How Diet Can Help Pregnant Women and Babies Get the Best Sleep
Sleep is precious in the pregnancy and newborn stage. Hormones, discomfort, and nighttime parenting needs can easily take away from your sleep time. Many factors influence your sleep quality, but one you may not have considered: is food.
Food and Sleep in Pregnancy
You have increased calorie needs when you’re pregnant, but that doesn’t mean eating is easy when you’re expecting. You may experience food aversions, acid reflux, or even need a snack in the middle of the night. These tips can help you use food to sleep better while you’re pregnant:
- Choose healthy foods. In general, the foods that make up an overall healthy diet will help you sleep well. Think whole grains, dairy, eggs, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. These foods contain tryptophan, carbohydrates, calcium, magnesium, melatonin and vitamin B6, all of which can help you get a good night’s sleep.
- Take care with acid reflux. When you’re pregnant, you may be more susceptible to painful acid reflux when you lay down to sleep at night. Laying down with a full stomach can exacerbate or trigger acid reflux. Ways to manage heartburn or acid reflux include avoiding large meals at least three hours before bed, sleeping slightly reclined, and avoiding triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, and spicy or greasy foods.
- Snack smart. Growing a new person requires lots of energy, and that means you’ll feel hungry more often. You might find it difficult to fall asleep if you haven’t eaten recently before bed and might even wake up in the middle of the night with hunger. A small snack before bed can help. Consider consuming healthy fats and/or protein, such as a hardboiled egg, a handful of nuts, or yogurt right before bed. If you often wake up hungry, it may be helpful to keep a snack next to your bed, such as a banana or granola bar that can be easily consumed and doesn’t require refrigeration.
- Manage sleep disorders. Whether you went into pregnancy with existing sleep struggles or you’ve developed pregnancy insomnia or other issues, it’s important to address them so you can sleep well. Talk to your doctor about your sleep difficulties and discuss treatment options, such as a CPAP machine for sleep apnea.
How Diet Can Help You and Your Baby Sleep
Every parent knows: sleep is often a challenge when you have a baby. Babies need feeding around the clock during the newborn stage, not to mention diapers, snuggling, and other nighttime needs. While babies won’t eat food until they’re at least a few months old, diet can influence baby sleep quality (and quantity) — which can make it easier for you to sleep.
- Don’t worry too much about your diet. Breastfeeding moms may be concerned that eating gassy foods can cause gas discomfort in babies, but that’s a myth. If you’re concerned about food sensitivities, talk to your pediatrician about testing so you can determine whether there are foods you need to avoid.
- Take care with feedings. How you feed your baby can make a difference in sleep. Taking in too much air can cause gas. For example, crying while feeding can cause them to swallow air. Or fast flow nipples may introduce too much milk flow. Make sure your baby has a good seal, and never let your baby suck on an empty bottle. Always burp your baby after feeding.
- Choose the right foods. Starting solids early isn’t a good strategy for helping your baby sleep. In fact, solids before four months can disrupt healthy sleep. When your baby is ready to eat solid food, the same foods that make up a healthy sleep supporting diet for you can help them, too. Consider dairy products, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. For example, pasta with cheese, bananas, pureed leafy greens, avocado, or yogurt are easy, healthy food choices that can support sleep for babies.
- Time feedings appropriately. Going to bed hungry isn’t good for sleep, but neither is a full stomach, because your baby’s body will divert energy away from rest to focus on digestion. It’s best to avoid large meals right before bed, but a small snack is a good idea.
Want to sleep better in the pregnancy and newborn stage? Consider what you (and your baby) are eating. Choosing the right diet at the right time could make a difference for you.
Guest Blogger Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.