How emotional labour is impacting your sleep – By Dr Kat Lederle, Women’s Sleep Coach
Becoming a mum brings about big (and small) changes to your daily life. And your night-time too. There are many physiological and psychological changes taking place during pregnancy which affect sleep. Many women struggle particularly during the first and third trimester while some women sleep relatively well during the second.
Once the baby is born, many mothers continue to experience poor sleep due to nursing the baby. And while there is some improvement in sleep quality in the months after birth, a recent study looking at heterosexual couples showed that sleep disruption can persist for at least 6 years. The same study also showed that while fathers’ sleep satisfaction is reduced too, this is much less so compared to the mothers. The authors speculate that this is down to the mother shouldering more of the childcare responsibilities and housekeeping tasks than fathers. Worse still, this is the case even if the mum is also working.
I think it is important to note that many couples attempt to divide family and
household tasks in an even way. But gender norms, the gender pay gap, and
societal expectations often get in the way. A mum might also have high expectations of herself, thinking she should be able to do everything for everyone, keep everyone happy and never stop smiling as she does it. All these beliefs and traditions lead to is that from a physical labour perspective mothers end up taking on more than their fair share of the chores. Compounding this is the emotional labour associated with looking after a family, with wanting to keep everyone else happy and be a ‘good mum’ that many women can feel.
Before I go on, let me explain what constitutes emotional labour: This is the act of managing one's own emotions to meet the emotional demands of a job. For mums, who are often the primary caregiver, this can include things like dealing with difficult children, managing conflict with their partner or other family members, and providing emotional support to others.
Sounds taxing? Well, that’s because it is. And while it is also exhausting, it often gets in the way of a good night’s sleep. Research found that women who reported high levels of emotional labour were more likely to have sleep problems than women who reported low levels of emotional labour.
And then there is the cognitive labour. This is all the organising, planning, preparing mums do.
Sounds tiresome? Yes, it is. And yes, you guessed right (and have probably
experienced it first-hand), cognitive labour has a negative impact on sleep too.
Research found that women who reported high levels of cognitive labour were more likely to have sleep problems than women who reported low levels of cognitive labour.
Cognitive and emotional labour take up a lot of time, energy and thinking. A big part of this thinking happens when you go to bed, and instead of slipping into peaceful slumber you find yourself lying there running through the ‘to dos’ of tomorrow and worrying how everyone will feel.
But – and this is a big but – you have to make it into bed first of all! Childcare, chores, and work fill up all of your day, and probably most of your evening too. Once the kids are in bed there is still plenty to do for mums to be ready for the next day.
Unfortunately, for many mums doing (or perhaps it is more apt to say having to do) these tasks will eat into their sleep time – by delaying their bedtime. What doesn’t change is their wake-up time though. The resulting night is short and often of poor quality. Not a great start into the next day.
The good news is that there are several things you can do to improve your situation!
- Set boundaries. Learn to say no to extra work or commitments that will only
add to your responsibilities and stress levels.
- Delegate tasks. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don't be afraid to ask for help from your partner, family, or friends.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating healthy foods will give you the energy you need to
cope with stress and stay focused.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve
your sleep. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most
days of the week.
- And then … have regular sleep times. That is one of the most important and
yet difficult ones for most people including mums. I have deliberately put it last
on this list of suggestions because for you to feel that you can go to bed at the
time that your body clock wants you to you need to know that all is done for
today. And to help you with the latter I suggest implementing the other steps
Final thought: Remember, you are not alone. Many women – with or without children- experience sleep problems. By taking steps to manage your stress, and set boundaries, you can look after your sleep, and your mental and physical health too.
If you are struggling with sleep and finding it hard to figure out where to start to improve your sleep, check out my website or book a free call with me so we can have a chat. They can help you to develop coping strategies and develop a plan to improve your sleep.
Gestational Diabetes Top Tips
By Simmone Lever
Specialist Gestational Diabetes Dietician
You may be halfway through your pregnancy, and everything is going well… You go along to the hospital, have that awful glucose drink, wait forever for the results, then get informed by the midwife you have gestational diabetes.
She tells you to prick your finger 4 times a day, record your blood sugar readings and write down everything you eat. She tells you to avoid junk foods, soft drinks and eat a healthy balanced diet (what-ever that means?) until you see your dietitian, which may not be for another 3-4 weeks. (Sigh.)
You get home and feel overwhelmed, confused and angry. You think “Why me? What did I do wrong?”. You feel worried about your baby and super emotional. Once you have had a cry, you turn to google. (Sound familiar?)
Now you are left feeling even more confused and unsure what you should be eating.
If this was you, don’t worry you are not alone. I see this all the time. From women just like you all across the world.
I want you to know gestational diabetes is not your fault!
Gestational diabetes can happen to anyone! In fact up to 50% of women with gestational diabetes have no previous risk factors (such as family history, age, weight, age, ethnicity), yet still get diagnosed.
Gestational diabetes is like a warning light that comes on in your car. During pregnancy our body is under a lot of extra stress. The gestational diabetes test is done in pregnancy to pick up any issues with your blood sugar regulation. Your body may be unable to pump out the large amounts of insulin needed to keep blood sugars stable or your body is having high levels of insulin resistance and isn’t working the way it should.
WHY DID I GET GESTATIONAL DIABETES?
For some women with gestational diabetes is due to placental hormones and weight gain making your body more insulin resistant. This means your body can’t seem to maintain normal blood sugar the way it could earlier on in pregnancy or prior to pregnancy. For others there was already an underlying insulin resistance issue such as pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes prior to pregnancy.
So don’t feel guilty. You can’t rewind the clock or change your family history. Instead become curious. Learn how to nourish your body.
Work 1:1 with a specialist dietitian. You will discover how to make easy and simple swaps to your diet, lifestyle and supplement habits to keep blood sugars at the right level. However some women may need medication like metformin or Insulin, which is also ok.
The main goal with gestational diabetes is keeping our blood sugars in range. Doing that will keep you and baby healthy.
Here are 3 simple tips for you to get started!
1. Get enough protein in your diet!
Did you know that most women are not meeting the optimal protein amount in pregnancy? During the second and third trimester, aim for at least 100g of protein/day. This can be achieved by adding protein to each meal and snack. Doing this will also help keep your blood sugars stable, make you feel full and satisfied and help you meet the demanding nutrient needs in pregnancy.
TOP TIP: Start your day with eggs for breakfast. Include protein at snacks such nuts, seeds, edamame, Greek yoghurt. Then include protein like chicken, fish, red meat, bone broth, beans / lentils / other legumes at lunch and dinner.
2. Include the right amount and type of carbohydrates
You may have been told to cut out carbohydrates to help manage blood sugar levels. So you stop eating bread, rice, pasta, oats, potatoes and feel super restricted in your diet. However you may find this has the reverse effect. Cutting out carbs can cause our liver to dump out extra glucose / sugar over night resulting in a higher fasting blood sugar reading. Cutting out carbs can also make you feel low in energy, cause fatigue, constipation and make you crave more ultra processed sugary foods.
TOP TIP: Include around the same amount of wholegrain carbohydrate each day aiming for between 20-45g at your meals and 5-15g at snacks depending on your carbohydrate tolerance. To find out how much carbohydrate works best for you and how to include them in the right way in your diet work 1:1 with a specialist dietitian!
3. Take the right prenatal vitamins / supplements suitable for gestational diabetes.
A well-balanced diet, with unprocessed foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plenty of water will give you most of the vitamins and minerals you need. However, in gestational diabetes your body will require increased amounts of certain nutrients to create an environment in which the baby can grow and develop healthily. Prenatal vitamins are supplements that contain those extra vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, taking a chemist brand or over the counter pre natal supplement/vitamin is not enough.
Did you know getting the right amount of vitamin D, or magnesium or collagen could all help you keep your blood sugar levels in range?
Here are a few questions to consider when choosing a prenatal supplement.
- Are you using a synthetic or food based prenatal supplement? Food based supplements are much easier for our bodies to break down and absorb.
- Are you taking your prenatal along side food and splitting the dose if you need to take a few to help the body absorb all the vitamins?
- Does your supplement contain the appropriate form of folate L-methylfolate or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate? This is important as a lot of people are unable to metabolise folic acid! Look for a supplement that includes Choline (folates long lost cousin). This nutrient is just as important as folate for babies brain and spinal development.
- Are you taking the right dose of Vitamin D, as this significantly impacts blood sugar regulation?
- Are you getting enough Omega 3? Taking a supplement that contains DHA is essential to help with the formation of babies brain cells and protects babies brain from inflammation and damage).
- Have you considered Probiotics? As having a healthy microbiome may result in better blood sugar levels.
- Does your prenatal contain Magnesium? As this too can help with blood sugar regulation . Does it contain the right dose?
TOP TIP: Work 1:1 with a specialist dietitian to help you find the right prenatal for you as everyone will have different issues and requirements during their pregnancy journey.
If you have you recently been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, and feel overwhelmed and anxious get some support today! How would it feel to know you could join a 6 week individualised better blood sugars with Gestational Diabetes program that helps women have an easier and enjoyable pregnancy without feeling like they are on a diet?
You can check out my instagram page @gestationaldiabetesdietitian or book in a free 1:1 call with me to find out more about my services.
If you send me a email, you can grab a free copy of my guide 5 mistakes affecting fasting blood sugars!
Simmone Lewer, Specialist Gestational Diabetes Dietitian
Client Story: Maria
Maria used the Pelvic Floor Confidence programme – a 4 month intensive of pelvic floor Pilates – to address the pelvic health issues she was facing.
Concern: Bladder urgency and did not trust ability to use the bathroom when convenient if out and about.
Success: Able to fit the programme around day-to-day life which has increased confidence when going out.
Before working with Grace…
I’ve known for the longest time that my pelvic floor was weak and that I needed some support. I had previously done some work on my pelvic floor but, honestly, progress had levelled off and I really wasn’t where I wanted to be.
I knew that ignoring the situation wouldn’t help and my pelvic floor problems wouldn’t go away or get better on their own, but I was concerned whether this programme would genuinely help or be much of the same content I had seen before.
Maria’s Key Points
- I love the way this program was able to fit around my daily activities, especially since I struggle find large blocks of time to devote to exercise.
- The weekly schedules, goal setting and reminder emails were beneficial in making the content digestible and allowing me to work at my own pace. The regular coaching calls made the whole programme feel more personal.
- The benefits from this program are wider than just pelvic floor problems – I am a lot stronger in my bum and legs, my posture is better, I am more flexible, and my breathing is more balanced (still working on that one, though!). It is a whole-body approach. Doing exercises little and often, working them into my routine, has added up to huge changes.
- Grace has a huge knowledge and experience. You can absolutely trust her to understand your body and give you the best exercises to help overcome your individual problems.
- The sooner you sign up and commit to working on the problem, the sooner you will see the benefits. Not all Pilates classes are necessarily appropriate for treating pelvic floor issues – I can confidently say Grace’s are. Just sign up. Do the exercises. You won’t regret it.
Would you recommend me and my services? If so, why and to whom?
I would recommend you to any woman of whatever age. Honestly, Grace is the best kept secret in St Albans! You don’t have to be a new mum to benefit from the program!
If you could suggest one thing for anyone interested in this programme, what would it be?
For anyone who hasn’t worked with Grace before or is new to Pilates, I would highly recommend a one. to one session with her to give yourself the confidence that the exercises are appropriate and that you are doing them correctly.