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Sleep is probably one of the most important parts of life. Many of us seek ways to achieve well-rested sleep as often as possible. A study in 2022 reported that 27.6% of Singaporeans are affected by poor-quality sleep.
Many pregnant women do report having poor sleep during pregnancy too. It is incredibly challenging for mothers during this time because of physical discomfort, hormonal changes and other pregnancy-related factors.
Good sleep is essential during pregnancy because chronic lack of sleep is linked with an increased risk of postpartum depression.
Here are a few things that are commonly recommended for pregnant women to practice to improve sleep during pregnancy:
Comfortable Side Sleeping Position
Firstly, it is recommended for mothers to sleep on their sides, particularly the left side. This is because lying on your back from 2nd trimester onwards can be dangerous for mothers as the weight of the womb would compress a major blood vessel, making you feel dizzy and possibly reducing blood flow to your fetus.
Establishing Bedtime Routine
The bedtime routine is something that many of us probably take for granted. When we were younger, we felt like we could fall asleep anytime, anywhere on demand. As we grow older and we prioritise everything else above a bedtime routine, we start having more difficulty falling asleep or having good quality sleep.
Thus, setting up a bedtime routine is beneficial as it helps the circadian rhythm of the body to clock in. It helps your body to prepare itself and the melatonin to kick in more easily. Some common routines that are practiced by many before bedtime:
- Having a warm bath
- Practicing relaxation techniques
- Reading a book
- Dimming your house lights at least two hours before bedtime
All of these can help your body to wind down and prepare for sleep.
Creating A Conducive Sleep Environment
Our bodies need a conducive environment to fall asleep more easily. This is typically an environment that is cool, dark and quiet. Thus, having a room with blackout curtains, cooling bed sheets or turning the air conditioner on for a few hours may be helpful to achieve this.
At times, it can be challenging to achieve this as our partners may not choose to sleep at the same time that we want to. The sounds of the door cracking open, the shine of light from the other room emitting into your dark room or the sound of their steps when they enter the room may awaken you. Therefore, training yourself to get used to putting on eye masks and earplugs may be helpful and limit sleep disruptions in the long run.
Exercising might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are thinking about having better sleep. However, being active and exercising regularly can help to improve sleep quality and overall well being during pregnancy. Additionally, when you do have good sleep, you also have more energy throughout the day.
Nevertheless, it is always important to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen during pregnancy, especially if you have not been exercising regularly before pregnancy.
While there isn’t any established evidence on any specific food that guarantees better sleep during pregnancy, certain foods do contain certain nutrients that may help to support better sleep quality and ease falling asleep. The responses to these foods may vary depending from one person to another.
Dairy products are rich in tryptophan which is an amino acid that facilitates the production of serotonin, which is a hormone that induces sleep. Having a glass in the late evening a few hours before bed may be helpful in helping you sleep more easily.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds are rich in magnesium and tryptophan. Both of these nutrients are known to promote relaxation and support better sleep in the average adult. Thus, having a handful of nuts a day or incorporating seeds into your snacks or meals may be beneficial in supporting your sleep in the evening.
Bananas are also another food that contains tryptophan and are a good source of magnesium and potassium too! All of these nutrients play a part in helping to relax muscles and promote calmness. Thus, potentially aiding in better sleep.
Complex carbohydrates from whole grains such as oats and quinoa can be beneficial in promoting sleep. The high amount of magnesium can help to relax the central nervous system and increase sleepiness. Besides that, oats are a natural source of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Quinoa, on the other hand, is rich in tryptophan, which helps the body to make melatonin and serotonin to promote sleep. It may be a good idea to incorporate oats or quinoa in your staple during dinner. Some chinese confinement food incorporate oats and quinoa into their staples.
Improving sleep requires a holistic approach. It needs to come from managing different potential factors that may affect your sleep. These include but are not limited to bedtime routines, a conducive sleeping environment, stress management, meditation, exercise and food intake. The circadian rhythm is complex and should not be overlooked.
If you struggle to find good sleep even during postpartum, you can incorporate some of these food for confinement to promote sleep. Adequate sleep during postpartum promotes smooth and fast recovery. Poor sleep can delay wound healing. Thus, it is important to seek help from your partner and family as you learn to attend to your little one while juggling all the other chores of the house. If healthy meals are a stress factor for you and your family, then it is worth considering taking up confinement food package during this time. When no one is stressed about food, then more hands are available to help you attend to your baby or any other task around the house as you focus on recovery.