Sleeping in Pregnancy – What to Expect.

As my pregnancy progresses, my sleeping habits are changing too and I can only predict it’s a sign of things to come.

There is a lot of advice out there when it comes to what is right and wrong. I have looked on several forums too and many expectant mothers advise different ideas. I can only go on what’s recommended by the professionals and what has worked for me.

1. Sleep on your left side only- A difficult task I find for the entire nine months however they do say for the first trimester it’s okay to sleep on your back. It would be my luck that I most prefer to sleep on my right side though (!) Apparently, this isn’t any good as your ever-growing uterus pushes down onto your liver which is harmful for you and the baby. So left side it is! It is by sleeping on this side that baby receives all the nutrients and oxygen it needs through the placenta and if it’s good for baby then it’s good for me.

2. Do expect to visit the toilet through the night – Sadly, this night-time adventure began for me at five weeks pregnant along with my other annoying symptoms. It has strangely become my way of life now! I’m certainly used to it after 21 weeks. Your kidneys are working super hard to accommodate the increased volume of blood that baby needs. This filter process means more trips to the loo. As baby grows, pressure is placed onto your bladder which also results in regular and frequent visits to the bathroom. Some expectant mums find this happens for them more in the day but it can equally occur at night. Last night was my personal record as I was up 7 times!! Shocking. Worst of all, this symptom gets worse during my near approaching third trimester. Joy!

3. Do drink some warm milk or herbal tea before bed – anything really that is soothing and will naturally aid your sleep. I have been having a hot mug of skimmed (non-fat) milk before bed since the start of the pregnancy. I have found it really helps to drift off into a natural sleep. If you aren’t too keen on the taste of milk, add a teaspoon of honey to it just remember to brush your teeth after!

4. The curse of the leg cramp – Sadly cannot be avoided. This symptom only started for me at month five. I have suffered from leg cramps before, usually when overweight or dehydrated. They tend to occur for both those reasons in pregnancy too. By five months your body should have gained some extra weight so naturally leg cramps will happen. Same goes for keeping hydrated. It may not keep them totally away but it certainly helps. Stretching the leg out and pointing the toes to the ceiling helps to relieve the pain.

5. Back, leg and hip pain – Different to the cramps, this pain is more of a throbbing sensation. Almost as if you have pulled a muscle. Simple solutions: For your back and hip, a pregnancy pillow I’ve heard is fantastic. It keeps you lying on your left side and takes away the pressure. For your legs, I just elevate them onto a large cushion or pillow. By the morning the pain has totally disappeared. Try to keep your legs up or raised on a chair every time you sit down too. It really helps.

6. Napping is your friend– Unfortunately, the majority of us are tied to a job for most of the day during our pregnancies so napping at the expected time (3pm- er how??) is a struggle. For the last few months when returning from work I have felt it necessary to take a little nap especially in the heat. Sadly, napping at six in the early evening is no good for falling asleep later on so I began putting off having naps only to feel exhausted the next day. Try to find a moment to get some shut eye. I found that my fifteen minute journey on the tube was a good time to have a power nap. Okay, it was nowhere near enough but it helped. Now that I’m on my five week school break (yes I know!) I can finally integrate naps into my schedule and boy, do they feel good.

To help you breathe better……

After last week, I decided to do some investigating of my own to find any natural remedies to aid my Asthma. I already know about the benefits of fresh lemon juice and its links to Asthma. I often drink lemon and ginger tea when unwell and have recently been having fresh lemon squeezed into a glass of water if any wheezing begins. It is not a cure by all means but it certainly helps. Other remedies include a few drops of eucalyptus oil on a tissue to be gently sniffed or drinking a strong black coffee (apparently it helps to open the airways).

I wanted to search for some breathing techniques too. For too long have I solely relied on my inhalers to relieve my Asthma symptoms. However, for my own resilience, I feel it is essential that I develop some more natural strategies to soothe and appease the pain.

A colleague of mine suggested Yoga. She is not the first person to mention it. My friend Katrina is constantly telling me to give it a go. She too suffers from Asthma and her regular love and practise of Yoga has practically sent it packing. I am not adverse to it, I just can’t seem to find enough willpower (or forced interest) in going to a Yoga class. It doesn’t seem “me”. Yes, health comes first before embarrassment but I doubt I’d feel very comfortable. I do not enjoy exercising around other people; an unfortunate side of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I decided to take a look on YouTube and eventually fell onto a clip to do with the art of  “Pranayama” breathing. A Sanskrit word meaning “extension of breath”. Studies have shown it can be a great way to relieve asthmatic symptoms and reduce stress. I have only practised two forms of Pranayama – Shitali otherwise known as ‘Cooling breath’ where the breathing is done through the mouth with the tongue extended and Bhramari – Also known as ‘Bee Breath’ – where you make a humming sound while breathing. Both are equally effective. I tend to do the exercises at home before sleep and first thing in the morning (granted I have time before work!). I hope that over the following few weeks I can endeavour to attempt the other Pranayama exercises and hope that they also provide the same comfort as the others.

During my time at Drama School, we spent a lot of time before our dance and voice classes warming up. Much of this focussed on the way we breathed. We explored several techniques, drawing inspiration from Pilates, the Alexander Technique and general vocal warm ups. One exercise that I remembered was a technique that involved a partner. As you inhaled, you were to imagine your diaphragm and ribs expanding. You are to focus on only this part of your body moving. You must try to control your chest and prevent it from rising. If it does, you are not doing the exercise correctly. As you inhale, your partner needs to put their hands onto your sides, holding your ribcage. As they feel you breathe in, they must push against your ribs. You need to try to push against their resistance. At first it will be tough. Your ribs may not be used to moving like this but over time, you will start to see them expand more easily. As you exhale, your partner’s hands will maintain the pressure whilst continuing to support your ribs.

Try it. It might work for you. If anything, it’s a good exercise for your waist too!

Other tips include:

  • Counting and breathing – counting is a tried and tested way of calming people down in moments of anger – especially children. It works for a reason. It keeps you focussed on your breathing and distracts you from the feeling of panic or stress.
  • Keeping your head slightly tilted forward- it is tempting, in discomfort, to want to lean back or tip your head backwards. If you do this, you restrict your airways and the flow of oxygen to your lungs decreases. The same applies for the recovery position. You must tilt the head down to prevent choking on the patient’s tongue or vomit.
  • Relaxing – close your eyes, put on some peaceful music.
  • Buteyko Method (Nasal breathing) – making a conscious effort to breath solely from your nose is proven to be a better way of getting oxygen into your lungs. Breathing nasally will filter the air more efficiently through your sinuses unlike breathing through your mouth. It also helps to humidify the air that you inhale.
  • Good posture – keeping upright and not slouching are simple solutions. A good way of spotting an Asthma attack is if the sufferer is leaning forward. This is a natural reaction to the chest closing up and can bring some relief but keeping the chest area open will aid the patient more. Get someone to rub your back gently if needed.
  • Steam – one of my favourite remedies as it involves a hot bath. You don’t even have to get in it. If you feel tight chested, run a hot bath, shut the door and sit down in the bathroom. Lean against a wall so that you do not slouch. Take deep breaths in. You could count to keep a slow pace and inhale the rising steam. I assure you that this is an incredibly soothing remedy.
  • Keeping a control of your emotions- this can be a tough one and slightly ambiguous. This doesn’t mean become a wall of stone, just be aware of how you may be feeling. Extreme stress and upset can fuel Asthma attacks so I am going to state the obvious now – sorry – but do not PANIC! It will only make it worse. Anger won’t help either. Even side-splitting laughter can trigger an Asthma attack. I cannot be tickled as I end up wheezing like crazy. It is strangely difficult to explain that to people.

I hope these tips are useful to any fellow Asthma sufferers out there.

Keep well and look after yourselves.

xxx

*Asthma UK – The United Kingdom’s leading Asthma Charity. Image from Google.