If you are pregnant or ever have been pregnant, let’s start with the assumption that you know first hand that sleep is not always restful, undisturbed or even possible when you’re growing another human. As soon as you lie down, the baby starts break dancing in your belly, then you can’t stop thinking, then you have to pee and can’t go back to sleep after or maybe you have heart burn or the dread Charley Horse. Today we get to look into a few different reasons your sleep might be disturbed and some tailored solutions! Because no one wants to enter labor or motherhood ALREADY sleep deprived given that there is plenty of opportunity for that later.
Let’s look at some sleep disturbance patterns:
Do you wake up between 1 and 3 am?
This can be a multi-faceted issue. Between 1 and 3 am is when your liver regenerates. Keep in mind that your liver is extra taxed during pregnancy because it has to break down and eliminate all the extra hormones you are producing to grow your baby so it may take more work for it to regenerate. Either way it requires glycogen to regenerate and if you are stessed (and many people are), all of your glycogen can get used up by adrenaline. So when 3 am comes around when your liver is asking for glycogen and there is none to be found, your cortisol and adrenaline levels rise to stimulate glycogen release and you wake up.
Solution: The problem is multi-facted, so is the solution.
Eat closer to bedtime, even right before bed if it doesn’t give you heartburn. A balanced snack that is part complex carbs, part fat and part protein is ideal. Almond butter on toast, for example.
Reduce your stress if possible and take supplements to support the adrenals. There are MANY minerals, vitamins and herbs that support the adrenals. Personally I have had the most success with Ashwagandha, Tulsi (Holy Basil) and AdrenaSense (an ayurvedic herbal combination) but everyone’s body is different and you could react better to a different herb.
Support your liver with herbs like dandelion or milk thistle.
Take a mineral blend before bed.
Don’t underestimate the impact that any of these suggestions can make. They can individually be game changers but some people may need them all, depending on the severity of the stress and how long it has occured.
Do you wake up between 4 and 5 am? Are you hungry when you wake up?
This is similar to the situation above. It is essentially a blood sugar issue but can be heavily influenced by stress, adrenaline and cortisol.
Solution: Eating enough calories throughout the day, eating before bed and taking adrenal supplements as mentioned above will fix this.
Most people with true untreated hypothyroidism would have great difficulty getting and staying pregnant. However if you have mild symptoms and have not been officially diagnosed you could take some thyroid support supplements like iodine or kelp. If you are on hypothyroid medication you may need to have your blood re-drawn and your dose increased.
Charley Horses are those horrible muscle cramps you get in your calf muscles that wake you up screaming, the kind that can make your leg sore for days after.
The solution: Minerals. Most people can get them to go away just by taking enough magnesium (Calm is a good one). If your Charley Horses haven’t gone away, you need to take more magnesium. If you are taking so much that you have loose stools and still have Charley Horses, switch to a magnesium source such as Remag that is absorbed at the cellular level and does not make it through the digestive system. You could also do Epsom salt soaks or spray magnesium oil on your body every day. A mineral combination would also be helpful. Keep in mind that if you are taking high doses of magnesium, it should NOT be a calcium/magnesium combination. You don’t need that much calcium.
For those of you who have not experienced heart burn, it is that hot lump in your throat. It feels like you threw up but it didn’t come all the way out.
Solutions: Avoiding irritating foods such as acidic fruits and vegetables, spicy food, greasy foods, chocolate and coffee. Eating soothign foods such as raw almonds, milk, and ice cream. Try to keep your stomach contents small by eating small portions throughout the day and not eating and drinking at the same time. You can also try this massage of the diaphragm below:
Honestly, some people have to prop themselves so they can sleep sitting upright. I can’t imagine the number of pillows this must take
Meditation, deep breathing
Racing thoughts: You just can’t turn your brain off making it difficult to fall asleep.
Drink Tulsi tea every morning and take Ashwagandha or Relora before bed OR
take homeopathic Coffea Cruda 30c half an hour before bed.
You can take up to 3 mg of melatonin per night. This is a safe dose for pregnancy and can be obtained in prolonged release form to help you STAY asleep but, in general, sleep issues during your childbearing years are not melatonin deficiencies but rather blood sugar and stress related issues and you should try to address those first.
Can’t fall asleep:
Solution: Good herbs for falling asleep are Valerian, Lobelia, Passion Flower and Skull Cap. They can often be found in herbal combinations.
Chamomile tea and a good wind down routine at night can also be very helpful.
Waking to use the bathroom:
This is a normal part of pregnancy but some women wake to pee more than twice a night which is a bit excessive. When this happens I start thinking they are just waking up because they are not sleeping well and then pee or feel the urge to pee because they are awake. Consider that this might be the case if you are waking more than twice per night. Also, when babies are in the breech position it tends to increase how often women need to pee, so knowing your baby’s position and getting it head down if it is breech could help you need the bathroom less frequently at night.
Solution: Try the above mentioned tips that will help you sleep through the night such as reducing stress and taking minerals or an Epsom salt bath before bed.
The baby is moving too much:
Sorrrrrry I wish there was something we could do about that!
General advice for enhancing your sleep:
Exercise at least 3-4 days a week but not right before bed.
Have a wind-down routine
Don’t look at your computer or phone for an hour before bed.
Don’t have any light in the room where you sleep. Light suppresses melatonin production which is what helps you fall asleep.
Don’t drink coffee or stimulants any later than 3 pm.
Get a chiropractic adjustment. (I can’t sleep well if my neck is out)
If anyone else has advice to share or supplements that they love, please feel free to share!