From restless legs to morning sickness that arrives at night, here’s how to get some undisturbed sleep when you're expecting, by pregnancy and skincare experts Melissa Schweiger Kleinman and Mama Mio
Let’s be real. Once you’re pregnant, sleep becomes a lot more satisfying than sex, and there are definite physiological reasons for this. Your body is so busy, you know, making a human and whatnot, and the exhaustion sets in big time. In the first trimester, your energy will just blow to smoke thanks to the placenta it created out of thin air. You might get a slight break from your fatigue in the second trimester but don’t get used to it; in trimester three, when your almost full-sized baby starts to steal all of your energy again, you’ll be back to falling asleep in your cereal bowl (better get used to that!).
As if trying to figure out a comfy position with your new Buddha belly wasn’t hard enough, you can add those “only-in-pregnancy phenomenon”, such as restless leg syndrome, reflux, nausea and back pain into the mix and you’re set for some fun-filled nights (let’s get this party started!).
Investing in a body pillow is key, as is keeping a box of crackers for nausea at your bedside. Pregnancy gives you the perfect excuse to indulge in afternoon naps, so if your body is telling you to get some rest, do yourself a favour and listen.
My legs feel like they need to get up and move while I’m in bed. What’s going on?
Are your legs acting like they have somewhere to be while you’re trying to relax and sleep? If so, you probably have restless leg syndrome (RLS) which is very common during pregnancy. RLS is the uncontrollable urge to move your legs, as if they’ve heard their favourite song and need to start dancing. While moving your legs around is not such a big deal say, at the gym, the problem is it typically strikes at night when you’re trying to sleep.
There’s no clear culprit behind RLS, but hormones, iron deficiency and circulation issues could be the reason it strikes so frequently during pregnancy. So what can you do about this annoying compulsion to break out into a moonwalk? When I was pregnant, stretching my legs helped a lot, especially before bed, and other ways to combat RLS include:
- Asking your partner for a little leg massage at night. TryMama Mio Lucky Legs, £19.50, during the massage - the cooling sensation will soothe the legs while the calming blend of essential oils will help keep your restlessness at bay.
- Taking a warm bath at night. Keep the temperature of the bath at your body temperature, which is 37°C (98°F).
- Making sure you’re getting enough exercise during the day. (Here'show to safely exercise during pregnancy.)
- Try applying either heat or cold to your legs. Use either a heating pad, a cold compress or a cooling skincare product (pregnancy-safe, of course).
- Don’t get into bed until you’re ready to go to sleep. Sometimes lying still for long periods will bring on the twitchiness.
I’m not sure why they call it morning sickness when I feel the most nauseous at night. How can I quell my queasiness when I’m trying to get some shut-eye?
If only morning sickness stayed true to its name, right? Unfortunately, pregnancy-related nausea can and will strike whenever it pleases. They should really call it morning, noon and night sickness. Without fail, I would feel the urge to purge every afternoon around 4pm. Trying to find the nearest toilet became something of a parlour game during my first trimester. I found my best fight against nausea was making sure I was never hungry. I quickly discovered that an empty stomach was an invitation for queasiness. Crackers became my best defence and keeping a packet of them on me at all times became essential. Evenings weren’t much better; if I had eaten dinner too early, the nausea would come back for more. That bag of crackers was transported from my handbag to my nightstand. Even if I had already brushed my teeth, I’d give myself a pass to munch on a cracker before going to bed and it helped every time.
My other saviour was ginger. I bought bagfuls of chewy ginger sweets during pregnancy and became addicted to them. Ginger helps fight nausea like a champ so find your favourite way to ingest it, like tea or sweets, and go crazy. I also loved acupressure wrist bands, which have a knob that presses against an acupressure point on the inside of your wrist. I truly believe they did work, but it may have also been the placebo effect. The strategies for fighting morning sickness at night are not that much different than keeping it at bay during the day. The only difference is you’ll need to keep your anti-throw up arsenal near your bed for easy access. A drop of a nausea-fighting essential oil could help stave off the need to pray to the porcelain gods. Try dropping peppermint, ginger or lavender essential oil onto your pillow before you go to sleep.
I find myself getting heartburn right before bedtime. How can I make it stop?
Heartburn can be an ongoing bother during pregnancy. If you never had heartburn before pregnancy, you’re in good company. It’s a burning sensation right underneath your breastbone that makes you feel like your stomach acids are about to spill out of your throat. Heartburn (also known as acid reflux) commonly affects pregnant women thanks to that good ol’ hormone progesterone. The placenta is to thank (or blame) for all of that progesterone lollygagging around in your system. Progesterone relaxes the valve that keeps your oesophagus separate from your stomach and with your newly relaxed valve, some of those stomach acids are now creeping up into your gullet. Sounds pleasant, eh? The million pound question from thousands of pregnant women: how to keep those nasty stomach acids from bothering you at night and stealing precious hours of sleep? Try cutting back on certain acidic foods that could make your heartburn worse, particularly in the hours leading up to bedtime.
Foods to consider limiting include:
- Chocolate (sorry!)
- Raw onions, garlic, black pepper and spicy foods in general
- Citrus juices
In general, if you suffer with heartburn, don’t eat big meals; go for smaller meals throughout the day rather than three big meals and try not to eat too close to bedtime either. Getting into bed and lying down with a belly full of food could make matters worse. It’s best to wait for at least three hours after eating to lie down. When you do go to bed, try propping yourself up with some pillows, which could help to keep those acids where they belong: down in your stomach. If all else fails, speak to your doctor or midwife about pregnancy-safe antacids or medications to help put out the fires.
This extract was taken from Mama Mio’s ‘Mama, You’ve Got This’ honest pregnancy guide
Mama Mio’s new ‘Sleep Easy Mama Kit’ is a pamper set specifically targeted at giving mums and mums-to-be a good night’s sleep, which includes a bath & shower oil, lavender tummy rub butter, and pillow spray.