Tiredness in pregnancy
For some women, coping with tiredness starts in the earliest stages of pregnancy and simply evolves into slightly different problems, rather than ever going away. At first, it might be morning sickness keeping you awake, in the second trimester it could just be anxiety and worry about impending motherhood, while in third trimester, discomfort, frequent trips to the toilet and reflux can all interrupt your good night's sleep.
Rather than let yourself get stressed by pregnancy tiredness, try to accept that some tiredness is a normal part of the pregnancy experience. If your fatigue is extreme and is beginning to affect your daily life - either personally or professionally - speak to your doctor or midwife about ways that you might get some relief.
Getting the right emotional support is also important. If you have other children, ask for help from extended family or good friends - even just every now and then - to give you a chance to take some time for you. Even if all you do is switch on the TV and relax in peace for an hour or two, or have an afternoon catnap, you will notice a difference.
Reducing your domestic chores is also be a good idea. Ask your partner to help while you take a well-earned rest, or, if you can afford it, consider employing domestic to help get you through the last stages of your pregnancy. You don't have to be a superwoman!
Relieve Your Stress
Meditation and yoga are great tools to aid relaxation and induce a calm, blissful state for bedtime. So it is a deep, warm bath that helps wash away the stresses of the day. Even just taking a little time out for you - treating yourself to a pedicure, reading a magazine in a quiet, cosy spot with a cup of herbal tea (and no mobile phone), or catching up with a close friend for some great conversation and laughter - can help. Exercising late in the day (be sure to exercise safely, depending on your individual health needs and the stage of your pregnancy) may also help give you a better night's sleep and relieve pregnancy stress .
Avoid late night snacks and drinks - fewer trips to the toilet during the night will give you more time to sleep peacefully.
Feeling anxious or concerned?
If you feel you are anxious about various pregnancy issues such as the labour, your relationship, parenting, the renovations, work, your other child, finances etc., enough to stop you from getting to sleep, then you may need to talk with your partner, friend, social worker at the hospital, counsellor or psychotherapist. Sometimes making a 'worry list' and working out ways of dealing with each one is therapeutic. Waking with vivid disturbing dreams can be unnerving, keep a dream journal to help empty your mind!
Creating a sleep routine
If you simply can't get to sleep or wake after a few hours sleep for no real reason then you probably need to get a 'going to sleep' routine happening to cue your body for drifting off to zzzz land. Realise though that having broken sleep at the end of pregnancy is Mother Nature's way of getting you ready to look after a new baby. Mothers survive on short blocks of quality sleep, 1, 2, 3 or 4 hours at a time. Having 8-10 hours solid sleep will be a distant memory!
Being able to get off to sleep will mean thinking of routines that work for you. Try to use these routines with the aim of getting off to sleep. Avoid thinking 'I'm awake now' and getting up to do housework, reading emails or completing work brought home. This will only encourage the sleepless pattern, meaning you will be up at all hours every night no matter how tired you are.
The routine could entail reading a boring book, listening to a meditation tape, watching boring television, listening to music or the radio, deep breathing and yoga or relaxation exercises, having a warm drink of milk or herbal tea, having a warm bath or shower, counting sheep or backwards from 100, sewing or knitting. Anything that is easy to do and helps you to feel tired and winds you down.
Tips for getting to sleep
- Avoiding stimulants a few hours before going to bed. Caffeine in coffee, chocolate or cola will not help (and should be taken in minimal amounts in pregnancy anyway).
- Eating habits. Eat a few hours before going to bed and avoid sweet sugary foods just before bed. Your baby normally moves vigorously after you eat, especially if it involves sugar or caffeine. Eating earlier may mean the baby is more active before you go to bed, and will reduce heartburn if you have this.
- Milk. A warm milk drink, you may wish to add malt or honey.
- Herbal teas such as chamomile or valerian can help. Check with your caregiver or practitioner.
- Massage. A massage from your partner, especially around the neck and shoulders. You may wish to use a massage oil. Some aromatherapists will recommend Lavender essential oil diluted in carrier oil. (Essential oils should only be used after 12 weeks of pregnancy).
- Extra pillows. Use extra pillows, make sure the room is well ventilated, you feel comfortably warm and the bed is comfortable. Move rooms if you are worried about disturbing your partner, or if your partner is disturbing you (snoring!) Wearing earplugs or an eye mask may be the answer.
- 'Cat naps'. Sleep when you can. An afternoon sleep may contribute to the sleepless nights. Try skipping one to see if this helps. If not, take advantage of sleeping when you can. This is a habit you'll need when parenting!
- Have sex. Orgasm is a great way of releasing endorphins to relax you and help you sleep.
- Homoeopathy. Homoeopathic remedies may include Aconitum napellus, Coffea Cruda, Conium maculatum, Kali carbonicum, Nux vomica or Pulsatilla nigricans. See your homoeopath for a remedy.
What to avoid before going to sleep
You may have some insight into sleep deprivation being a form of torture, but no one has ever died purely from lack of sleep! Avoid sedatives, sleeping tablets, alcohol and marijuana in pregnancy. It is better for you, your baby and your health if you find natural ways to help you sleep.
Sleep disturbances can be one way for your body to prepare for having a new baby to care for. You may wish to discuss any concerns you have with your caregiver.
Find more pregnancy articles
This article was written for Kidspot - New Zealand's parenting resource for during your pregnancy
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