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There are many reasons why you may suffer from an inability to sleep even before you are pregnant, but the additional discomfort of an enlarging and cumbersome abdomen certainly won't help.

While some women don't have any problem sleeping during pregnancy, for the majority the last few months of pregnancy produce a fair few disturbed nights. You may like to think this of it as part of practising for what is to come after the birth!

Just trying to get comfortable in bed with a kicking baby inside your growing abdomen can seem, on some nights, impossible. Make sure your mattress is firm enough - insert a board under your mattress if it isn't. As you get bigger, sleeping on your back may no longer be comfortable and may make you feel faint, because of the pressure of the baby on your main internal blood vessels. Sleeping on one side or the other may be your only option. And if you regularly slept on your stomach prior to pregnancy, you had better start practising sleeping some other way, although, at least until very late in the pregnancy, some women do manage to adopt a position that allows them to almost sleep face- down (one leg bent at the knee and drawn up, most of the weight actually borne by the other side of their body). Additional pillows might be useful in order to prop yourself up a little more, or to slip between your knees when you are lying on your side.

You may also find that physical symptoms like heartburn need rectifying before sleep is comfortable, or that the need to get up to pee in the night contributes to broken nights. In any event, try to ensure that you take some form of gentle exercise every day. Then find time to relax and wind down before you go to bed, allowing at least two hours during which you perhaps take a warm bath with essential oil of Camomile added to the water, and drinnk a cup of camomile tea. General massage, with or without essential oils, can be beneficial, as can a Shiatsu massage, although you will need to find a qualified practitioner to help you with this. Various homoeopathic remedies may also help, so long as the chosen remedy matches your overall physical and emotional profile.

If you find you are waking early, and worrying about seemingly intractable problems related to your pregnancy, you may find some counselling helpful. Even if the actual cause of your insomnia is emotional rather than physical, the complementary therapies outlined above will still be useful. In many cases, easing any physical discomfort, increasing your ability to sleep and easing your sense of fatigue can make some of the emotional stuff easier to deal with. If you have been heavily overdoing it on all fronts and your sleep has become affected, you may have to give yourself a week of self-nurturing in order to regain the balance you need to ensure restful nights. It will be well worth it, as lack of sleep makes everything else seem worse. This philosophy of self-care will also help you through the early weeks and months of parenthood, with all the emotional and physical demands they will entail.

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