Time to talk: sleep during pregnancy

Marina Fogle and Dr Chiara Hunt offer their advice on how to sleep well when you’re expecting

We are constantly being told how important sleep is in pregnancy.  After all, pregnancy takes its toll on your body and it’s believed that your baby grows most while you’re sleeping. Considering this, it feels incredibly unjust that so many of us find sleeping a real challenge. However, the good news is that there are some really effective, simple things you can try to help break the cycle of insomnia and enable you to get the good night’s sleep you need.

Avoid caffeine and sugar for six hours before bed. Coffee and chocolate are the worst offenders but also be aware that green tea contains caffeine and some fruits contain a surprisingly high amount of sugar.

Don’t eat heavily just before bed. Try to keep your evening meal light and if necessary, have a snack before bed. Going to bed on an empty stomach can be as counterproductive as going to bed on a very full stomach.

Drink less after 6pm. Even from the beginning of pregnancy, frequent trips to the toilet can interrupt sleep. Drink plenty during the day but cut down later on to avoid waking in the night.

Don’t nap after 3pm. Having a sleep during the day is crucial if you’re tired, but avoid a catnap on the sofa in the afternoon; even a 10-minute doze can stop you going to sleep properly.

Put the laptop away. Make your bedroom a smartphone- and computer-free zone. Not only will this be beneficial to your relationship, but evidence shows that using these devices at night has a negative impact on sleep.

Exercise promotes good sleep. Try to include this in your day, although not too close to bedtime as the endorphins can interfere with good sleep. People also snooze better if they’ve been exposed to fresh air and natural light during the day, so outdoor exercise is the most beneficial.

Develop a bedtime routine. A routine will subconsciously prepare the body for sleep. Avoid doing anything stimulating – instead, have a bath, turn down the lights or do some reading. Best of all, have sex; post-coital sleeps are often the best. Going to bed and getting up at the same time, even on weekends, will create a routine, too.

Reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex. If you’re used to working, sorting or using your phone in bed, it will become a less restful environment. Also ensure your room is the right temperature (many people sleep better in cooler environments) with plenty of fresh air being let in, and if you find you’re being woken by light or noise, use ear plugs and an eye mask.

Try breathing exercises. If you choose to use hypnotherapy as part of your birth preparation, the relaxation techniques can also help you sleep. We love Maggie Howell’s Easy to Sleep, (natalhypnotherapy.co.uk). We’re so focused on doing the best we can for our babies while pregnant that insomnia often leads to stress. This in itself will preclude sleep. We all need different levels of sleep, so judge on how you feel rather than the amount of hours you think you’ve had.

Chiara and Marina, founders of The Bump Class, run antenatal classes in South Kensington and Parsons Green. Authors of The Bump Class; An Expert Guide to Pregnancy, £14.99. thebumpclass.com

Want more? Time to talk: caesareans (part one)