Baby Won’t Sleep: Here’s Why

HELP! MY BABY WON’T SLEEP!!!

You’re not alone. I know someone else who said that a few years back… ME.

Our first little one arrived 2 weeks early. But he fed well. He gained terrific weight. He hit all his milestones. There’s just one thing he didn’t do. LO did. not. sleep.

We tried everything (or rather, we thought we tried everything!) We rocked him in our laps for what seemed like days at a time. We walked the floor with him at 2 AM night after night. We tried leaving him to cry (against all recommendations). We used pacifiers, white noise machines, bouncy seats and baby swings. Everything worked… for about 10 minutes.

We asked friends with babies for advice. We even borrowed a copy of Ferber (and read it!)

Reading Ferber for me was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. In this book I first encountered the concept of “sleep associations“. It was a kind of epiphany for me. And my journey began. I started reading more about sleep and infant development. Then it all fell into place. I had planted the germ of and idea that was to evolve into my sleep coaching business.

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Don’t wanna sleep right now

I discovered that a powerful potential for normal sleep resides in every human being. The trick is to unlock it. There are no ‘sleep problems’ per se. There are only barriers that stand in the way of a baby or child and a restful night’s sleep!

Over the years, I’ve heard the cries of “Help! My baby won’t sleep!” hundreds, maybe thousands of times. Each story is unique. Each child and family has their own set of issues that contributes to a sleep problem.

But very often, each of these unique cases can be classified in its own group. I’ve made a catalog to share with you here. I’ll explain the broad sleep issue, then explain the elements of the fix. The key thing to remember is that each child is unique, so your story may be different, as will the remedy. The underlying elements, however, are the same.

Why Your Baby Won’t Sleep

1. She’s Not Tired

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I will sleep later

It’s 9:00 PM. You’ve been up since 4 AM with your 2-month old. You’ve fed and changed her what feels like a dozen times. You’ve gone shopping. You’ve done four loads of laundry. Oh yeah, and you cooked dinner for your husband, who strolls in at 6 PM looking fresh as a daisy. You look like you’ve been in a fight gone bad. You can barely keep your eyes open. So why is it the baby won’t sleep?

It could be that she’s already slept 16 hours in the last 24, and she just got up from a 3 hour nap at 7:00 PM! She’s just not tired enough to go to sleep yet!

Babies develop sleep-wake cycles just like we do. When they are very young, their stomachs usually set the clock. After a few weeks, they begin to respond to the structure imposed by the sun. That is, they learn that day is light and night is dark! They also respond to the structure imposed on the day by their parents: the day tends to start at the same time. She eats at the same time. She plays at the same time. And she naps at the same time.

The Fix

For a baby like this, I first make sure she’s healthy and getting enough to eat. Then we talk about her sleep patterns. We talk about a typical day for her. In this case, when she’s just had a huge nap in the afternoon, I recommend some tinkering with the nap schedule. It may involve moving the afternoon nap earlier in small steps, say 15 minutes at a time. Again, the fix when the baby won’t sleep because of the recent long nap is only an example. There are always little tweaks that I recommend for families.

2. She’s Overstimulated

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But I kinda LIKE stimulation!

Overstimulation is a real thing. It really can rev a baby’s motor so high that she cannot calm down enough to go to sleep. Maybe there’s been too much activity. There was a party in the morning. You listened to a rock station on the radio on the way home. You played all afternoon when she wasn’t napping. By the end of the day the poor baby is wired up!

Newborns and some young babies are able to protect themselves from overstimulation. They do this by ‘shutting it down’, and going to sleep. I call this “The Tilt Function“. As they develop, babies lose the Tilt Function and expose themselves to the risk of overstimulation on those really busy days. Some babies can handle a lot of stimulation, but some cannot!

Sometimes the baby becomes overstimulated because she has lost one of her naps that she really needs. Sometimes this happens ‘accidentally’ and sometimes it happens by design – at day care.

The Fix

The best way to fix overstimulation is to avoid it to begin with! If the baby’s day is too much for her senses, try cutting back on activities. If she needs that third nap and isn’t taking it, I can teach you some tricks to get that nap back!

On the day that the baby won’t sleep because she really is overstimulated, you may need to bend a few rules. That means, you may need to sit or rock with her for a while. Do this in a dark, calm place. You can run a white noise machine or hum quietly to her. It may be a bad night. But you’ll know how to avoid such nights in the future!

3. She’s Hungry

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I’m a kitten. I’m always hungry

This one is more common than I thought it would be. Babies are growing faster in their first year of life than they will ever grow later. They need a lot of calories. Some exclusively breastfeeding moms worry that their babies aren’t eating enough. This is natural because it’s hard to know how much the baby is eating if you can’t measure it! But sometimes a baby won’t sleep who is exclusively bottle fed! Rarely, a baby who has started taking solids is still not getting enough calories during the day.

In all these cases, the baby won’t sleep because her stomach keeps her awake. It’s a good thing, in a way. A baby needs to grow!

The Fix

The first step is to consult the pediatrician. You want to know if they baby is getting enough calories for her weight during the day. You want to know if she is gaining weight along her growth curve appropriately. If she is not getting enough calories, work with your pediatrician, or perhaps a nutritionist, to figure out ways to feed her up. A baby who eats well, sleeps well (and vice versa!)

4. She’s Over-Fed

This is the opposite of #3. Sometimes a baby won’t sleep at night because she’s eaten too much, not too little. Their stomachs are working double time to try and digest all the formula (and solids?). These babies are gassy and colicky. Often they are constipated. In that case, the baby won’t sleep because she needs to poop and cannot. Or sometimes she poops to much, and her full diaper won’t let her rest.

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Too much?

I see this a lot in babies who drink “spiked bottles”. These are bottles of formula or pumped breast milk that you’ve added cereal to. There is no reason to spike bottles, people (see below).

The Fix

Just as in #3, the first step is to consult the pediatrician. You want to know if the baby has a good weight for her age. You want to count up the calories she’s eating per 24 hours. This number varies, but she should get around 50 calories per pound of body weight per day. If she’s eating substantially more than this, this could be the reason baby won’t sleep. You should discuss it with your pediatrician. He/She will probably recommend that you cut back on calories. One thing is pretty certain, however. The pediatrician will recommend you stop spiking the bottle if that is what you are doing! Formula or breast milk are perfect by themselves!

5. She’s Got Bad Sleep Associations

This is a major cause of “baby won’t sleep”. It may be the major reason. Sleep associations are, very simply, those things that your baby associates with going to sleep. Some typical ones are darkness, swaddling, sucking on a pacifier, being rocked.

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But she won’t sleep without her binky!

What’s the difference between a “good” sleep association and a “bad” one? A good sleep association is something that will stay with the baby all night. Baby sleep cycles from shallow to deep, just like ours does. A bad sleep association is something that disappears, or is taken away, after we fall asleep. When we get to shallow sleep, we ‘take an inventory’ of all the things around us (our sleep associations), make sure they are all there, then we roll over and fall back asleep. We don’t even remember these partial awakenings.

A baby does this too. What if one of her sleep associations is being held by you? Unless you plan to hold her all night, she’s going to awaken partially at midnight and wonder where you went! That’s why being held is a bad sleep association.

Very often, the baby won’t sleep because the binky (pacifier) has become a bad sleep association for her. When the binky falls out of her mouth, as it surely will, she’ll ‘look around’ for it in the dark. Then she’ll get ticked off and become fully-awake. Then you have a crying baby!

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The Fix

Pay close attention to the events that surround the moment of sleep. Is she surrounded by all the things that will be there in 90-120 minutes when she partially wakes up? Do you hold her or rock her until she falls asleep? If so, she may associate holding and rocking with being asleep. No holding? No rocking? Baby won’t sleep!

Each case is different, but in general parents and I work on ways to put some time between the bad sleep association and the moment of sleep. First a few minutes, then more minutes. It’s essential to dis-associate these things in order to allow the baby to master her natural self-soothing technique.

6. She’s Got Colic

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No. That’s “cow lick”

I call this the “C” word. I hate colic. Everybody hates colic. By definition, no one knows what colic really is. The incessant crying for hours at a time, every night, at the same time, is enough to drive any parent nuts! I’m talking about babies who eat well and nap perfectly throughout the day. Then they turn into little devil-babies at night. It begins at 3 weeks of age and continues until 12 weeks.

Colic is a “diagnosis of exclusion”. That means, once you exclude all the other reasons why baby won’t sleep, you can call it colic. Some of these reasons are reflux (see below), over-feeding (see above), or under-feeding (also above).

The Fix

Parents hate this answer. You have to wait it out. If you and your pediatrician figure out that there’s no other reason why baby won’t sleep, then you have to wait. At 12 weeks of age, it will stop. These may be the longest 8 weeks of your life. But you will survive it. We all did.

7. She’s Got an Inconsistent Schedule

Again, this reason why baby won’t sleep turns out to be a lot more common than I imagined. It turns out that some (many?) babies are creatures of habit. They like having a regular day. They like things predictable. They don’t like change. They don’t like inconsistency. Having said all that, there are many babies who don’t mind chaos at all! But if the baby won’t sleep because she needs consistency and her day is chaos, you may have a difficult problem on your hands!baby won't sleep 9

Sometimes the schedule is fairly consistent except for one part of the day. I’ve had many clients who believe the baby won’t sleep because Dad comes home late and the baby wants to play with him! They’re right! She probably does want to play with him. The problem is her regular sleep-wake cycle wants her to be going to sleep at 9 PM, not to be playing with Dad.

The Fix

Easier said than done. For many families, chaos is more or less a way of life.  It would be great if every day were more or less the same, but the reality is that this just doesn’t happen for some families. But in every family, there are some ways that the day can be made as regular and as predictable as possible. For example, there may be a four-hour stretch at the beginning of the day when mom and baby are alone together. This is a good time to try and establish a routine of eating, playing, and sleeping. If you can succeed in introducing order in one part of the day, then you can work on other parts of the day as well.

8. She’s Got Reflux

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Wrong way. Should be down

Sometimes the baby won’t sleep because food comes up instead of going down. That’s reflux in a nutshell. Milk or food that is supposed to pass into the baby’s intestines comes back up toward her mouth instead. Sometimes acid from the stomach irritates the baby’s esophagus. These babies seem to be in pain. They make funny faces. Many, but not all, of these babies also spit up. Not every baby who spits up has the painful symptoms of reflux.

Some parents tell me that the baby won’t sleep unless she’s being held upright. Or she won’t sleep unless she’s in the bouncy chair. This is a clue. Other parents tell me that the baby always seems fussiest right after eating, especially if they put her down right away.

The Fix

The first step, once again, is to discuss the possibility of reflux with your baby’s doctor. While you are doing this, there are some things you can try. I call these “anti-gravity methods”. The point here is to let gravity be the baby’s friend, not her enemy. If food is supposed to travel down, let gravity help it go down. I recommend keeping these babies up on an angle virtually all the time, except when changing their diapers. An angle of 30 degrees is possible, but you may have to buy more than one wedge at the baby store. When I say “angle” I mean the entire body, not just one part of it. You don’t want the baby to do an “abdominal crunch’; this might only make the reflux worse. You wan’t her entire body ‘planked’ up at an angle of 30 degrees.

Sometimes doing smaller feeds more frequently can cut down on reflux. If anti-gravity alone doesn’t work, I sometimes recommend adding this technique.

If neither trick works, your pediatrician and you can try some other methods. There may be dietary changes she can make. Sometimes medications can help. The good news is that practically every baby with symptomatic reflux gets better by her first birthday.

9. She’s Sick

Sometimes the baby won’t sleep because there’s something wrong. She’s coming down with something. Or she’s already caught something. Usually you can tell this reason from the other reasons because the baby won’t be right throughout the day, not only at sleep times. She may or may not have a fever. Sometimes, the best way to tell if a baby is sick or not is to ask how well she is feeding. A baby who is feeding well may be sick, but she’s not SICK, if you know what I mean. I worry a whole lot less about about when a baby won’t sleep but continues to eat well, than I do about a baby who won’t sleep and won’t eat!

The Fix

If you have any concerns or question at all that the baby may have an illness, consult your pediatrician. The overwhelming majority of the time, when the medical problem is fixed, the baby will go back to sleeping well again!

10. She is Hypersensitive

Finally, the baby might be more sensitive to the sensations of her world than other babies. For example, the baby won’t sleep because she hears every toilet flush in the house and it wakes her up. Or if you go in her room to check on her and you ever-so-slightly jostle the crib and it wakes her up! Or the baby won’t sleep if there is too much light in the room.

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So I’m sensitive, so what? I’m also cute!

These are real example from families I’ve helped. On further questioning, I often learn that one or both the parents were “just like this” when they were babies. Grandparents can be a helpful resource when trying to figure out why the baby won’t sleep.

The Fix

Create a “sensory deprivation space” in the baby’s room. Install black-out shades and carpeting to muffle footsteps. The exception may be a white noise machine. Sometimes, but not always, these devices can help filter out noises from around the house that might wake the baby. It sounds gross, but sometimes I recommend that the parents wait until the baby is awake to flush the toilets. I’ve actually seen this work at least once.

Sleep, Baby! is Here for You

If these ideas don’t work for you, or if the reason your baby won’t sleep doesn’t appear on the list, contact me. I can help!

 

 

Premature Baby Sleep Training: When and How

Premature baby sleep training is a special kind of sleep training.

The basic principles of sleep training apply, with a twist. We have to pay attention to a couple key questions. “What is your baby’s corrected gestational age?” and “Does your baby have any special difficulties related to her prematurity?”

I will review some basics about preemies and sleep training. Then I’ll talk about which sleep training methods are best for premature babies and why.

Premature Baby Sleep Training

The most important thing to know about premature babies is the most obvious. They were born early! But it might be better to say that they were born before they were ready. Harvey Karp would argue that even full-term babies are born before they are ready to be here on earth, but that is another subject!

Sometimes a premature baby will be born before her lungs are ready to breathe air on earth. These babies obviously need to stay in the Neonatal ICU (NICU) until they can breathe on their own. Still other preemies are born before they are able to eat on their own. They too need to stay in at least a special care nursery until they can “remember to eat”.

But the most important difference for our purposes is premature baby sleep. Premature babies sleep differently from full-term babies because, just like their lungs and stomachs are immature, so are their brains.

Turn Down the Noise!

An important difference between us grown-ups and babies is that we have a filter. We can filter out sounds, feelings, smells, tastes, and sights that interfere with our ability to focus. Babies can’t do this. They have to pay attention to everything. And so it’s easier for babies to become overwhelmed by too much sensation. This is what we mean by “overstimulation”. When babies get overstimulated they get fussy, they cry more, they eat poorly, and they don’t sleep! Premature Baby Sleep Training 2

How ever you decide to sleep train your preemie, you have to keep this in mind, particularly if she is still younger than her due date. The risk of overstimulation can be too high with babies with a corrected gestational age less than 40 weeks. For these babies it may be best to put off sleep training.

So You Say You’re Ready for Premature Baby Sleep Training?

Maybe so, but is the baby ready? There are a couple of ways to tell. First, does the baby weigh around what a full-term baby weighs? If she weighs less than 5 lbs 8 oz, it may be difficult. She’ll need to do a lot a feeding for catch-up growth. I recommend discussing with the pediatrician if you want to start at a smaller weight.

Does the baby have any problems related to her prematurity? For example, many preemies have reflux. A premature baby with reflux may be fussy and have trouble settling. Other premature babies go home from the hospital needing oxygen. These are babies I might not recommend sleep training until they are breathing room air. Again, this is something to discuss with the pediatrician.

Premature Baby Sleep Training MethodsPremature Baby Sleep Training 3

All the various sleep training methods fit into two broad groups: baby-led and parent-led. Briefly, baby-led methods lean heavily on paying attention to the premature baby sleep cues. These are eye-rubbing, yawning, and beginnings of fussiness. Parent-led methods lean heavily on providing structure for baby sleep. This includes starting meals at the same time every day, and encouraging naps at the same time every day.

The reality of premature baby sleep training is much simpler: it’s a combination of baby-led and parent-led methods. This is sometimes referred to as “combination” sleep training. That is to say that the most successful baby sleep training that I know of involves a combination of following baby’s cues and providing structure. This is the method I recommend in my practice.

I do make a slight exception for premature babies. Because feeding and growing is so important, I lean more toward following her feeding cues. Your pediatrician may have given you target for the number of calories she should have every day. If so, it’s best to do what you can to make sure she gets enough formula or breast milk to do catch-up growth.

The Ideal Age for Premature Baby Sleep Training

So what is the ideal age to sleep train a premature baby? The key is corrected gestational age. If the baby were full term, the ideal age for sleep training would be four months of age. Prior to that age, you have laid most of the groundwork already. You’ve learned baby sleep cues, and you’ve started providing structure to the baby’s day. You might not even need to sleep train at this point! If you’re doing premature baby sleep training, you want to aim for four months corrected. For example, if your preemie were born at 36 weeks (4 weeks early), your goal should be five months of age. At this point the baby can be expected, reasonably, to achieve the sleep patterns of a four month old full term baby.
Premature Baby Sleep Training 4
I say “ideal age” for premature baby sleep training, because this is the age at which I believe you’ll have the most success. Four months corrected is about the age when a girl baby can soothe herself to sleep. You can put these girls down in the crib fully awake. And they can learn to fall asleep without assistance. For boys, the age is somewhat later. Certainly by six months (corrected) a boy can master the self-soothing skills needed to settle himself… and to sleep through the night (if he’s well-fed!)

Summary

  • Premature baby sleep training is just like full-term sleep training, with some exceptions. You need to pay attention to any health issues related to prematurity. And you should lean more towards following her cues.
  • Providing structure is still important. Whichever method you choose to sleep train your preemie, she’ll do better if her day is as regular and as predictable as possible.
  • Expect a girl preemie to sleep through the night at around 4 months (corrected), and a boy by 6 months (corrected)
  • If there are any health concerns at all, please contact your pediatrician.
  • If the baby’s health checks out, you still are having sleep difficulties, I can help!

Where Should a Premature Baby Sleep?

It’s scary to come home from the hospital with a premature baby. I should know. I did it. Twice. We had tons of questions. Some of them didn’t even occur to us until we got home! One of these was “where should a premature baby sleep?” You may have/had this question yourself. Even if you ask the nurses before you leave, you may not get a satisfactory answer. Here are some of the issues you may want to consider.

Where Should a Premature Baby Sleep?

Like so many answers in the world of babies, the answer is “it depends”.

For premature infants, it depends on a couple of very important factors: your preemie’s corrected gestational age, and any particular health problems she might have.

Before dealing with health and gestational age, though, let’s re-phrase the original question: “where are you and your baby going to sleep?” I do this re-phrasing because you and the baby are going to sleep very close to one another for at least the first few weeks, possibly until the baby is 4 months old, corrected. Why so long? Because the baby will probably be feeding fairly often, especially if she needs to do “catch-up growth“. It will put a lot less stress on you to be near her during these critical weeks.

Corrected Gestational Age

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You’re going to have to find another place for the laptop

If the baby comes home at or around 36 weeks corrected, you may want to consider sleeping in a place where you can spend the majority of the day, and take care of your own needs as well as those of the baby (or babies!). For many parents, the bedroom works great, particularly if access to a bathroom is convenient.

The Quietest Room

For these preemies, and especially for babies with even earlier gestational ages, the answer to “where should a premature baby sleep?” is ” A very quiet place!”  You may have noticed that the neonatal ICU (NICU) was relatively quiet, with subdued lighting. The nurses there make sure the environment is as sensory-depriving as possible. The bells and alarms in NICUs have even been specially designed to be the least disturbing to sensitive little preemies as possible.

You should pick a space in your home that you reasonably can keep as free of sensory stimulation as possible, just like the NICU. This could be your living room, or it could be the den. You can experiment with this as well. Choose the room where she sleeps best!

Back to Sleep!

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Is your living room now the nursery?

Many preemie parents know that the baby has under-developed motor skills. These parents worry about back sleeping because they are afraid the baby will spit up and choke. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that when a baby is discharged from the NICU, it means she should be able to turn her head to avoid choking if she spits up. The baby should always sleep on her back, on a firm surface. It turns out that premature babies are more at risk of SIDS than full-term babies. That is why it is even more important for your preemie to sleep on her back.

Where should a premature baby sleep who is particularly “spitty”? The ones who have reflux? Your pediatrician may recommend that you have the baby sleep inclined up at an angle of 30 degrees or so. This is not done with pillows or any other soft object! The object is to tilt the whole bassinet up, the way you may have seen in the NICU. This “anti-gravity” technique works for pregnant women with reflux as well! The important point to remember here is that even though the baby’s body is angled up, she is still on her back!

Take Home Messages

  • Find a place in your home that is the most quiet and otherwise free from sensory stimulation.
  • Find a place where you can sleep close by her for several weeks at least.
  • Make sure she sleeps on her back on a firm surface.
  • Her goal is to feed well and grow well. This is most important until she reaches her “due date”.
  • Ask your pediatrician about about any concerns you have along the way.

Any sleep questions? Ask ME?


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How to Sleep During Pregnancy

So you’re pregnant and you can’t sleep. You toss and turn, you switch positions, you get up to pee what seems like every five minutes. Then there’s the heartburn and the trouble breathing… you wish they taught you how to sleep during pregnancy!

Wait, have any of your friends told you that the lack of sleep is supposed to prepare you for your newborn, when sleep supposedly goes away for ever?

It’s a bunch of crap: You’re supposed to sleep well during pregnancy! Healthy sleep is important to growing a healthy baby. It’s as important as healthy diet and healthy exercise during pregnancy – maybe more important.

Need a SLEEP COACH?

Here’s what you need to do to get the best sleep possible during pregnancy.

How to sleep during pregnancy

Many moms-to-be report sleep troubles starting during the first trimester, even before they start showing. There are a number of reasons for this, most of them hormonal. And sometimes pregnant moms just stay up at night and stress about having a newborn.  This is understandable, but there are ways to get into good sleep habits early.  You’ll be grateful these habits during the third trimester!

  • Stop napping during the day. I put the toughest one first. I know you’re worn out.  Progesterone does that to you. But you’ll screw up your night time sleep if you nap!
  • Eat well and exercise regularly. There’s a tight relationship between diet, exercise and sleep. It turns out that people who eat well tend to have better energy for exercise and they sleep better. People who exercise regularly tend to eat better and sleep better… and so on, each good habit supports the other!
  • De-stress. Easier said than done, right? Along with diet and exercise, stress reduction is one of the foundations of staying healthy during pregnancy. It almost doesn’t matter what you do to help reduce your stress: do yoga, quit your job, stop watching the news, anything. Motherhood is stressful enough: better to discard useless sources of stress before baby arrives [hint: all sources of stress are useless]
  • Quit caffeine and late night television. Both will keep you up at night. Full-disclosure: I’m addicted to caffeine. I really and truly feel for all my fellow caffeine addicts who must cut back during pregnancy. It’s so worth it. TV (and internet) at night are just too stimulating. Good advice to remember for raising your baby!
  • Lay off the cell phone. This is a #21stcenturymom problem. It’s as stimulating as coffee with dinner or Saturday Night Live. Best to leave the phone somewhere outside the bedroom. Any kind of light stimulation, including the bathroom light, will make it tougher for you to fall back asleep.
  • Keep a routine and go to bed at a decent hour. This is a great habit to get into, not only for pregnancy but also for helping baby sleep well.  You’d be surprised how helpful it is to stick to a routine. Having a reasonably consistent pattern to your day will absolutely help you sleep better at night. The regular schedule and the early sleep hour are two of the best kept secrets in the world of sleep. And I just revealed them to you. You’re welcome.

When sleep starts to get uncomfortable

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not sleeping

As you progress into the later trimesters, many moms start noticing that they just can’t get comfortable when they lay down to sleep.  There are several reasons for this, and all of them are fixable.

  • Restless legs. It’s a real thing, folks. Restless leg syndrome feels like pins and needles, or a crawling sensation on your legs. Some mothers report that it’s actually painful. In some cases, the pain could be from swelling at your ankles.  If you’re getting this, please tell your OB! No one knows what causes restless leg, and if we knew how to prevent it, that would be great. The best remedies I know of are the old stand-by’s: eat healthy, exercise regularly, and reduce stress.
  • GER. Also known as “reflux”. Even moms who never had it before often get it during pregnancy. This is probably due to the added pressure in your belly causing stomach acid to head in the wrong direction: up toward your throat. The burning sensation makes lots of mom’s feel nauseous and actually throw up (quite apart from morning sickness).
    • The best first step to helping heartburn is to avoid caffeine (see a pattern developing here?), spicy foods, and cruciferous vegetables, like kale. My apologies to you lovers of kale out there: if you have heartburn, you might consider cutting back.
    • Try to increase the amount of time between dinner and bed time, to give food time to digest. And avoid snacking before bed. That goes for fluids as well!
    • Try sleeping on 2-3 extra pillows.
  • Tiny bladder syndrome. That’s not really what it’s called. I made it up. Your bladder will not get tiny unless it was tiny to begin with. What happens is that your uterus, which happens to be right next to your bladder, is getting larger and full of baby. And it’s leaving less room for your bladder to get full. So you will feel like you have to pee way more often. The remedy is to reduce your fluids at dinner and take nothing to drink after that, unless it’s a sip to get a pill to swallow a prescribed medicine. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to drink during the day and you should. Just not so much at night.

    how to sleep during pregnancy
    dreaming of sleep
  • Trouble breathing. Your bladder isn’t the only organ getting crowded out. There’s also your lungs. There’s only so much space in your body. You’ve got your lungs in your chest and you’ve got a growing baby in your belly. When you lay down, the contents of your belly tend to press up against your chest cavity and make that space smaller. Something’s gotta give, and for many moms, that’s total lung capacity. The way to manage this is similar to the way you manage heartburn: let gravity be your friend. Prop up your upper body with 2-3 extra pillows.  Let gravity pull your belly down and away from your lungs.
  • Back pain. Lots of moms complain of sore backs, especially lower backs. At some point, if you’re a back sleeper, you may have to give up on this position and go to sleeping on your side, with a pillow between your legs. The larger, cylindrical pillows are great too.
  • Speaking of sleeping on your side. It turns out that sleeping on your left side is better than your right. Why? Because when you’re on your left side the baby inside you won’t press as hard on some important blood vessels. Your circulation will be better and so will baby’s.

How much sleep should you get during pregnancy?

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well slept

The answer is: the same amount you should be getting when you’re not pregnant! Seven hours, at least, is optimal for health. Even in the latter stages of pregnancy, when you may be waking up more often, it’s best if you limit light stimulation, avoid drinking fluids, and try to go back to sleep.

So if your friends tell you that “pregnancy sleep” is supposed to get you ready for “newborn sleep”, they’re actually right, but not for the reasons that they think.  Healthy sleep habits will make your pregnancy better, and they’ll make life with your new baby happier and healthier.