3. Address anxiety and buffer stress
Both anxiety and stress have very real physiological components, says sleep researcher Kathryn Lee, PhD, the UCSF professor who uncovered the relationship between poor sleep and length and complications of labor. In fact, she’s betting that it was anxiety and stress that kept the women in her study from sleeping and, ultimately, led to increased labor and a complicated delivery.
“When you’re exhausted, your muscles are tired,” explains Lee. So if women are losing sleep because they’re fretting about the baby, anxious about their new roles as moms, or worried about how they’re going to earn a living, or any one of the million and one things that run through a mom-to-be’s head at 2 in the morning, it’s likely that the women were going into labor with tired muscles. “And if those muscles were tired, there’s a good chance they might not have been pushing as well as they needed to,” she says.
Talk to friends and family about any concerns that are keeping you up at night, or schedule a few quick visits to a therapist who can help you address the anxiety they may be generating. And learn how to use prayer, yoga, or meditation to connect with the calming stillness that lies at the very centre of each and every one of us. The fruits of your efforts may be a shorter and safer labor.