They tell you it’s good practice for when you have your baby. But not getting enough sleep is no laughing matter.
Here’s our list of the most common sleep-stealers during pregnancy, and our yoga solutions:
A busy mind
Pregnancy insomnia strikes again! Sometimes you have a hard time getting to sleep, or you might wake up randomly in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. Either way, you need a technique to settle your busy mind.
One of the best and easiest ways is to focus on your breathing. Humming bee breath is fantastic for switching you into the parasympathetic nervous state that induces relaxation and sleepiness.
Try it: Rest your tongue behind your top front teeth. Your mouth is closed but your teeth are lightly parted. Cover your eyes with your hands and place your thumbs in your ears. Doing this closes off the senses – or gateways – and magnifies the vibrations within your skull. Inhale through your nose and then exhale and ‘hum’, making a sound like a bumble bee. Repeat this 10 times or more, until you feel relaxed.
Once you’ve done this, you can lie back down and count your breaths backwards starting at 100. For example “100 breathe in, breathe out, 99 breathe in, breathe out” and so on.
General aches and pains are part and parcel of pregnancy. Regular exercise and pregnancy yoga are great tools for strengthening and stretching the body to help minimise this discomfort. But hip pain is often an enemy of sleep because it’s made worse at night time due to the added pressure of lying on your side. Oftentimes hip pain is caused by a tight piriformis muscle, so you want to stretch that out before you go to bed.
Try this: Sit facing a wall on a hard chair (a chair from your dining table is perfect). Your bottom is towards the front of the chair, not all the way back, and your feet are flat on the floor, legs at 90 degrees and hip width apart. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Inhale as your raise your hands up above your head, and exhale as you reach forwards towards the wall. Stay here for 5 – 10 deep breaths before swapping sides.
You can also take a tennis ball and massage your hips by leaning against a wall, using the pressure of the ball to release the tightness – it feels ouchy but really good!
Calf Cramps and Restless legs
Calf cramps are super painful and often sneak up on you in the middle of the night when you’re least expecting them! Nobody knows exactly why it’s so common during pregnancy but it might be to do with levels of magnesium in your body.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) on the other hand, affects around 15% of pregnant women and characterised by the desire to move your legs, even when you actually want to rest them. It’s often linked to low levels of iron.
Both calf cramps and RLS can be helped by gentle yoga stretches before going to bed.
Try this for calf cramps: Stand facing the wall, your hands resting on the wall for support. Step your right foot back and take the weight into the heel of the right foot, while leaning forwards into your hands. You should feel a stretch in your right calf muscle.
Try this for RLS: Some simple poses that stretch the front, back, inner and outer thighs may help. Try a Wide Legged Forward Bend, Cow Face Pose, Reclined Butterfly and Child’s Pose. Instructions for all of these poses are available in The Pregnancy Yoga Handbook, written by Mother Nurture Yoga Founder and Senior Yoga Teacher Caroline Bagga. It can be downloaded for free here.
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Heart burn and Indigestion
Heart burn and indigestion strikes up to 50% of women, most often during the first trimester and again in the late third trimester. It’s due to hormonal changes relaxing the oesophagus, which usually keeps stomach acid from leaving the stomach. Later on, as baby grows and takes up more room, additional pressure is also placed on the stomach.
Be sensible about your diet. Avoid anything too greasy, acidic or spicy and eat smaller meals. Particularly avoid eating straight before you go to bed.
Try this: Reclined Butterfly pose can give relief. Lie down, your back elevated on a bolster with legs in butterfly pose, soles of the feet touching and knees dropping down to the sides, supported by blocks or cushions. You can also try chest opening poses such as Camel or Warrior 1 which creates space in the front of the body.
Did any of these solutions work for you?
Or let us know what’s keeping you awake at night and we’ll let you know our yoga solution!