can relax you and calm nervous thoughts and feelings. Try a little lavender next to your bed, or some lavender EO on a cotton ball tucked into your pillowcase.


Journaling

Sometimes just the very act of writing down what's troubling you can help to release those anxious thoughts. If you find you're particularly anxious at night, try journaling before bed - it doesn't have to be fancy, just a list of what's bothering you and why on a piece of paper. You can also write down possible solutions or options to make you feel more empowered.


Just. Can't. Sleep.

It happens to all of us - sometimes everything seems all right but sleep still just isn't coming. When this happens during pregnancy, it can be especially exasperating.


Airflow

Crack a window or turn on a fan. Sometimes stale air affects our sleep more than we realize.


Warm bath

Take a warm bath or shower before bed to relax muscles and allow you time to wind down and adjust to the idea of sleep. And while you're doing it -


Limit screen time

Try not to use screens an hour before bedtime, and plug them in in a different room from where you sleep.


Herbal tea

Raspberry leaf tea is often recommended for pregnant women, but there are lots of other options. Remember to check with your doctor if it has any contraindicated ingredients (like licorice), but otherwise enjoy a warm cup of tea with that bath.


White noise

Ironically, sometimes silence seems TOO quiet when you're trying to sleep. Or little noises that don't usually bother you - your partner breathing (or snoring), crickets chirping outside, or your refrigerator humming - may drive you to the brink of madness. Try white noise or rain sounds ("Alexa, play sleep sounds rain") to give a soundtrack to your sleepy time.


Finally, you can of course employ normal insomnia tips to help combat pregnancy insomnia:

-Sleep in a dark, quiet room.

-Don't eat too close to bedtime.

-Avoid chocolate and caffeine after lunch.

-Don't "force" sleep - if you can't sleep, try reading a book, writing, or knitting or another quiet hobby until you feel sleepy.


There's no magic cure for pregnancy-induced insomnia, but hopefully some of the tips above can help you get more quality sleep than you're getting now. If you continue to struggle, be sure to let your provider know - they may be able to prescribe you something if your health is being impacted.




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