Preparing for sleep Sleep Suitable for stages: Pregnancy
When you have day/night routines which support better sleep, your days are more productive, balanced and enjoyable. These same principles apply to your baby once their circadian rhythm starts to strengthen at around 3-4 months old.
If you can control your bedtime, start preparing your body well before that time and try to get to bed around the same time every night or earlier if you are tired. A consistent and relaxing bedtime routine can help prime the body for rest. Common pre-sleep routines include self-care, hygiene, and relaxing activities. The sleep routines you establish for yourself, including self-care, hygiene, and relaxing activities are personal to you to make you feel comfortable, restful and support your growth and health.
Winding down with a sleep routine before you go to bed is all about practising self-love, gratitude and self-compassion. It's an opportunity you can take to care of your mind, body, spirit, and check in with yourself.
How your daily activities prepare you for sleep
A healthy circadian rhythm relies on a balance through the day of physical activity, mental activity, relaxation and rest. Your changing, growing pregnant body and mind, requires a lot of energy, but also needs to be fit and healthy.
You may have noticed that when you are physically active during the day, you sleep more soundly. The challenge is in getting the balance right and not demanding too much of your pregnant body. Strenuous or high impact exercise can cause damage to ligaments that are relaxed due to the effect of the relaxin hormone in your body. The aim of physical activity during your pregnancy is to get your body moving, lungs working and make you feel good. It is also great for your baby’s development to be exposed to movement and different positions within the womb. You can try walking, practice yoga (with pregnancy precautions), gentle stretching, swimming, dancing/movement exercises.
By balancing physical activity with relaxing and calming activities you can restore energy to your pregnant body. This can feel rejuvenating both physically and mentally whilst balancing your energy levels. Take the time to incorporate relaxation and restful activities into your day. Give yourself permission to have an afternoon nap, meditate, massage yourself or ask someone to massage you. Better still, relax in and explore nature for a multi-sensory and grounding experience.
Food & drink before bed
When you eat, your body dedicates energy to the digestion of that food. Often the advice to help with digestion is to eat smaller meals more frequently. The timing and amount that we eat and drink seem to have an effect on our circadian rhythm and sleep. The first meal of the day literally means to ‘break fast’. When your gut gets a break from digestion at night, it can repair and renew itself for overall better health.
When it comes to preparing for sleep, the Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding going to bed with a full belly or being hungry. Others recommend allowing digestion time of 2-3 hours between eating and lying down to sleep - to do this and still have a sensible bedtime means aiming for an early family-friendly dinner time and avoiding after-dinner snacking.
Needing to urinate frequently during the day and the night is a common symptom of pregnancy. It is important to drink plenty of water during the day to keep your body well hydrated. Avoiding caffeinated drinks during the afternoon and beyond may help reduce night-time urination and sleep disturbance. Try replacing caffeinated tea and coffee with a relaxing warm herbal tea after meals. A warm drink after dinner can help your body get ready for sleep.
Turning down the lights
You can use light to help prepare yourself for sleep. Your eyes have light receptors which find blue daylight alerting, stimulating and delay the sleep hormones that control your body clock. By contrast, red-based light (like candle-light or from older style incandescent bulbs) have less impact on our eye’s light receptors and is less likely to stimulate wakefulness. This is supported by research that has shown that your body clock can reset in one week of camping where exposure to light was from the sun and moon and campfires. The result of the reduced exposure to artificial light and resetting of their body clock was significantly improved sleep.
You can support your body clock by introducing as much natural light into your daytime as possible, only using blue light sources during the day, and restricting blue light sources, particularly from 2 hrs before wanting to sleep. Most artificial light sources use the blue light spectrum, including most lightbulbs, TVs, computers, and phone screens. If you need to use your phone, you might be able to change the screen settings to change to a warmer tone after dark.
Allow the house to lose light around dusk and use this as a cue to start calming down and preparing your body for sleep. When light is needed, turn on lamps with yellow/orange/red hued bulbs such as the Shnuggle Moonlight Nightlight or a Himalayan salt lamp or use candles (battery or natural). If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace and it is cool enough, light it up in the evening. If you love fireplaces, but don’t have one, you can set up your computer or TV to play a fireplace video such as this from YouTube (yes this is a thing and is so relaxing).
Before you go to bed, you can set up sensor night lights with enough warm light so you can see where you are going should you need to get up at night and don't want to wake up fully.
Caring for your body
Before bed, the activities you do to care for your body and hygiene can include:
- washing your face
- washing your body (a bath or a shower will lower your body temperature getting your body ready for sleep)
- moisturising your body
- brushing your hair
- brushing your teeth
- changing into bedclothes.
When you have regular habits around bedtime, these all help tell your mind and body, it is time to wind down ready for rest.
Relaxing activities such as the following can help prepare your mind and body for sleep:
- a warm (not hot) bath
- deep breathing
- progressive muscle relaxation
- guided meditation - meditation can be done anytime during awake hours and has multiple benefits, including improved sleep and improved mental health.
Personal reflection during any quiet activity gives you a brain reboot and time to examine your experiences and emotions attached to them for personal growth. You can reflect on your past in terms of what happened, why it happened, how you felt about it, & whether to do it again. This reflection can help you adjust your direction and intentions and make sure you are conscious in your own life.
Meditation, affirmations, gratitude, and prayers are practices you can engage in to change your life positively.
Incorporating 20 minutes of personal reflection time into your bedtime (or anywhere in your daytime) routine could reap stress-busting benefits - you can do this during a bath, a walk, yoga, meditation, reading a book, journaling, filling in a daily diary or weekly planner. Without doing this during the day or before you attempt to go to sleep can leave your mind buzzing instead of resting when your head finally hits the pillow.
If your brain still wants some mental stimulation before bedtime, reading a book could be the healthiest habit to get into before bed. You can start reading aloud to your baby who can hear you and be comforted by your voice from around the second trimester. Reading to your baby at bedtime is a great habit to get into which you can continue for years to come.
Listening to music
Music can have many positive effects on your mind, body and spirit. It is personal to you what music you choose to relax to, and it may take a bit of searching to find the style of music you respond to. Joining a music streaming service can be an easy way of exploring new music.
Your baby can also enjoy music from within your body if you play the music through a speaker rather than using headphones or earbuds. Babies exposed to music in the womb seem to remember and respond to this music when played to them after birth. The music you enjoy now can become a tool for calming your baby and yourself during fussy or restless periods (especially around bed and nap times) down the track.
When you combine music with relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualisations, this can become a great tool to use if you feel overwhelmed or tense. Hypnobirthing and calm birthing use these techniques to train the pregnant mind and body to prepare for birth and to use during birthing. These techniques are also great tools to use to help you stay calm when your baby gets upset.
You won’t regret spending time during pregnancy to find the right music for you and practice relaxation techniques with the music. The best time to practice is when you are lying down, preparing your body for rest, and it’s a great way to fall asleep. Knowing how to calm your mind and body in this way can be used whenever it is needed throughout your parenting life.
Please note: Above all, any information on this website aims to provide general ideas for informational and educational purposes only. We encourage users to investigate several information sources, including, where necessary, independent individualised medical advice before making any decisions that could affect you or your child’s health or wellbeing.
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