• Drinking a glass of warm milk before bedtime is a time-honored way to bring on sleep. Many experts believe the amino acid L-tryptophan (found in milk and other foods such as turkey and eggs) makes eyelids heavy by raising the level of a chemical in the brain called serotonin.
• Others suggest the sleep-inducing effects of warm milk are all in your head. But if it helps you doze off, does it really matter?
• Don’t go all the way and take tryptophan supplements – they’re not safe during pregnancy.
If bad dreams, headaches, or full-body sweats disturb your sleep, you could be suffering from low blood sugar. Try a high-protein snack before bed to keep your blood sugar up during the night.
• Good protein choices include an egg, peanut butter, or a slice of turkey.
• Nausea may strike an empty stomach. Dietitian Bridget Swinney, author of Eating Expectantly, recommends eating a light bedtime snack that contains carbohydrates and protein. A high-protein cereal with milk, half a sandwich with milk, or a high-protein smoothie are all good choices.
• It’s also a good idea to keep a dry, bland snack – such as crackers, pretzels, or rice cakes – at your bedside in case you wake up feeling queasy.
• At the same time, if you suffer from indigestion or heartburn, try to avoid large meals late in the day. Lying down with a full stomach will only make matters worse.
Ideally, you’ll be able to avoid all medications (including herbal remedies) during pregnancy. Most drugs haven’t been tested on pregnant women, and it can be hard to know what effect they’ll have on your baby.
If you have a severe sleep problem or disorder, though, your doctor or midwife may recommend a prescription or over-the-counter drug to use during your second or third trimester. It’s important never to take any medication during pregnancy without first consulting your healthcare provider.
• Over-the-counter remedies. Ask your doctor or midwife which over-the-counter medicines would be safe for you to try. The antihistamines diphenhydramine hydrochloride and doxyalamine are sometimes used as sleep aids because drowsiness is a side effect. (These ingredients are found in Benadryl, Sominex, and Unisom, for example.) Other possible side effects include impaired alertness and dizziness, so don’t drive or operate machinery after taking either of these medications. And again, check with your healthcare provider before taking any medication while you’re pregnant.
• Prescription medicine. If you’re suffering from severe insomnia or anxiety, your healthcare provider may recommend that you take a prescription sleep medication. Never drive or operate machinery after taking a drug to help you sleep.
It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about additional ways to get some much needed rest. By following their advice, as well as the above tips, you and baby should be able to sleep tight in no time!