Early in my pregnancy I read an article that said it was best to get at least seven hours of sleep every night, more if you are able to. The benefit would be a healthy baby, healthy you and shorter labor. Yes, shorter labor. A study had been done that women who got seven hours of sleep or more had shorter labors than those who had five to six hours of sleep every night. My mission: seven hours of sleep.
I imagine that Tom Cruise's character would look at me like I was crazy. He would tell me to choose to scale a building instead. My odds are better.
In my first trimester, I generally fell asleep on the couch every night. Whether I was talking to my husband, reading or watching television, it didn't matter. I would nod off. And, because of this wonderful hormone called relaxin that relaxes all of your muscles, including your intestinal muscles, food makes the journey at a much slower pace than it used to. So, I would get up from the couch - quite a while after dinner - and my stomach would feel horrendous. I would pop some Tums (BTW, Tums is the greatest invention by man) and hope that my stomach would settle down enough for sleep to come. It was a 50/50 chance - a night's sleep could be eight hours or four hours.
Second trimester came around and I was back to my normal sleeping pattern. I was energetic all day. I had the ability to stay up fairly late in the evening and get my seven hours or more of sleep. I was feeling really good. Mission possible!
It was toward the end of my second trimester that all of this good fortune and sweet slumber changed. My stomach had grown and it wasn't looking like I had simply produced a beer gut, but that I had eaten a basketball. When your stomach is this size, it begins to feel as if it is a separate appendage (it especially feels this way when your little one is doing a disco dance in your belly at 3:30 am).
The tummy is bigger, the baby is moving a tremendous amount and my nesting has kicked in. Hello to early mornings and evenings spent rolling from one side to the other. No more sleeping on my back. You can only sleep on your side because it is best for you and the baby - you don't want the baby to end up on your vena cava. And, with your circulatory system a bit screwed up by pregnancy, after only an hour or two on one side, you have to flip to the other because your hip or leg has gone numb.
My sweet husband decided I needed some assistance, so he purchased me a special pillow to help put me in the optimal position. The pillow certainly helped. I slept better and was much more comfortable. It also helped that before bed we practiced the relaxation techniques learned in the birthing class we took at the yoga studio. Sleep and I were at peace again.
Now that I am in my third trimester and the basketball has become a beachball, sleep is difficult to capture once again.
I use my special pillow and ensure it is positioned correctly. I breathe in and breathe out to relax. I clear my head and allow my body to become heavy. I am sitting on a beach, listening to the waves, smelling the salt air. Then one of two things occurs -- my bladder signals that it really needs to get to a bathroom or the baby decides it needs to practice moving his or her legs and arms, perhaps his or her head, before settling in for the night. Deep breath, Om.
Some evenings, once I get situated again and everything internally seems to be ready too, sleep is wonderful. I wake up refreshed and ready for the day. Other days, sleep has alluded me and I get up in the morning feeling like I tried to sleep on the red eye flight from Tahiti to Sydney (I've been on this flight - it does not contribute to productive sleep).
I am still shooting for my seven hours or more of sleep. I have found that it comes much more easily if I eat dinner earlier in the evening, do some sort of exercise during the day, and refrain from drinking water at least 30 minutes before I go to bed. Productive slumber is possible, but it takes ingenuity, cunning and flexibility. We'll see if I can keep these skills tuned up enough for whatever my body throws my way in a few weeks.
I'll just keep breathing and picturing that beach. I am determined that this will be mission possible.