This weird thing (for those of you who aren't pregnant) is one of the vast array of sleep pillows proffered to pregnant women promising amazing sleep and comfort. Several of my friends said I had to get one, brands were recommended (I now own two, the lauded 'Dream Genii' and the 'Cuddle me by Carla' pillow - both ridiculous names) and pillows were purchased. I don't know whether it's because I'm a bit of a midget, or maybe they're better suited for when you're further along with pregnancy, but sleeping with one makes me feel like I"m being attacked by the marshmallow man from Ghostbusters in the night. Maybe it's just me, but please tell me if you feel the same!
Sleep has been my main issue in pregnancy in the second trimester, albeit it's getting a little better. It started in the first trimester with my body giving me a wake up call at 2am, the inevitable call to go to the loo, and then lying wide awake for 2 or more hours until eventually I got up to distract myself by reading or watching something on TV. It improved, and then came back with a vengeance this Christmas. The combination of pre-christmas planning and madness (we were hosting), missed meals as I sprinted round and tried to fit everything in, and then the adrenaline of hosting for a week straight all served to mess up my sleep patterns further.
Luckily I have two experts on hand (my acupuncturist and nutritionist) to email in a SOS fashion when the lack of sleep was getting too much by the new year. Through them, I've now got the following plan to follow, which seems to be making a few in-roads already...wish me luck:
(1) Minimise stress
Apparently when you're waking up consistently at 3am it's when your liver is clearing everything out and your cortisol is surging. Keeping your adrenaline levels more even across the day is key. For me this has meant learning that perhaps I need to stop sprinting between quite so many meetings (if this is in your control..), but more importantly ensuring no screens for 2 hours before bed, and making time to relax in whatever way works for you. A bath with magnesium salts in the evening genuinely does knock you out and feels amazing, as does treating yourself to a weekly treatment. I had my first pregnancy reflexology appointment last night (more on this in another piece) and I fell asleep while she was massaging my feet! Bliss.
(2) Eat the right things at the right times
Eating regularly through the day is key - long periods without eating causes your body to go into stress mode. Balanced meals of carbs and protein keep your blood sugar even, and you should make sure you eat within an hour of waking, but then leave about 2 hours between your evening meal and going to bed. It feels counter to this, but a small snack of carbs & protein before bed, combined with a camomile tea helps to keep these levels even over night, and your body relaxed before you go to the bed.
(3) Time your water intake so you're not running to the loo
You need to drink lots of water in pregnancy, but timing is everything. When you're pregnant there's no talking your brain out of needing to get up in the night to go to the loo once you're awake, but if you try and have most of your water intake pre 4pm you have a better chance of making it through.
(4) Have a relaxing nightly routine
Just like you'd train a baby into understanding when they need to sleep, you need to think about your body as needing the same education. Again, whatever works for you - but TV probably isn't going to cut it! Whether it's a bath, going to bed a little earlier (an inevitability for much of pregnancy) and reading, you need to do something that calms your brain down. I've order the sleep pillow spray from This Works as I've heard great things, I'll keep you posted on whether it helps!
(5) Learn to make your brain quiet
This is my hardest one to conquer so far, but I'm continuing to try. I've always been someone who finds it a bit harder to get back to sleep once I've woken, because to do lists start running through my brain. In pregnancy, this genuinely feels like you're a mental person at night - your brain leaps from subject to subject, and it's super hard to focus.
There's a few things I'm trying. Firstly there are MP3's that the woman who we're going to see for hypnobirthing has sent us, so I'm going to try listening to these a few times a week. Secondly, I'm trying to get the rest of my life a bit more sorted so I feel on top of those to do lists, so there's simply less to stress about! (Ask your partner for help on this, remember pregnancy is about both of you)
So far, through this new routine, my wake up time has at least pushed back to 4.30 or 5, and it's getting better by the day, so fingers crossed it continues to work. Let me know if you discovered anything better I should try!