Winding down and drifting off: what to do at night

Image of Professor Colin Espie
by Professor Colin Espie

Practicing a familiar 'wind down' routine an hour or so before bed can help your body and mind to switch off. The body comes to anticipate and recognize rituals such as taking a warm shower or bath, reading a chapter of book, or drinking hot milk, and these can become signals to release melatonin and help bring on sleep.

To help reduce the urge to go to the toilet at night:

• Avoid diuretics like tea and coffee which make you lose more water

• When you do go, lean forwards on the toilet to help empty your bladder each time.

If you're feeling sick because your stomach is empty:

• Try a light snack before you go to bed: a milky drink, cereal, toast or crackers are quick to prepare and should avoid heartburn.

• Put a few crackers or plain biscuits by your bed just in case you wake up feeling queasy.

To get comfortable at night:

• Use pillows to relieve pressure on aching muscles, and to support the bump

• Sleep on your left side to reduce the pressure on the vessels returning blood to the heart. Don't panic if you wake up in another position, just ease back onto your left side.

• To reduce heartburn, sleep in a slightly more upright position, propped up by pillows

If you're struggling to get to sleep, experiment with some relaxation techniques:

• Being 'mindful' means to pay attention and to accept the present moment. Focusing on the here and now, rather than worrying about the past or future, has been linked to better wellbeing. Mindfulness is skill, developed through the practice of mindfulness meditation. In pregnancy, mindfulness can be helpful for managing pain and discomfort, reduce the risk of depression, and can also help with getting to sleep.

• Autogenic training is a relaxation technique which involves developing sensations of warmth and heaviness in your body, enabling you to to 'let go' and relax more deeply. It can be particularly useful for discomfort and pain.

Next: Recognizing sleep disorders in pregnancy

Read now