November 3 – November 9: 20 Weeks 0 Days – 20 Weeks 6 Days.
I don’t know exactly when I popped, but all of a sudden I have a bump!
I may have celebrated my new figure with a mini shopping spree in the H&M maternity section. In other consumerism news, I started making my baby registry/to-buy-list, and I’m gladly accepting suggestions on products I should (or definitely should not) request/buy. Currently I’m going off this newborn checklist (minus a couple items my sister advised me not to bother with) and using BabyList for my registry so I can add items from multiple stores.
Weeks ago, a friend told me that you feel best about halfway through pregnancy, and I’m wholeheartedly enjoying that. Many of the discomforts that I had in the first trimester have faded or disappeared. But, there has been one new issue that has arisen: insomnia.
I had trouble sleeping as a kid; I used to watch the red glowing numbers on my digital alarm clock for hours trying to fall asleep. At some point (maybe when I got into fitness, maybe when I discovered yoga, maybe when I started eating less sugar), that completely turned around and I became the best sleeper ever. I could easily fall asleep within a couple minutes; I could usually drop into an afternoon nap, even if I only had twenty minutes to squeeze it in; and even after a taking a long afternoon nap, I could still sleep just fine at night. The only sleeping I couldn’t do well was sleeping-in. I have some kind of genetic mutation that makes me chipper and energetic in the morning, and I usually can’t wait to get out of bed and start my day.
A couple weeks ago, I lost my magic sleep powers. Night or day, I have trouble getting to sleep. Once I do get to sleep, I wake up frequently and have trouble getting back to sleep. In the morning, I’m groggy and lethargic, and it’s hard to drag myself out of bed (I guess now I know how normal people feel).
Over the years, I’ve offered my yoga students techniques to help with sleep with this proviso: knowing the techniques isn’t enough, you actually have to use them. It’s hard to let go of addictive behaviors like snacking right up until bedtime, reading the news on a smartphone in bed, and laying awake mentally rehashing the events of the day or making plans for the days to come. When the mind is go-go-go, it’s not immediately gratifying to stop-stop-stop—but it pays off to have the discipline to do so. I had to take my own advice. I pored over my pregnancy resources for tips on getting a better sleep, and committed to actually do them. I’m still developing new habits, but when I do several (or all) of the following in the same evening I get a much better sleep:
- Bedroom blackout. No more flimsy curtains, lighted clocks, or even indicator lights on chargers. The other night, I got up in the middle of the night and turned Richard’s phone face-down to block the tiny flashing notification light.
- The bed is associated only with sleeping. Richard and I are on the same page about this, so we’ve never had a TV in the bedroom; however, I am trying to kick my persistent habit of using my smart phone in bed. Also, I’ve been doing Hypnobabies for several weeks, and was listening to many of my self-hypnosis tracks in bed. Although the tracks are relaxing, my mindset was to try to stay awake for them, which isn’t the right association for bed. I now find doing my self-hypnosis session on the couch, then heading to bed helps set me up for a good night’s sleep.
- Turn off electronics well before bedtime. The blue light from TV, computer, and phone screens tells the brain to stay awake. Richard swears by apps that block the blue light from his screen in the evening so his computer display looks like it’s gone through a sepia filter. I prefer to turn everything off before bed to distance myself from stimulation and information overload, and spend the hour before bed doing something relaxing instead (see some suggestions below). I became especially committed to this after watching Breaking Bad one night before bed (I know, I’m late to the bandwagon) and dreaming that my baby was born and quickly grew up to be Jane. Keeping my smartphone off before bed is my biggest challenge.
- Do exercises and stretches that balance out the body (but avoid anything that raises the heart rate as this can prevent sleep). Muscle tension is one of the things I’m most aware of when I can’t get to sleep. Before bed, doing a few exercises, stretches, and massage techniques with a foam roller or pinky balls makes a world of difference. I’ve learned that if I’m laying in bed and can’t get comfortable, getting up for five minutes to address the area of discomfort with some exercises works much better than tossing and turning for hours. If you’re unsure of how to address discomfort in your body, it is definitely worth it to see someone who specializes in movement to help you out. If you live in the Bay Area, feel free to contact me about a private session.
- Avoid eating a ton right before bed. During pregnancy, the digestive system becomes more and more compressed as the baby grows, so processing a bunch of food can be uncomfortable and disrupt sleep. Instead, stick to a small snack. I read somewhere that turkey is a good pre-bedtime snack because it contains tryptophan, a sleep enhancer. I tried it one night in conjunction with many of the other techniques listed here and got a good sleep, so it may have helped (unfortunately the turkey breast I cooked was so dry I couldn’t bear to choke down the leftovers on subsequent nights—cooking advice welcome).
- Do down-regulating activities to wind down for bed:
- Warm bath
- Meditation or self-hypnosis
- Yoga nidra or restorative yoga (practice with a teacher who can help you modify for pregnancy)
- Drink herbal tea, hot water with lemon, or warm milk and honey
- Read a book (and not a suspenseful one that will hook you into reading all night). Reading about cervical dilation and effacement put me right to sleep one night.
- Listen to relaxing music. I chose classical string quartet music.
- Breathing exercise
- Sighing breaths
- Abdominal breathing: Inhale for four counts, exhale for eight
- Anuloma viloma (when you’re pregnant extended breath-holding is contraindicated, so practice a four-count hold at most).
- Use a ton of pillows to support a comfortable position. I’ve always slept with a pillow between my knees when I’m lying on my side, and I recently added a pillow between my arms to keep my shoulders neutral. Some pregnant women I’ve talked to swear by using a giant C-shaped body pillow and I’m seriously considering getting one.
Update: I got the C-shaped body pillow, and I love it! I’ve been getting a better sleep since I started using it. The shape is nothing I couldn’t make with a ton of pillows, but the support stays put instead of shifting around as I sleep. Also, the pillow can be used facing either direction (and it’s not bad for lying on my back either), so I don’t have to adjust my set-up when I change positions at night. Side benefit: since it doesn’t take up as much space as a stack of normal pillows, it’s nicer for sleeping partners—Richard and I can even semi-cuddle while I’m using it!
The insomnia did result in one cherished experience. Since my placenta is in the front, I don’t feel much movement from the baby. On rare occasions, she gets into a position where I can clearly feel her little kicks, and I relish those moments. One morning this week around 4 a.m., I woke up to some flutters and pops in the left side of my by belly. Instead of stressing about getting back to sleep, I lay happily awake for a couple hours enjoying the connection with my baby.