Pregnancy and Insomnia: What You Need To Know

With all of the changes to your body during pregnancy, you may begin to experience difficulty sleeping.  Is this pregnancy insomnia? How do you know?  What can you do about it? You may even wonder, "can pregnancy cause insomnia?" So let's discuss  - pregnancy and Insomnia.

pregnant woman up at night

But first, what's insomnia?

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleeping disorder in which the affected person finds it hard to fall asleep or to stay asleep and sometimes both.

It usually occurs at night time and can cause you to wake-up early or have trouble falling back to sleep. Individuals with insomnia do not feel refreshed even after waking up.

Studies have found that insomnia is the most common sleep disorder among all other sleeping disorders. It is also noted that around one-third of all adults globally are affected by insomnia.  

Insomnia and Pregnancy

As you know, during pregnancy the woman's body goes through several changes to accommodate her infant.

prenant woman with insomnia on bed

When you are pregnant, you will experience hormonal changes, stress, anxiety, cramps, nausea, and frequent urination.

All of these conditions will keep you awake, especially during the initial days of pregnancy. Similarly, insomnia is also common with pregnancy which affects almost 75 % of pregnant women.

When Does Pregnancy Insomnia Start?

Sleeping problems can occur at any point during pregnancy. But insomnia is more common during the second and third trimesters. It is the time when your belly gets big enough to disturb your sleeping position.

How Long Does Pregnancy Insomnia Last?

There is no exact time when pregnancy insomnia ends but it can last for a few weeks to months.

It is always best to talk to your health care provider as soon as you notice the symptoms of insomnia. Your doctor can prescribe the appropriate medication to prevent the acute condition.

Symptoms of Pregnancy Insomnia

In many cases, pregnant women do not get enough sleep during the first trimester. Irregular and incomplete sleep patterns can cause mood swings and lower energy levels, affecting your health and also your work performance. This can also lead to morning sickness and other symptoms.

The following are the common symptoms of insomnia:

  • Waking up too early
  • Feeling uncomfortable while sleeping
  • Difficulty in falling or staying asleep

These symptoms can also lead to other symptoms including

  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty in performing daily tasks

Common Causes of Pregnancy Insomnia

The causes of insomnia during pregnancy vary. The following factors might be affecting your sleep patterns:

  • Pre-birth stress and anxiety
  • Physical pain and aches
  • Cramps
  • Medication
  • An upsetting or traumatic event
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Changed sleep habits ( new place or new position)
  • Morning sickness, constipation, heartburn
  • Nightmares
  • Growing belly and weight gain
  • Kicking and flipping of your baby

woman awake in bed with clock showing 3AM

Risk factors for insomnia

If a pregnant woman has any of the following conditions she is more prone to insomnia:

  • High-stress level
  • Depression
  • Traveling often
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Menopause

Medicines That Help With Pregnancy Insomnia

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by your body. This hormone helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.

If you are suffering from insomnia you can use the melatonin. A small dose of melatonin can be very effective with insomnia. Your health care provider might also give it to you as a dietary supplement.

OTC and Prescription Sleep Aids

There are several other over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids that you can use with insomnia such as Tylenol PM and Nytol.

NOTE: Taking any medicine without your doctor’s approval can be dangerous to you and your baby. You should not risk your baby’s health.

Similarly, overdosing on any medication can be harmful to your baby. It is always better to ask your doctor before using any supplement or herbal treatment.

Magnesium

Your doctor may recommend a magnesium supplement to prevent certain causes of insomnia such as constipation or leg cramps. Magnesium holds natural relaxing power and helps to relax your muscle which promotes better sleep.

Is Insomnia Harmful During Pregnancy?

Usually, insomnia is not much of a big concern during pregnancy. The only problem is the disturbed sleep pattern restless nights. It becomes a problem only if you develop chronic insomnia.

Chronic insomnia is when you experience problems sleeping for at least three times a week and for at least three months or longer.

Chronic insomnia can lead to gestational diabetes, stress, anxiety, and depression. It can increase the risk of premature birth or delayed labor. It also increases the risk for cesarean.

How Long Does Chronic Insomnia Last?

Chronic insomnia might last for about 3 months. It is further divided into primary and secondary insomnia. There is no exact cause of primary insomnia and has the typical symptoms as described earlier – problems dropping off to sleep and staying asleep. Secondary insomnia is caused by many factors including:

  • A medical illness
  • Psychological issues
  • Diabetes
  • Substance use disorder
  • Sleep apnea or other sleep disorder

How To Manage Insomnia?

Sleep plays an important role to keep you healthy and fresh during pregnancy. Therefore, we have compiled a list of some techniques to manage your routine with insomnia and how to prevent it.

The following things can help you to manage insomnia

• Get Out of Bed

When you cannot fall asleep after 20 to 30 minutes, just wake up instead of trying to sleep. Get up from your bed and do some boring stuff and then try again to sleep.

• Get Enough Rest

The human body needs an average sleep pattern of about 6 to 9 hours. But if you are pregnant, you are more tired and therefore you need more sleep than usual. If you cannot sleep properly, you should take a rest to boost up your energy.

• Get Comfortable

You can use too many cushions or pillows to feel comfortable. The pillows can give you support and help you to have a good night's sleep.

• Lifestyle Changes

Some lifestyle changes can also help you with insomnia:

  • Developing an active routine during pregnancy
  • Maintaining a healthy diet

pregnant woman eating bowl of fruit

  • Staying hydrated
  • Developing a consistent sleep schedule
  • Staying relaxed

You can also talk to your health care provider to prescribe some relevant exercise, medication, or supplements.

How Can You Prevent Insomnia During Pregnancy?

There are some ways and lifestyle changes that will help you to prevent or minimize the effects of insomnia during pregnancy:

1. Clear Your Emotional Space

Pre-birth worries and anxiety can wake you up all night long. You need to sort it out during the day. Talk with your friends or your partner about how you're feeling. Stay relaxed and try some meditation.

You should also develop the habit of writing down your thoughts on paper so that they cannot disturb you while sleeping.

2. Avoid Caffeine and Chocolates

Limit your intake of caffeine and chocolates especially during the late afternoon, in the evenings, and before you go to sleep.

3. Have Your Dinner Early

Make a habit of eating your dinner early in the evening. Eating small and healthy meals is also very helpful to reduce insomnia.

4. Less Fluid  = Fewer Bathroom Trips

Try getting all your fluid requirements early in the daytime and avoid drinking fluids after 6 p.m. This prevents the frequent urges to go to the bathroom during your sleeping hours.

5. Workout

pregnant woman sitting on the floor of living room exercising

You should develop a routine of exercise during pregnancy. Practicing such exercises also helps to promote better sleep quality.

6. Set A Bedtime Schedule

Try to sleep and wake up at the same time daily. Set a schedule and try to stick to it. You can also include some bedtime activities such as reading good books, enjoying soothing music, practicing light exercise, warm baths, prenatal massages, and sex.

7. Download a Sleep App or Listen to Soothing Music

There are many good and effective sleeping apps available. Download one of these apps or some natural soothing music that helps with deep sleep.

8. Create a Good Sleep Environment

In addition to soothing sound, you can shift to dark shade curtains in your bedroom to promote a cozy and comfortable environment.

9. Try Nasal Strips

You can try using a nasal strip if you have a runny nose. A runny nose can be problematic as it will prevent you from having a good night's sleep.

10. Early Goodbye to the Screen

Reduce your screen time and avoid using smart devices before going to bed. The blue light emanating from your screen will affect the performance of the melatonin hormone. This is the hormone that helps regulate you sleep-wake cycles.

Final Thoughts

Insomnia is a common sleeping disorder during pregnancy but it can be easily treated without harming your little ones. Pregnancy-related insomnia might be disturbing but does no harm to your baby’s development.

Most times, it is a short-term disorder but in some cases, it can become acute. Therefore, if you think you are suffering from insomnia during your pregnancy, talk to your doctor for immediate treatment.

 

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