8 ways to enjoy better sleep during pregnancy

Sound sleep is a challenge when your growing girth’s in the way ― follow these steps to get great Zzzs!

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Whether you are giddily anticipating or worrying about baby’s imminent arrival, your pregnant bod’s physical changes can keep you up at night. Most of all, your baby bump can literally be an obstacle to good sleep.

SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong, an obstetrician gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital explains, “Due to the enlarged abdomen, pregnant mums may experience difficulty in breathing and turning around in bed.” Add to that baby’s kicking, all hopes for peaceful slumber can turn into a distant dream.

You may also have fluid retention to blame for your discomfort. Explains Dr Kenny Pang, ear, nose and throat and sleep specialist at the Asia Sleep Centre. “Due to fluid retention, they might have swollen legs and arms, [which] can also cause swelling of the palate and oral cavity, [resulting in] snoring,”

Incidentally, a swollen oral cavity can also cause more serious sleeping disorders like Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Marked by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, resulting in low oxygen levels in the body, this can prove to be detrimental for both mother and child! However, Dr Pang reassures expectant women that this is a less common condition, and can be treated by putting on a nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask can help you cope.

Besides your posture, your sleeping patterns matter too. Stick to regular hours of sleep and fight the urge to nap in the day as this can affect your ability to sleep at night.

If you are in the pink of health and are still facing problems hitting the sack, follow these easy steps to fall ― and stay ― asleep.

1) Don’t overeat during dinner
Since you are eating for two, you might feel the urge to indulge during dinner — but it can prove unhealthy in the long run. Dr Pang says, “Avoid eating too full or large meals, as this might actually worsen or cause gastric reflux and affect sleep quality.” Signs include burning chest pain or a bitter acid that rises up into your mouth and throat.

2) Watch what you drink
Your growing baby bump will exert additional pressure on your bladder, leading to more frequent trips to the loo. Dr Chong stresses that you should avoid consuming too much fluids before bedtime, especially caffeinated drinks. Caffeine is a diuretic that’ll simply make you pee more, which will of course, disrupt your slumber.

3) Change how and when you sleep
Sleep on your side to reduce the womb’s pressure on your veins, advises Dr Pang, which will improve your quality of sleep. Besides your posture, your sleeping patterns matter too. Stick to regular hours of sleep and fight the urge to nap in the day as this can affect your ability to sleep at night, notes Dr Pang.

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4) Make your bedroom gadget-free

Make your bedroom a gadget-free zone as your tech toys emit a blue light that hijacks your biological clock and ruins your sleep patterns. This means no smartphone, tablet or TV two hours before sleep, Dr Pang says. Turn your room into a cool, dark and quiet snooze spot instead!

5) Meditate
You are setting yourself up for disaster if your mind is still buzzing when you hit the sack. Meditation is an effective way to calm the mind ― it also aids sleep, notes Dr Pang. So, find a quiet spot away from all distractions, close your eyes, block out all other thoughts and focus on your breathing. Incidentally, meditation apps for smartphones ― most of them include step-by-step how-to’s ― are a dime a dozen nowadays. And skip the exercise right before bedtime, Dr Chong stresses.

Dr Chong says that a little massage before bedtime can aid in shut-eye. Get the hubby to help you massage the aching parts of your body to help relieve or soothe any cramps.

6) Get a good rub
Before you rush to book an appointment with your masseuse, consider turning this into a couple bonding activity. Dr Chong says that a little massage before bedtime can help you sleep better, so get the hubby to massage those aching muscles. Common areas include calf cramp, caused by your baby’s weight. A massage can also ease any swelling that’s triggered by fluid retention in the wrists, which can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

7) Turn up the white noise
White noise ― repetitive monotonous sounds like waves crashing or a whirring fan ― is useful if you live near an MRT track or the highway as these can mask or muffle other sounds. Try downloading a white noise app on your smartphone.

8) Drink warm milk
Milk is high in L-tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid. This, in turn, triggers a release of serotonin, which causes you to feel drowsy, explain Dr Chong. He adds that drinking milk can help relieve heartburn and gastritis, too! By the way, warm milk and a small cookie before bedtime should fill the tummy, so you’ll sleep better after, Dr Pang points out!

Dr Christopher Chong is an obstetrician gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital, Dr Kenny Pang is an ear, nose and throat and sleep specialist at the Asia Sleep Centre.

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