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Dad and baby sleeping

The Importance of Sleep and How to Get It

Sleeping is one of my favorite things to do in life.

Rebecca Bartsch, LM, CPM

Rebecca Bartsch, LM, CPM

If you have read my bio you already know that sleeping is one of my favorite things to do in life. I nap as a hobby. My life as a mother and a midwife gets in the way of this hobby frequently, but I love my kids and I love my job so I forgive them both for getting in the way! Sleep is not just critical for the happiness of nap enthusiasts like myself. Sleep is profoundly important for many aspects of physical and mental well-being. Adequate sleep is necessary for healthy brain function, mood stability, resistance to stress, immune function, bodily repair, weight control, and even the ability to be creative. Many people struggle with getting adequate sleep at night. Pregnancy in particular presents unique challenges that can prevent a good night’s sleep. Whether it’s from an inability to get comfortable in bed, a racing mind that just won’t stop, or that never-ending need to go to the bathroom, most people experience some amount of sleep difficulty during pregnancy. It’s a common joke that all this sleep deprivation in pregnancy is just preparing you for life with a newborn, but consistent trouble sleeping isn’t funny. It’s awful. Here are some tricks you can try to encourage the best night sleep possible!

Seven tips to a good night’s sleep

Set yourself up for success. Make sure your room is cool, dark, and quiet. Avoid watching TV in bed or otherwise using your sleep space as a pre-bed activity space. Let your sleep space be your sleep space.

Create a calm evening routine. Eat dinner at a reasonable dinner hour, and then wind down from there. Maybe take a relaxing bath before bed. Maybe read a good book next to the fire. Do what helps you feel calm and peaceful, and spend some time in that space before heading to bed. If you have little kids who need your focus in the evening to facilitate their bedtime routine, or if evening is the only time you have to get things done, don’t roll your eyes at me just yet! You may have to delay the start of this pre-bed relaxation for the sake of your kiddos, but it’s still possible. Do their bedtime routine, and then start yours. Resist the temptation to make evening your get stuff done time. Your sleep is more important than your to-do list, and besides, you’ll be more productive the next day if you’ve properly slept the night before.

If you find that your mind races at night, try writing your thoughts down on paper before heading to bed. Journaling is a powerful way to clear your mind and help you feel more grounded. After you finish writing, tell yourself you’ll pick those thoughts up in the morning, they aren’t going anywhere. When those thoughts come back to bug you after you’ve gone to bed, which of course they will, you can try visualization strategies to let them go again. My favorite is to imagine myself filing away my thoughts in boxes. I put all my thoughts about my kids in one box, I put all my thoughts about work in another, and so on. Another approach is to imagine the thoughts on a chalkboard, then watch yourself erase them. Whether your busy mind plagues you at night or you feel perfectly at peace, focus your attention on taking slow, deep breaths as you lie there waiting to fall asleep.

Even moderate exercise benefits your sleep cycle

Be as active as you can be during the day. Studies show that the more you exercise, the better you sleep. Even moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, has beneficial impacts on your sleep cycle. Bodywork, such as massage, chiropractic, and acupuncture may improve your sleep as well.

Avoid napping during the day if you’re having difficulty sleeping at night. This might seem backwards at first, but if you’re getting some of your required rest during the daytime, your nighttime sleep pattern will change.

As pregnancy progresses, it can be harder and harder to get comfortable at night. Try packing pillows all around yourself. Have one under your head, at least one if not two between your legs, one firm pillow behind your back, one under your belly to hold baby up in alignment with your body, and one to hug your arms around. The idea is to support yourself from every angle so no part of you is holding tension. I call this the pregnancy nest. Some pregnancy pillows can accomplish much of this on their own, but a pregnancy pillow is not necessary if you have enough regular pillows to spare. When you decide it’s time to roll over, you’ll have to do a little rearranging, but you’ll get good at doing this quickly before too long.

Taper off fluids later in the day

So how do you keep that pesky bladder from waking you up all night? Drink lots of water during the day and taper off toward evening so that you’re not filling up your bladder just before bed. This seems common sense, but since you need a good 2-3L of water a day during pregnancy, you’ve got to be intentional about getting all of that in before evening so that you can reduce fluid intake safely toward the end of the day. Hopefully, this will reduce the number of times you’ll need to get up and go to the bathroom at night.

Sometimes you do everything right, but you still can’t sleep because your baby has decided it’s time to play! I can’t help you with this! Enjoy those moments in the quiet of the night when there’s nothing to do but lie there feeling your little one inside. You only have so long to enjoy this stage of your baby’s life, so embrace it. Soon enough your baby will be here and you’ll have new reasons you can’t sleep…I mean, all this is just nature’s way of preparing you for life with a newborn, right?!