I've mentioned in prior blog posts that this pregnancy is way harder than my first. My chief complaints this pregnancy have been reflux (see my blog post on remedies) and insomnia. For weeks on end, I would fall asleep only briefly and then be wide awake for up to five hours. It really took a toll on my mood and productivity. I crowd-sourced solutions from my mom friends and various mom groups, tried them out and rounded them up for you here.
Note that any medication or supplement listed below was approved for my use by my pediatrician. Please consult with your medical practitioner before taking any supplements or medications.
I've linked to Amazon listings and other sites for a number of the products mentioned in this post. These links are affiliate links, which means that when you click through and make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no cost to you. The weighted blanket mentioned in this post was gifted to me by the brand at my request. Please see the disclosure page for additional information.
Create a Relaxing Sleep Routine
To get your body and mind into sleep mode, try the following before bed:
- go to sleep at the same time every night
- avoid work / checking work emails
- avoid stressful conversations
- avoid blue light (if avoiding TV and your phone before bed isn't practical, at least turn down the brightness or consider blue light-blocking glasses)
- take a warm bath (add half a cup of epsom salt and 8-10 drops of lavender essential oils to make it even more effective)
- use a cream, lotion or oil containing lavender -- one of my friends applies this oil to her chest and neck before bed, another uses this lotion. I personally don't like the smell of lavender but do apply this cream before bed as part of my ritual
- don't eat close to bed time (this can also help with reflux, see the article that I co-authored with my acupuncturist)
- limit your caffeine intake
- reserve your your bed for only sleep and sex
- listen to a meditation app to help you fall asleep -- I personally like falling asleep to music from this app (I turn off the voice), or one of the sleep stories designed for kids narrated by Tamara Levitt (her voice is really soothing) in this app
Exercise During the Day
Lots of moms recommended exercise as conducive to sleep, with yoga being the most popular recommendation.
The right pillow or prop can help
The more comfortable you are, the easier it will be to fall asleep. Obstetricians recommend sleeping on your side during the latter half of pregnancy to maintain proper blood flow for you and your baby. The weight of your belly can, however, make this uncomfortable.
Here are some pillows and other props that members of my mom hive recommend:
Try a weighted blanket
One of my pregnant friends swears that her Sensacalm weighted blanket improved her sleep dramatically (she is seriously contemplating bringing it to the hospital for post-delivery). I was feeling pretty desperate so I poked around online about weighted blankets in general, and also on the Sensacalm site.
I found that people describe the feeling of a weighted blanket as similar to a hug, which gives them a sense of security and cues their minds to rest.
My only prior exposure to weighted blankets was from the episode of Parenthood when Haddie gave one to her brother Max, who suffers from Asperger's, as a parting gift when she left for college.
I reached out to Sensacalm and they sent me one of their weighted blankets to try out. I've been using it for a couple of weeks and definitely find it comfortable. I thought it would take getting used to, but it improved my sleep somewhat from the first night.
I know that a lot of guided sleep meditations (see above) instruct you to imagine yourself sinking into your mattress. The weighted blanket definitely helps me achieve that feeling!
Sensacalm's founder, Donna, was really helpful in guiding me on what size and weight to order. Most interestingly she told me that weighted blankets should be sized based on the user's body and not the bed.
I chose the large 15lb blanket in volcanic gray with a matching duvet cover. 15lb was higher than recommended for my weight, but I wanted to make sure I'd get the effect of the weight. I also like the large size (any smaller and I wouldn't feel adequately covered when sleeping on my side).
Reset by Getting Out of Bed / Changing Location
I find that the longer I'm awake in bed, the harder it is to settle (back) to sleep. Other friends have experienced the same. Making a change can serve as a reset and break the insomnia cycle.
If I feel like I'm getting in my own head about not falling asleep I will get up and take a walk around my apartment. If that doesn't work, I will move to the spare bed in my son's room (this helps except that when he wakes up in middle of the night he sees me and gets into bed with me instead of going right back to sleep).
One friend said that flipping so that her head is at the foot of the bed helps her reset.
Another friend, who has been suffering from extreme pregnancy insomnia, went to far as to go to a hotel alone for a night (she did confirm that she got her best sleep in weeks there).
Supplements and Medications
Both my obstetrician and friends recommended these supplements and medications. I now take all of them, with Unisom being the most effective for me.
Lots of people swear by melatonin as a sleep aid. I've been taking this low dose herb-based melatonin 30 minutes before bed time for weeks and can't say with any confidence that it helps me.
Magnesium can help you relax and promote sleep. My obstetrician told me that I don't need to worry about overdosing on oral magnesium, but warned that it can cause diarrhea. Most women that I know take Colace during their third trimester to combat constipation, so this may not be a concern.
I currently take a total of 460 mg of magnesium 30 minutes before bed (90 mg from my prenatal, 235 mg from this drink (it tastes pretty good), and 135 mg from this capsule). I definitely find the Magnesium to help me relax and get drowsy, but it isn't enough to keep me asleep all night.
I adopted most of the tips outlined above (including taking both melatonin and magnesium), and my sleep improved but was still not great. I spoke to my obstetrician who assured me that it was safe for me to take Unisom as often as every night.
Multiple members of my mom hive reported that the tablets work better than the melts or gelcaps, so I tried onlyl the tablets. The first night I didn't sleep great, but after that I started sleeping through the night most nights. When I do wake up, I'm able to fall back asleep easily.
When I have a streak of good nights I will try taking only half a tablet and find that I still sleep well. After a few nights of half a tablet I decided to try to sleep without Unisom and I had a bad night. Now I take a half or full tab every night 30 minutes before bed (in addition to the melatonin and magnesium).
I know this isn't the most fascinating post of mine, but if it put you to sleep then it served its purpose ;)
Please comment with any tips that I missed!
Wishing you lots of good sleep and a healthy pregnancy!