Tips for stress-free pregnancy sleep


Ready Yourself With Rest

The doctors’ tips for stress-free slumber—while it’s still possible. Although your bed may be the source of serious fun and serious bonding, as you get further into your pregnancy, it may be the source of some serious stress.Most pregnant women worry about how they’re going to cope with being awakened every couple of hours every night for several months after the baby’s born. Some experts theorize that frequent awakenings during pregnancy are your body’s way of preparing itself for motherhood.Regardless, your body needs sleep. It helps improve your immune system, your skin, and your mood and brain function.Plus, sleep helps boost growth hormone. Of course, growth hormone isn’t just important for your body; you also need it for growing the placenta and uterus.

The sleep cycle

Our bodies go through several stages of sleep every night, ranging from early sleep (stages one and two) to a deeper level (the dreamy REM, or rapid eye movement).Your body rolls through these 90-minute cycles several times a night—unless something disrupts you, like worry, pain, heartburn, or getting up to use the bathroom.If you’re always getting awakened before that 90-minute cycle completes, you’re never getting into deep sleep and restoring your brain properly.Up to 95 percent of pregnant women experience sleep changes. The biggest problems? A decrease in REM sleep and an increase in vivid dreams. Many report that their dreams become extremely vivid—even nightmarish; this is especially true postpartum.If bad dreams persist beyond the norm, talk to your doctor; they could also be a symptom of a mood or anxiety disorder, and you may need some help to break the pattern and get your sleep back on track.

Up all night
It’s no surprise why pregnant women wake up so frequently: more bathroom uses (more pressure on the bladder from your uterus), baby movement (the ultimate biological alarm clock), breathing problems (the weight gain and baby push your lungs up, causing your airways to narrow), and more side effects that rustle you out of slumber (backaches, heartburn, leg cramps, you name it).Lack of sleep is a major stressor for an expectant mom—and the most easily treated.The problem is that the pattern of nighttime awakening can snowball; here are some tips to help you rest more comfortably and sleep a little better—even though you may still wake up throughout the night:

Having a baby is safe, or else the human race wouldn’t be here. Most of the time, your job is to just get out of the way and let this remarkable process work naturally.As knowledge goes up, anxiety goes down, so learn everything you can about your pregnancy and birth and try to relax your way into a peaceful night.

You may be thinking about play dates a few months down the road. But how about scheduling a mom-to-be play date right now? Joining a support group of moms is one of the best things you can do for your state of mind.MOVE IT.
The mind-body relationship is as close as the mom-baby relationship. So it should be no surprise that a physically strong body will make you feel mentally strong. Even moderate physical activity is associated with fewer pregnancy pains—and thus serves as a huge mechanism for better sleep as well. Go for a walk!

You, too, need some physical comfort. As you pass this article to your partner (read this, buster!), understand that massage works by stimulating feel-good endorphins and oxytocin. So whether it comes from your mate or a professional, get yourself on the receiving end of a rubdown.

Whether you like Mozart or Metallica, music reduces stress in pregnancy and even reduces pain during childbirth.Listening to your favorite tunes for just 30 minutes substantially reduces stress.

Try this tonight

If you have difficulty breathing, try multiple pillows or a pregnancy pillow, which will pull the baby away from your diaphragm so it can move your lungs up and down.

* Don’t drink water after 6 p.m. to reduce your nighttime bathroom breaks. And caffeine is a no-no all day.

* Try a glass of warm skim milk or chamomile tea before bed.

* Create a dark and quiet environment in the bedroom, using the bed for sleep and sex only—and not for TV watching or surfing the web.

* Ratchet up the air conditioner. It’s easier to sleep in a cooler environment; plus, you’re probably running hot these days.

* For more tips—like how to “quiet the kick”— check out our book. And remember, most times everything turns out well, so enjoy the rest—in a few months you’ll have a whole new kind of sleep issue to deal with.

— Michael Roizen, M.D., & Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Michael Roizen, M.D., is a professor of internal medicine and of anesthesiology, chief wellness officer, and chair of The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is a professor, vice chairman of surgery, and director of the Cardiovascular Institute at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. Check your local listings for The Dr. Oz Show.
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