It’s estimated that about 80% of pregnant people experience insomnia by their third trimester, and newer research is showing how melatonin and circadian rhythms may impact fertility, implantation, miscarriage, risk of preeclampsia and postpartum depression. Mar De Carlo shares with Adriana how small and mindful changes to your sleep habits can help you tap into more rest and improve your family’s sleep— before and after the baby arrives.
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- International Parenting & Health Institute website
- The Association of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH) website
- 9 Tips for Getting Better Sleep While Pregnant, Psychology Today
- The basics of good sleep during pregnancy, BabyCenter
- How to Sleep Better While Pregnant, Sleep Foundation
- Napping: Benefits and Tips, Sleep Foundation
- Interventions for sleep problems during pregnancy: A systematic review, Sleep Medicine Reviews
- Daring to Rest: Reclaim Your Power with Yoga Nidra Rest Meditation, by Karen Brody
- What Is Yoga Nidra? Cleveland Clinic
- Yoga Nidra: An innovative approach for management of chronic insomnia- A case report, Sleep Science and Practice
- Yoga Nidra Library, Yoga Nidra Network
- The Questioning and Second Guessing Needs to Stop, The Huffington Post
Related Birthful episodes:
- Take Care of Yourself Too, After Giving Birth
- Effects of Sleep Deprivation
- Your Anxious Mind During Pregnancy
- Do You Really Need to Stop Eating Sushi?
How to Sleep Better While Pregnant
Hello hello, Mighty Parent or Parent-To-Be. Welcome to Birthful. I’m Adriana Lozada, and today we are going to be talking about better sleep during pregnancy as part of our Movement and Body Wellness in Pregnancy series.
It’s easy to forget what a difference a good night’s sleep makes, and between body aches, a mind that won’t quiet down, heartburn, and the never-ending trips to the bathroom, getting a good night’s sleep while pregnant can seem like an impossible goal. Which is why you need to be even more intentional about it.
And I know that as a culture we’re not great at prioritizing sleep like we do nutrition or movement, for example, but there is so much mounting and exciting research being done on how melatonin and circadian rhythms impact fertility, implantation, miscarriage, and maybe even protect against preeclampsia.
Also, it turns out that the placenta produces melatonin and the uterus has melatonin receptors that work in conjunction with oxytocin, which then may have a lot to do with why most labors happen during the middle of the night! And if we want to get more specific, studies show that the peak hours for the onset of labor and birth is between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.
According to The Sleep Foundation, by the third trimester, nearly 80% of pregnant people experience insomnia. Great, right? It seems almost cruel that when you are having the most difficulty sleeping is when you might need it the most, but considering the shifts in melatonin, cortisol, and all the other hormones that are doing this great new dance, inside your body right now, at this moment, and your heightened state of mental alert –you know, to protect your growing baby from say predators like tigers and such, right? Your limbic brain doesn’t know the difference. So with all those hormones and that heightened state of mental alert, it does make sense that your body would be more sensitive to the impact of light exposure, stress, and spicy or hard-to-digest foods if you eat them late at night.
Also, the correlations don’t stop at pregnancy and birth. Going to sleep later at night may increase your chance of postpartum depression, and then the beat of your own circadian rhythm during pregnancy may impact the foundation of your baby’s own circadian rhythm (which can then impact their health into adulthood)… I know, there’s just so much to it. The research is deep and broad!
This is all a lot and it may make you want to freak out, but instead of doing that, let’s take a deep breath and acknowledge that our societal systems are not supportive of our physiological needs. That we have not been taught to prioritize sleep. And how this is a great opportunity for you to dismantle those beliefs and shift things, for your health and the health of your baby.
Figuring out what can make your sleep better now and starting to build some sustainable habits will pay off and then some when you have a newborn, if not for any other reason that it will make it less overwhelming. Plus there’s also the benefit of being able to model these habits for your growing family as well.
So then, how can you get better sleep during pregnancy? Joining me for this talk is Mar De Carlo who is a powerhouse on a mission to transform lives and evolve humanity through holistic education and expressive arts.
And when I say she’s a powerhouse… just hold on to your hat. Mar is the founder of about seven different organizations, including the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants and the International Parenting & Health Institute— which is now a non-profit organization, so that’s very exciting.
Personally, Mar is an avid researcher and holistic educator, with an abundance of trainings and experience in the health, fitness, parenting, business, and expressive arts industries. Mar has about 17 different titles and identities with a multitude of certifications, training, and management under her belt. I’m not going to name them all, but relevant to this episode is that Mar is an Adult, Pregnancy, and Child Sleep Coach, a Holistic Educator, a Stress Management Coach, and a mother. She’s also a first-generation American raised by her Latinx immigrant family in NYC, who now lives in California.
I hope you enjoy the broad and holistic approach that Mar brings to the topic of getting you better sleep. Also, I’m not sure how it happened but by the end, we connect the dots between your better sleep and improving the world.
Here’s to lots and lots of nourishing and replenishing sleep for all of us.
You’re listening to Birthful. Here to inform your intuition.
Adriana: Mar, it is so wonderful to have you back here on the show.
Mar: Thank you! Thank you so much for having me.
Adriana: So, for listeners who are not familiar with you, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your relation to sleep?
Mar: Sure. Well, just a little bit about my background: I am a holistic health lifestyle and business coach. I began working with individuals and groups— through group exercise, personal training, yoga, Pilates— and then got into the whole birth and parenting field upon becoming a parent myself.
Studying health and fitness for many years, I have worked with many clients, all different ages— and not only is fitness about exercise, but a lot of what we talk about in fitness is nutrition and also sleep. And I’ve been noticing a lot of sleep deprivation happening with a lot of my clients throughout their life that I have kept up with, but particularly when I got more into the birth and parenting field during pregnancy.
And so when I started getting deeper into my work and then also developing programs and courses, as you know, one of the most interesting things that I had discovered was that the support systems and the services that were prominent for sleep throughout this stage were particularly starting when children were around four to six months. And so that brought me to question “why?”— we don’t have sleep support and services beginning during pregnancy. And that’s how I really began, then, my mission. And that all unfolded from there.
Adriana: Yeah. And it is such an “A-ha!” moment that you had. I mean, it’s not like, oh, you hit four-six months and suddenly there’s this wealth of information, of what to do with your kid. Like, there’s plenty that happens leading up to that moment!
And I think it’s great that we’re gonna have to be talking about it today from the point of view of mom and her sleep needs during pregnancy, and how maybe those sleep disturbances and issues start to creep up more during those nine months.
Mar: Yes, absolutely. There’s no question.
Adriana: Let’s get right to it. What makes sleeping during pregnancy so difficult? Why is this so hard?
Mar: Well, naturally, a woman’s body is undergoing a lot of physiological and biochemical changes. She’s experiencing, y’know, hormone changes, which are gonna affect, then, not just her physiology, but also emotionally. Her body, from the time that she’s conceiving up until, y’know, she’s giving birth, is just constantly going through these changes. And also living in a culture and a society— globally, ’cause I don’t think this is just in the United States. As you know, I work globally, and interestingly enough, with today’s culture and modern-day culture and those that are, y’know, working in the modern-day culture (the nine-to-five jobs, the smartphones, the iPads, the computers, the televisions…), there’s so much overstimulation and so much over-exposure to light, and we’re turned-on and overstimulated quite often, that the body’s ability to recuperate from that, to settle and to transition into a state of rest becomes that much more challenging. So I feel between the physiological and biochemical changes that a pregnant woman is already undergoing, on top of that, we have a cultural issue happening that is adding to that, not making it any easier. There’s maybe worries and fears that come up, and all sorts of different things.
Adriana: Right. And our bodies… as human beings, we are constantly in cyclical production of hormones, cyclical production of, y’know, of systems (of digestive systems and respiratory systems), and it’s all a cycle. And so is our need for sleep. And it makes sense that with the disturbances that we’re seeing in terms of, affecting our circadian rhythms and our circadian clock or biological clocks in terms of exposure to light and changes in our sleep, that we’re not giving our bodies the chance to hone into those signals and properly repair. So it’s a messy signal, what we’re giving our bodies.
Mar: Exactly, and y’know, it’s so interesting because if you look at our childbirth education and even all the programming that is available during pregnancy, pregnancy sleep is not often talked about, surprisingly enough.
And just like you said, the body’s ability to repair and restore is essential. It is no different than brushing one’s teeth, than our hygiene, than, y’know, all the things that we do to take care of… giving ourselves proper nutrition. Sleep is just as high of a priority! And if we’re not aware of that, and if we’re compromising that in any way, then that definitely is going to catch up with us, especially during this time when, y’know, so many additional changes are happening.
Adriana: Yeah, so because usually when we think about pregnancy sleep, we tend to focus— and I think I wanna do this too— like, start out with what is exclusively brought upon from pregnancy, right? So you have, like, more aches and pains, and having to pee means you have to wake up more during the night. What are some ways to help with those sort of physical symptoms of pregnancy to get a better night’s sleep?
Mar: Thank you. That’s a really great question. So, yeah, just like you mentioned, common nausea, bladder pressure, especially as you’re going further into the trimesters, fatigue is very common. Also, restless leg syndrome might happen. Insomnia and sleep apnea, and so on. Some of the best ways to support preventing or reducing your chances of any of these— not only from occurring, but even from maybe minimally experiencing them— is to number one, take what I call “daily pauses” throughout the day. Take… Give your body the opportunity not just to experience what it’s like to rest and recuperate at night, but to be able throughout the day to train and teach your body to come to a state of rest, even if it’s for five minutes or ten minutes, to work on breathing, to allow your body to feel what it’s like to settle. Just to stop moving altogether, is a huge thing to introduce to the body during pregnancy.
Nutrition is huge as well because most often, people are not aware that there are anti- and pro- sleep foods. There are foods that will support and enhance sleep and foods that will actually prevent one from sleeping. And these are not just, y’know, typically we hear, “Oh, be careful of consuming raw foods or alcohol or caffeine,” things like that. But there’s actually, let’s say, nightshade vegetables, for example, that can interfere with sleep, and lots of other foods that one would never think of that might affect sleep, that also will affect the ability to wake up at night.
And in terms of going to the bathroom at night, you might hear the suggestion or advice, y’know, “Make sure not to drink before bed. You’ll have to get up at night.” That definitely has some— definitely— truth to it. But what I would say is if the body is well-hydrated throughout the day, then usually the need at night to hydrate more doesn’t happen. Because what happens a lot of times, which is another issue, is that we get easily dehydrated without even knowing it. And especially pregnant and postpartum women are dehydrated quite often. And if we hydrated our bodies throughout the day and are very conscious of it, that will allow for not the need at nighttime to then have to make up for that.
In the same way than the daytime, we’re gonna take daily pauses, five or ten minutes. I think I’ve mentioned in one of your other podcasts this really great tool that I love called the Calm App, that I suggest quite often for a lot of my clients, and you can use it on your smartphone. At night, if you happen to wake up in the middle of the night, you can put it on airplane mode so you’re not hit with the WiFi, and you have an ability to choose different settings, y’know, from a minute to five minutes, and it will guide you through an exercise where you can just experience a sense of relaxation and calm. It’s really wonderful!
Adriana: It is! I love any of the apps that help you get into the habit of meditation and mindfulness every single day, ’cause it doesn’t take much. You can do three minutes, one minute— it’s just about doing it on a regular basis. So, Mar, we’d mentioned taking daily pauses during the day, focusing on good nutrition, not eating foods that can keep you up, staying well-hydrated… What other things are important to take into account during this time?
Mar: Yes. This is also a really great time, because besides some of these physiological things happening, like having to go to the bathroom at night and, y’know, waking up, let’s say, from even physical discomforts, pregnancy is a time where a lot of emotions come up for a variety of reasons. Some of the emotions can be due to the hormonal fluctuations and changes, but some of it can actually be brought up. And there’s a lot of birth psychology that goes into this. And a wonderful organization known as APPPAH, the Association of Pre[natal] and Perinatal Psychology and Health, lots of studies go into the fact that during pregnancy, it’s not uncommon for women to start to experience or recall or be conscious of their own birth experience and journey, and a lot of those fears arising, and as a result, even more importantly, so along with the physiological and biochemical changes happening, it’s a great time to pay attention to the emotional work, any unresolved issues, any fears. It’s a great time to address those during this time as well.
Adriana: Yeah, and a lot of people that are pregnant, do clearly tell you about, like, these crazy dreams that they start having when they’re pregnant, right? Of that extra activity that their brain is going through and being more, like— and I don’t know if it’s so much extra activity, but them being more aware and in tune and recalling—
Adriana: —all of those dreams that they’re having.
Mar: Absolutely. And that’s why, too, naps are essential throughout the day also. So not everyone, I understand, when I work with clients, naps. “I don’t have time to take a nap,” because they’ve got their work and different things. And that’s where then I, y’know, like to be practical and realistic, I put in those daily pauses for them.
And like I said, they don’t have to be any more than five or ten minutes throughout the day. And maybe every three hours you’re doing that and your body then is learning how to come to a state of stillness, how to come to a state of— and I wouldn’t say “stillness” in terms of passive, because when you are putting your focus, let’s say, on a breathing exercise or on visualization, you actually are active— but you are in another state. You are in a state that is allowing your body to tap into the restorative state. And so that’s going to, then, provide a lot of benefits.
I also do want to say— in regards to the nighttime waking for going to the bathroom and having to pee— for example, I had mentioned, y’know, hydrating throughout the day, but what I would also mention that sometimes people are unaware of is a lot of our foods have high sodium, and when we have a lot of sodium, for example, in your food content that also can lead very easily to dehydration or bloating. And so then you’ll feel like, y’know, more thirsty. So I would also suggest to just again, be more aware of and more conscious of not only hydrating throughout the day, but, y’know, really looking at what you’re putting in your body— and particularly if there’s things that are extra salty or spicy or things like that, they’re definitely going to affect your body’s ability to, y’know, retain, or have to go to the bathroom.
Adriana: Yeah, and I’m glad you came back to the food and the nutrition part, because I was going to ask you a little bit more about those. Can you list a couple more of the foods that are pro-sleep, and some of them to avoid before going to sleep?
Mar: Sure. So just a general rule of thumb— because one thing is that everybody, of course, has, y’know, maybe a different health history or slightly different cultural background or diet, so I don’t come from a learning style or approach where everybody has to, y’know, come to the “one size fits all” nutrition approach— same with sleep.
So when it comes to understanding, y’know, “What’s appropriate for my body?” One of the best things to understand is how our body is affected by what we eat and drink, particularly foods that will swell or inflame any pro-inflammatory foods. So there are foods that tend to be more pro-inflammatory and tend to disrupt the body’s natural systems and people are more sensitive to them. So, for example, gluten. I know there’s gluten-free breads, but in general, right, any kind of food with gluten in them. Dairy is known, believe it or not— I know a lot of people who love dairy, but dairy is in so many things, and I’m not saying to avoid it, but just be aware of saying it (like, similar with sodium, to minimize the dairy intake, especially if you’re feeling congested because the dairy will actually exacerbate the congestion). And so avoiding dairy products, gluten products.
The other thing is: big meals. So, having smaller meals will allow the body’s ability to digest a lot easier, because digestion actually takes up a lot of energy. So if you’ve had actually a very… let’s say you’ve had a salad and you’re feeling like, “Oh, everything I’ve eaten is very healthy and good for me,” but it’s a huge salad and there’s a lot to break down and if your digestion is working very, very hard, it your body’s ability to come into a state of rest fully is going to be compromised. So, y’know, watching and making sure that— y’know, what I say is “mindful eating,” because what happens a lot of times is we’re unaware but we eat in this day and age very quickly.
A lot of us, let’s say, consume our meals within five to ten minutes, and it takes about 20 minutes before your brain really gets the signal that, “Oh, you’ve ingested food and we’re processing that food.” And by the time that comes, people are already on their second and third portions thinking that, “Oh, I’m hungry.” And, in fact, it’s just that their body hasn’t had time to process because they’ve been, like, not even chewing their food, they’re swallowing their food. So I think the way that we eat— y’know, making sure we’re taking the time to eat, chew our food, being very mindful, allowing the digestion process to happen, being aware when we actually feel full, hydrating— those are all essential foundations that will be key elements to anyone’s nutrition.
Things that will disrupt sleep, let’s say, are, like I said, nightshade vegetables. So any, if you look up online, nightshade vegetables, usually these are vegetables that are darker in color, like eggplant, potatoes, like the darker shade ones, things like that. Spicy foods, ice cream, corn. Y’know, anything that’s going to… y’know, like the foods that we absolutely love— y’know, pizza— all those kinds of things usually tend to be the biggest disruptors. So I would say don’t deprive yourself or feel like you’re avoiding it, because that already is going to actually, psychologically, you’re gonna want more of it.
What you would do as a result is just, y’know, put it in the time of day where it’s gonna make sense and where your body’s gonna have the ability to process. So if you really wanna have your pizza or you really want your ice cream or popcorn, put those— or even your nightshade vegetables— put those in part of your day that is well ahead of time, like caffeine. Y’know, some people love having their coffee, but if you have it before, y’know, 2:00 p.m., chances that your sleep’s gonna be disrupted and you’re up late at night is going to, y’know, minimize. So you wanna be aware of things like that.
Adriana: Absolutely. And also when you’re pregnant, your stomach is so squished that if you gobble up tons of food and don’t let your body give you the signal, “Oh, I’m full,” you’re kind of extending that a bit too much and then it’s just going to want to come up.
Mar: Exactly. Absolutely. There’s no doubt about that. And on that note as well, it’s also a good time to understand some people may already be aware that they have food sensitivities or allergies, but it’s not uncommon that during or after pregnancy, people may develop them just because of all the different changes happening in their system. Just something to be aware of.
And then also— I think this is why it’s even a more important time to ensure that the foods that you’re buying are highest-quality foods. While an organic fruit or vegetable, or even meat, might be more expensive, in the long run, it’s going to be less expensive because if you are giving yourself high-quality foods and avoiding foods that might have potential toxins or, y’know, elements to them that might affect your body, you’ll be avoiding, y’know, having to see the doctor and those medical bills down the road.
Adriana: So, Mar, what are some of the other ways that you can address getting better sleep during pregnancy? We kind of focus on the physical aspects and how nutrition ties into it, which is great. I’m glad we talked about that, because I don’t think it’s something that people necessarily think about when they’re considering better sleep, right? But what other things can expectant people do to help them sleep better during pregnancy?
Mar: Sure. So I’ll go into these— these are just general tips, but I think they’re very helpful to at least get one started to investigate more. One of the key tips I give everyone is to evaluate their lifestyle. Their health and family history. There’s so many things that affect sleep and it’s interesting, y’know, you had mentioned yes, nutrition, absolutely a factor. And y’know, even environment’s a factor. There’s all these biological, biochemical changes happening, but there’s no question that, y’know, even genetically, a family member could have had a sleep issue and that could have been passed on to us. Or feelings or things, recollections, come up from experiences when we were children during this time. So it’s a really great time to just pay attention to that, to evaluate that, to work out any feelings, like I’d mentioned earlier. If you have overwhelming fears that are coming up, anger, anxieties, giving yourself permission to ask and receive support during this time to work through them, to understand them, is really, really important. You’re giving yourself…. not only are you giving yourself the greatest gift by doing that, but you’re also then giving your child the greatest gift by doing that as well.
Some other things is… y’know, because I had mentioned earlier, the stimulation with the light and a lot of the excessive lights that we have today… really inviting a transition into darkness is key. When I’ve worked with a lot of pregnant women, I have found that they go, go, go, go all day, and then when they are ready for bed, the lights go off and they expect themselves to fall asleep instantly. In the same way that just to imagine the sun setting, how it takes time and there’s, like, a transition, right? Like, there’s literally a transition. It’s not like all of a sudden, within a second, it goes from light to dark! And that similar transition that happens in nature, the same happens with ourselves. So when we allow ourselves— let’s just say that we are gonna go to bed at 10:00 p.m. at night— give yourself at least an hour minimum prior to that, to start dimming the lights. A lot of smartphones these days have what’s called a “night shift” feature, so when you put your phone or iPad, maybe even computer, on night shift, it’s going to transition your screen from blue light, which is the light that we get throughout the day, that stimulates, to more of an amber kind of, which will then help your body transition and prepare for sleep. So shifting/dimming your lights, shifting into a night shift at night, if possible. I know sometimes people living in cities and things like that can’t avoid certain noises and things, but if possible, making any kind of… there’s loud noises, t.v., lowering volumes of things, working with music, if you like music, y’know, really setting an ambiance, like, almost like a spa, y’know? Imagine like this amazing spa where you’re like, “Oh, I’m just gonna unwind.” Maybe you want to take a bubble bath, things like that.
Another tip is keeping a journal and pen handy by your bedside. There’s nothing like allowing yourself to process. Sometimes when we wake up in the middle of the night and we have, y’know, different thoughts, “Oh, I have to pay this bill. Oh, I gotta do that. Oh, I gotta cancel this.” Whatever it is. The ability to write it down, it gives one the security that, “Okay, it’s there, it’s done.” You get it out of your mind, on paper.
That’s gonna give one a better opportunity to go into a deeper rest. If you just hold it in your mind and you keep on replaying it over and over, that’s gonna be very challenging. There are apps, like I said, if that also happens and the journaling doesn’t work for you, you could do a Calm app.
There’s also, what I love, which is called yoga nidra, which is actually “yogic sleep” and if you have a hard time napping or the Calm app is not for you, yoga nidra— which can be done within 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour— I believe one hour of yoga nidra is equivalent to about three to four hours of sleep. That’s how restful and restorative this practice is! So I would recommend that as well.
Reducing any kind of EMFs— so, y’know, if you have a lot of WiFi, a lot of electronics plugged in, unplugging those. It’s funny, sometimes people say to me when I ask them if they have their phone or smartphone by their bedside, and I say, y’know, “Put it on airplane [mode],” they’re like, “Why?” And they kind of, y’know, roll their eyes at me a little bit, like, “Okay…” Y’know, you’ll sleep better! And I’m like, “Just try it. Just experiment. And if it doesn’t work, it’s fine.” But surprisingly the amount of clients that I’ve had that that works for is tremendous.
Let’s see… a few more other tips. Room temperature can absolutely affect during pregnancy, with all these fluctuations and changes. Being aware of your room temperature, usually between 68 to 72 degrees— but again, that’s going to be slightly different from person-to-person— but finding a temperature that feels most comfortable for you, that you feel you can be more well-rested in.
Also air quality is very important when you’re evaluating your bedroom environment. You want to ensure that you have enough— even if you don’t have many windows, you still have, y’know, clear air coming through. So you might keep your door open. Y’know, if there’s any fragrances or candles or things that are stuffing up the room or dust, y’know, those all can affect our ability to sleep as well. So I would look into that.
Let’s see… oh, sunlight is very, very important. So, y’know, when we wake up every day, the light sets our clock. It’s the signal at which we start, y’know, the day and it’s like, “Okay, we’re up now.” It’s important on a daily basis, when possible, to get natural unfiltered sunlight, especially through your eyes and through your pineal gland. And of course, you don’t want to stare at the sun at 12:00 in the afternoon, nothing like that. But it’s more like first thing in the morning, y’know, when you’re up— whatever time that is, 6:00, 7:00, some people, 8:00 a.m., allowing yourself to just get some sunlight, y’know, 10-15 minutes when possible, is important. You’d be surprised how many people, especially during the wintertime, don’t see sunlight for many days, ’cause they wake up before the sun rises and then they’re at work and then the sun sets already.
Adriana: I was going to ask you… like, in terms of that, if you live in a very cloudy city or you are affected by winter quite a bit, that you have to wake up before the sun is out and shining, if you can even see it. Is there… So, would using some of the SAD [seasonal affective disorder] lights— the lights that recreate the sunlight— would that be a helpful practice?
Mar: Yes, those are. And what I would say— because it is important that people really evaluate what’s appropriate for them— what I would also do is if you are in that situation, it wouldn’t hurt to actually, y’know, see a naturopath or someone who’s a sleep coach or consultant that can actually provide you more information that can be more customized to your needs.
And those lights, y’know, you can try them. But sometimes what happens is, depending on many other factors— when you use them, how long you use them— we have to take all that into consideration. But there’s no question that during that time and when you’re living especially, like, in Alaska or those northern countries like Sweden, y’know, you’re going to have winters where it’s darkness for a long, long time.
Adriana: Yeah, and—
Mar: And having those lights, yeah.
Adriana: —Rochester’s pretty cloudy, so we’ve got that problem. And I also know that all depends… No, it’s a great recommendation to check in with the care provider to help you guide your needs, because it also depends on what the intensity of the bulb is. And so that’ll determine how far the light needs to be from you, to actually get the benefits. So it’s not just like “Go turn it on and walk around.”
Mar: Exactly. Absolutely. There’s no question about that.
So, let’s see… Any other considerations? Yeah, y’know, evaluating one’s stress. If there’s any relationship issues— sometimes, y’know, during pregnancy, it does happen— relationship issues may come up and it’s natural for us to want to avoid and say, “Oh, y’know, after the baby’s born, everything will be fixed. Because you know the baby will bring us closer together.”
If you are right exactly… If you’re in a situation where relationship issues are coming up, I would encourage you and empower you to seek the support you need. It’s actually in the same way that you would be doing that for yourself with your own fears and emotions, working through any relationship issues with your significant other, this is a great time to do it, during pregnancy, and you’d be surprised not only how much you can work through, but how much preparation, a strong preparation and foundation that sets up for your child.
Adriana: Absolutely. And, and one of the things I really like about your approach is like all these tips that you gave, they were extremely holistic. It takes into account your whole being— in your physiological, psychological, and emotional, and all your bodies, basically— and how that ties into your relationships and your family in order to just give you complete wellbeing. That will, then, in turn also create better sleep, which is the goal, right? You’re focusing on it that way. If you are setting up these structures to help you get better sleep and get better habits and sort of better sleep hygiene during pregnancy, how does that affect and correlate and benefit? What will happen during postpartum, which is a period of so, so much sleep, hardship when you’re being woken up by your child on a constant basis?
Mar: Absolutely. It’s such a great question. Oh my gosh. And we could talk so much about this! This is why I also love this work so much. Y’know, it’s very interesting, a lot of my work— and thank you for mentioning the holistic and integrative part, because I think the more we expand and understand all of us together, ourselves, and just how we relate to ourselves in one another, we actually learn how much more we actually are connected and how things are much more connected than we think they are— and it’s interesting, because a lot of the work that I’ve been doing is also around parenting and the influences of and the challenges that parents experience between themselves and their children of all kinds, and interestingly enough, a parent’s lifestyle, behavior, what they role model more than anything is pretty much one of the strongest influences of their child.
And so quite often I’ve said it’s not children that need sleep training, it’s the parents— because, y’know, parents are on their smartphones, they’re on their computer, they’re stressed out, they’re going through so much— and then they expect their babies to sleep. Y’know, it’s like “I’m full of anxiety, I’m holding my child. My child needs to get sleep, and my child needs to sleep.” It’s interesting because a lot of times we think that the solution is to fix is through the child— which, yes, that there’s truth to that— but a lot of times the solution begins with ourselves
Mar: When we understand where our weakest link is— whether it’s emotional, nutritional, whether it’s lifestyle-related, maybe we’ve gotten into a routine that’s very disorganized and things are all over the place— and, y’know, children (pregnancy and children) bring out and show us, y’know, what’s working and what’s not working. And when we realize that we have an opportunity to go, “Whoa! My child in this situation is showing me areas of myself and my life that could use a lot of improvement.” And so it goes hand-in-hand, right?
Because what I always say is that when you’re in a family— even if it’s just one parent and a child, still a family!— you’re in a team. And it’s important that everybody’s needs are met. So it’s not about, y’know, the parent just leading the child or the child just leading the parent. It’s about both learning to work cohesively together: everybody’s synchronizing, co-regulating, adapting to one another’s ways, influencing one another.
And so when during pregnancy and during the postpartum, when the more that we ground ourselves, the more we center ourselves, the more we get ourselves in order, we are navigators of our ship. And so we then have that ability to have the strength, the power to handle, y’know, all situations. And when our child is having any of the answers— that at one time seemed to us very much out-of-this-world and not connected to us— actually become much more clear.
And what I will tell you is that very interestingly enough, I think there’s over… Amazon has over 180,000 parenting guides out there. That’s a lot. And part of what’s happening is that parents-to-be and parents are being bombarded with a lot of information, a lot of controversial information, and a lot of times are second-guessing themselves. While there is absolutely tremendous value in everything we’re learning outside of ourselves, we all have what’s called “intuition.” And all of us really do know what’s best in any given moment, in any given situation. And I think part of what’s happened is that many of us have become disconnected from our own intuition because for many, many years we’ve been relying so much on the outer to give us direction, instead of really going within and going “What’s happening here? What is this situation telling me? What is my child telling me?” y’know, “Where can we go from here?”
And then trusting that the answer is not only arising, but when you connect with that— then, of course (I mean, like, I do it all the time), I actually will connect with my intuition, but then I will also ask others. I’ll say, “Hmm, y’know, I was thinking this. What do you think?” y’know, and then I’ll go back and I’ll reflect, but I’ll go back-and-forth. And so I think that it’s very, very important during pregnancy and during the especially early stages of parenting, that parents are aware of their own lifestyle behavior, how that influences their child and that what they’re role modeling is, many times, can make or break a situation for their child’s sleep.
And what I will tell you is there are many exceptions. If a child’s experiencing a medical issue, if they’re under the weather developmental issue, y’know, obviously those things within themselves that’s going to affect sleep. And that’s not… y’know, a parent will be aware of those things, but that obviously is not directly being influenced by a parent’s behavioral lifestyle, right? So there’s those examples.
But the last thing that I will say too, is that question before making any assumptions to your child’s sleep. One of the biggest mistakes I continue to see over and over again is that when there is a child’s sleep challenge, no matter at what stage, right away, we seek the answers. We say, y’know, “My child needs help with sleep.” Right away people give us answers without doing a full investigation. And it’s very, very important because like I said earlier, the root of this child’s sleep challenge may be due to a number of things. It could be tied into a developmental issue, environmental issue, a medical issue, emotional issue, y’know, from this situation, and so on and so on.
Adriana: And I think that, like you were saying before regarding the nutrition, that these are general things that tend to be inflammatory, but for some people they are, for other people they aren’t— figure out what works for you. Right? And analyze that and run it through your critical filters.
I think the same thing can be applicable in terms of all the parenting— like all those guides that you talked about, or all the information we get out there, or even what we’re sharing with listeners today— of, y’know, please listen to what we say, but then take it and internalize it and run it through your critical filters and see if that fits with your reality and test it out, right?
And so the same thing. Yeah, you need to really go deep, which is the hard work. It’s the hard work trying to analyze. It’s so much easier to take a sleep pill, but not as helpful. It’s helpful in the short run, right? In the very, very short run… but it’s so much more beneficial for you to really analyze your relationship with sleep and your habits and try to fix those, because like you said, yeah, your kids are going to… pregnancy starts bringing things out, and then when you have a child, it… everything bubbles to the surface.
You think you were like out to find yourself and define who you were in your, whatever, twenties or your teenage years? Oh my gosh. Nothing really brings you face-to-face with all your things like motherhood. Ugh!
Mar: Absolutely. There’s no question, but it’s like an excavation. It’s, like, all coming. And I love how you frame that I… y’know, for me, it’s what I say, “It’s where the growth is.” It’s where our human evolution lies. And so you can take the sleeping pill— and there’s nothing against those either, y’know, like, again, like what you said, what works for you, because it may be a combination— some of you may mean that in combination with the excavation and the personal development. So what works for you? I always go by that. Experiment, try it out. But what’s very interesting is that, again, we live in a culture where it’s a quick fix. And the quick fix is an illusion, because no matter how much we think we’re giving ourselves or our children a quick fix, there’s always an underlying root to the situation.
And if we don’t excavate it, if we don’t bring it to the surface, it is up and we either have an option to avoid it and numb ourselves and keep avoiding it for the rest of our life, or we can see it as an opportunity to expand, to grow, to evolve. And yes, it’s very challenging and difficult, but when you go through that, the reward and the evolution is so tremendous.
And I personally feel it actually… What happens within ourselves contributes to humanity. So each time we bring more kindness into our life, we evolve in ourselves, that’s actually contributing to the world’s evolution. So the more every person, each of us can do our own inner work that’s contributing to the whole world. And we all know we need it—
Mar: —these days, you know?
Adriana: Oh my goodness. And I love how a conversation about how to get better sleep and pregnancy turned out to improving the world, yeah.
Mar: Me too!
Adriana: Ah, thank you so, so much for having this talk with me today. It always is lovely to converse with you. It fills my soul.
Mar: Oh, me too. My tremendous pleasure. Thank you so much for having me, and thank you for what you are doing and offering to everybody. You’re such a wonderful resource and I’m so happy that you’re doing what you’re doing.
Adriana: No, you too. Thank you so much!
Mar: Alright. Take care!
That was the remarkable Mar De Carlo, who is an international entrepreneur; motivational speaker; holistic educator; curriculum developer; health, life and business coach, adult, pregnancy, and child sleep coach; stress management coach; yoga instructor; author; dancer; artist; mother …y paro de contar, because Mar De Carlo has titles like some people have tattoos! However, she’s also super-accessible, so feel free to contact her on Instagram @mar_decarlo – and that’s M-A-R underscore D-E-C-A-R-L-O.
And while you’re there on Instagram, you can connect with us @birthfulpodcast.
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Birthful is created and produced by me, Adriana Lozada, with production assistance from Aysia Platte.
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Come back for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “How to Sleep Better While Pregnant.” Birthful, Birthful. February 8, 2023. Birthful.com.
About Mar (Oscategui) De Carlo
Mar De Carlo is on a mission to transform lives and evolve humanity through holistic education and expressive arts. She is the founder of a number of organizations, including the International Parenting & Health Institute, the Holistic Science of Sleep Methods, the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants, and the International Academy of Baby Planner Professionals… among a few others!
Mar is an avid researcher and holistic educator with an abundance of training and experience, over 25 years in the health, fitness, parenting, business, and expressive arts industries. She is known for her innovative curriculum development and creative, cutting edge and integrative approach, connecting and bridging systems in a variety of industries across the globe that have transformed thousands of lives in 59 countries in nine languages with high-quality, evidenced-based holistic programs since 2009.
Mar’s extensive background and accomplishments are rich and diverse. She brings a wealth of talent as an International Entrepreneur, Motivational Speaker, Artist, Holistic Educator, Curriculum Developer, Author, Health, Life and Business Coach, Baby Planner, Adult, Pregnancy and Child Sleep Coach, Dancer, Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor, Stress Management Coach, Singer, Actress and Mother with a multitude of certifications, training, management under her belt.
Mar is a first-generation American raised by her Latinx immigrant family in New York City. Growing up, she lived in a one-bedroom apartment with her mom, dad, brother, and sister, and began working from a very young age. Education became her opportunity to achieve what her parents could not along with hard work. She worked three jobs during college to make ends meet and she is also a survivor of sexual abuse and domestic violence. She became unexpectedly pregnant in an unmarried relationship and experienced being a single mother. She is very passionate about providing holistic education and practical effective tools to support and empower others to overcome their challenges, especially in underserved communities who are experiencing similar struggles to what she underwent. As a result, her organization the International Parenting & Health Institute serves as a nonprofit.
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