Sleeping, stress and (pre) pregnancy

Woman waking yawning

In the early stages of Pregnancy many mums report that they are overcome with an unbelievable veil of tiredness. One for which no amount of sleep seems to put a dent in. It doesn’t happen with all mums, but myself included, it can often happen. I would encourage you to listen to your body and try your best to get as much rest as possible during this time and if at all possible before you become pregnant.

If you are expecting already and feeling vibrant and energised then that is great, but generally as your pregnancy evolves you may also start to feel tired at various points in the day and once more I would encourage that you try to establish some great sleep practices from early on and even before you are pregnant so that you do not become worn out towards the end of your term. There will be plenty of tiredness after your baby arrives and with regret, less opportunity to put yourself first. Unfortunately, difficulty sleeping as you become larger and need to use the bathroom more is common, so I have prepared some suggestions that may help.

Like most things in life, sleep only becomes important when you are not getting enough. A cycle of tension to sleep can emerge when you are trying to get pregnant or are expecting and you can be worrying about getting to sleep or if you waken overnight about getting back to sleep. We know that stress contributes to about 40% of adult sleep issues and worrying about your impending birth, finances, work and perhaps your other children can sometimes immerse you into a negative cycle of sleeplessness.

Make sleep a priority from early on. Listen to your body and make sure that you think about having an earlier bedtime. Most adults go to bed too late. Our natural sleep time is between 10-11pm in most instances. I personally go up to bed at 10pm and would generally be asleep before 11pm and up in the morning by 7am, so I need, just like you will, to fill my sleep quota, and maybe a bit more too. Most adults require somewhere between 7-9 hours of mostly uninterrupted sleep in order to be alert and well rested.

Create a bedtime that allows you to get enough sleep based on the time that you need to get up. On side-note when my children were babies I would often go to bed about 8pm so that I could manage the night feeds, but still get 5 hours straight.

Use your senses to create the perfect sleeping environment

Visually. An uncluttered environment that is cleaned and aired daily. Decorated in a neutral palette – some experts recommend the skin tones of the world being ideal to induce a restful sleep. Make sure the room is adequately dark. Use blackout blinds and avoid bright lights too close to sleep time, use dimmed lighting to help promote the sleep hormone.

Touch. A mattress that matches your personal preferences and that has been replaced within 7-10 years due to wear and tear. Choose bedding that is comfortable to your touch and cooling too. Make sure that your pillow has been replaced in the last 2 years and that you are not propped up too high and that your neck and spine are aligned. The idea is to just fill the space between your shoulder and head.

Smell. Consider using natural plant extract candles or diffusers. Make sure that they are natural and not artificial. Lavender is considered to have high sleep and relaxant inducing qualities

Hearing. A quiet environment without loud or startling noises will help maintain your sleep. Avoid falling asleep with audio or televisions on in the background.


  • Avoid strenuous exercises 2-3 hours before bedtime along with heavy meals. Generally, try to avoid high sugar foods. Try to cut back on caffeine, alcohol and nicotine intake. It’s not recommended with your pregnancy anyway but be mindful of finishing up with caffeine ideally 6-8 hours before bedtime as it can make falling asleep hard. Alcohol can make you sleepy but then can act as a stimulant and waken you through the night.
  • Keep electronics out of the bedroom. They can stimulate the waking part of the brain and make falling asleep difficult. Overuse of electronic media can also cut short the amount of deep and restoring sleep that you have
  • Avoid TV/electronics within the hour before bedtime and resist urge to bring the laptop to bed
  • Have a pre-sleep ritual, relaxing bath, listen to music, read a book, gentle stretches…prepare your body for sleep.
  • Make sure that you go to bed when you are tired and don’t allow yourself to get overtired which can make it harder to achieve sleep.
  • Have a regular wake time and bedtime every day, including weekends.

About the Author

Lucy Wolfe is Paediatric sleep consultant and mum of four at Sleep Matters-Help Your Child Sleep; a private sleep consulting practice, based in Cork, where she enjoys providing knowledge, expertise and valuable support with tailored sleep plans to families across the country and over-seas, without using cry intensive methods. Author of The Baby Sleep Solution.


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