Sleep can be elusive during pregnancy, especially as the months wear on and you get closer to your due date.
I clearly remember laying there, wide awake, night after night. It became more and more challenging to get comfortable, especially since it’s not recommended to lay on your back, stomach, or right side.
I couldn’t even toss and turn! Sometimes my mind was racing with worry or making plans, watching videos, and just feeling really tired but awake.
Personally, I didn’t consider taking any sleep aids because I’m the type of person who tries to avoid taking anything while pregnant.
But I did take a calcium-magnesium supplement sometimes, which can relax your muscles and ease stress naturally. It also helps with leg cramps or spasms which contributed to my insomnia.
We’ve all heard about melatonin being a natural sleep aid. But here’s the thing: there have not been enough studies done to confirm that taking a melatonin supplement is safe during pregnancy.
Rather, I can tell you ways to naturally increase the melatonin in your body, which can definitely lead to better relaxation and, hopefully, sleep.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces naturally to regulate your sleep cycle based on the brightness of your day and the darkness of your night.
If you have a lot of stress, don’t get enough exercise or rest, or if your hormones are out of balance due to pregnancy or other factors, the amount of melatonin in your body can decrease, thus affecting your ability to sleep.
Is it safe for pregnant women?
There have not been enough tests done to ensure it is safe to take during pregnancy, so I cannot recommend it. As with pretty much anything you question during your pregnancy, you can ask your doctor about it if you really would rather take a supplement.
Womensmentalhealth.org also states that a typical dose of melatonin supplement (1 to 3mg) increases levels in the body up to 20 times what is considered a normal level!
The Mayo Clinic warns of possible allergies to the supplement and gives a disturbing list of side effects. So let’s see how we can increase melatonin in a more natural fashion.
How to increase your melatonin level naturally.
Luckily, there are many different ways you can help your body produce more melatonin to help with your pregnancy insomnia. Try some or all of these:
Add certain foods to your diet.
There are many delicious, healthy foods which naturally increase melatonin levels, or help to increase other hormones which aid in sleep, such as serotonin, which works with melatonin in the brain to bring about stress relief and relaxation.
- Nuts, such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, and peanut butte
- sunflower, pumpkin, hemp and chia seeds;
- dark leafy green vegetables contain calcium and magnesium
- cheese and milk contain calcium
- whole grains like legumes, barley, and brown, wild, or black rice have magnesium
- fish, red meat, turkey, and chicken
- Vitamin B6 in fortified cereals is good
- fruits such as tart cherries, bananas, pineapple, oranges, and goji berries are great
- vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash, corn, and potatoes are wonderful for you
- you can season your dishes with coriander for an added bonus.
Avoid spicy, heavy meals, cacao, cocoa, green tea, and caffeine.
There may be chemicals in some teas which can affect your sleep, as well as in anti-depressants, so consult your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping and are taking medication.
Avoid technology before bed.
Dedicate yourself an hour of “quiet time” before bed–especially quiet for your eyes. According to Mercola.com, the blue light emitted from your device, computer,or television tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daylight, so it doesn’t begin melatonin production until it’s dark.
Get bright sun exposure regularly.
If you can get outside in the sunlight for 15 minutes first thing in the morning, this will help your brain regulate its cycle of producing melatonin. Remember–it’s triggered by light in the day and dark at night.
Sleep in complete darkness. Even the light from a nightlight or alarm clock can be enough to disrupt your sleep, so put a cloth over the clock if you have to. Get blackout curtains. Block out all light, if possible. You will sleep deep.
Keep your bedroom cool.
Mercola.com recommends 60-68 degrees Farenheit and not above 70 degrees in your bedroom for sleep. Obviously you can still use as many blankets as you need, but apparently sleeping in a warm room can lead to restlessness.
Take a hot bath before bed.
That quiet hour is starting to sound better and better. Treat yourself to a nice hot bath an hour or two before bed. Getting into a nightly routine that is nurturing and caring for yourself is a good habit anyway, as you’ll soon be creating a nightly routine to care for your baby anyway. It’s important to get in the habit of caring for yourself so you’ll continue it all throughout motherhood.
Avoid loud alarm clocks.
Try waking to softer, soothing sounds rather than something jarring, if possible. Once your baby has arrived, you’re going to want to get used to that anyway so as not to wake the baby, unless the baby jars you awake first!
Get to bed early.
Remember your circadian rhythm. Go with the sun. When the sun goes down, start winding down to prepare yourself for rest and sleep.
Stress is bad for you in every way, so it is important to avoid stressful interactions and situations, although we all know that can feel impossible. Thankfully, there are many different things you can do to help relieve stress.
Getting regular exercise (but not too strenuous) is key for your overall health, and it happens to reduce stress. I did prenatal yoga throughout my pregnancy, and I had an incredibly short labor and easy delivery, so I highly recommend yoga for everyone. Meditation, journaling, aroma or music therapy, breathing exercises, and guided imagery are also wonderful things you can try.
So you see, the key is to be kind to yourself.
Your body is creating another human being, and that is a lot of work. Therefore, when it’s time to wind down at night, do yourself a favor and turn the lights down low, take a bath, drink a cup of herbal tea, read a book, ask your partner for a foot massage, and get ready for some well-deserved Zs.