Pregnancy is when you need ample rest to beat the fatigue and strain on the body. But it is also one of the times when most women find it hard to experience a good night’s sleep. At least 80% of women suffer from sleeplessness or insomnia during pregnancy. Various factors like hormonal changes, heartburn, baby belly, etc., cause sleep loss or disturbed sleep quality. Sleeplessness can be very uneasy and miserable, but it can be managed with effective lifestyle changes and remedies.
Let us look at the various causes of insomnia during pregnancy and important remedies to treat it.
What is Pregnancy Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder where you find it difficult to fall asleep or have good quality, deep and adequate sleep. There are various causes of sleeplessness during pregnancy. Spike in pregnancy hormones, baby jitters, heartburn, muscle cramps, and the baby belly can seriously affect your sleep. Insomnia can happen at any time during the nine months, but it usually starts in the first trimester and becomes worse during the third trimester. Though trouble sleeping is quite common in pregnant women and does not affect the baby’s health when managed well, it can seriously affect your ability to function and quality of life. In worse cases, insomnia can also affect the immune system and lead to complications in pregnancy.
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Causes of Insomnia (Sleeping Problems) During Pregnancy:
Let us look at the various reasons behind the sleeping problem during pregnancy,
- Pregnancy causes shifts in hormones in our body. Pregnancy hormones like progesterone and estrogen cause respiration and physiology changes, disrupting sleep.
- Digestive disorders like nausea, bloating, heartburn, indigestion, etc. cause uneasiness and keep us awake.
- Anxiety and jitters about being a new mother, proper baby development in the womb, and balancing work and motherhood are common fears that occupy our minds and disturb our sleep.
- Pregnancy causes muscle cramps due to physiological changes and stress on various muscles caused by the growing uterus. Back pain and leg cramps usually interfere with your ability to have a good night’s sleep.
- The growing baby pushing against your bladder causes frequent urges to urinate. This also goes on during the night, interrupting your sleep.
- Heightened metabolism.
- The growing baby bump makes finding a comfortable lying position very difficult. This starts during the second trimester and worsens in the third trimester when the baby grows in full.
- Breathing difficulties when lying down are another major cause of difficulty in sleeping. The pressure on the diaphragm from the growing uterus and hormonal changes cause shortness of breath and much restlessness.
- Most women experience vivid and intense dreams due to fluctuations in pregnancy hormones. These dreams often wake you up during the night.
How to Manage and Prevent Insomnia During Pregnancy?
Let us now look at the various remedies and tips for treating and preventing insomnia while you are pregnant,
1. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene:
Regulating the sleep and wake schedule is very important to beat insomnia. Start a bedtime routine and try going to bed at the same time every day.
2. Warm Bath:
Have a soothing, warm bath before bed. This relaxes the mind and body, helping you fall asleep quickly.
3. Avoid Blue Light:
Avoid TV, mobile, laptop, tablet and other devices that emit blue light at least two hours before bedtime. Blue light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone that helps you fall asleep.
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4. Temperature Control:
Make sure your bedroom is at its optimum temperature. Too hot or too cold environment makes the body difficult to relax and fall asleep or stay asleep.
5. Get Out of Bed:
Don’t stay awake in bed for long. If you find it difficult to fall asleep, get out of bed and engage in a light activity like reading a book or listening to music instead of lying in bed and struggling to fall asleep.
6. Get Comfortable:
Use pillows to position yourself comfortably on the bed. Placing pillows between your knees and under your belly gives you good cushioning and comfort. This aids in muscle relaxation and sleep.
7. Bust Pregnancy Worries:
Fear and anxiety about smooth delivery and being a mother can keep you awake like nothing else. Try talking to your partner or friends about your concerns and make yourself a light.
8. Practice Relaxation Techniques:
Techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, and cognitive behavioural therapy are very effective methods of relaxing and calming your mind. These techniques have been proven to improve sleep quality and cure insomnia.
9. Light and Healthy Diet:
Make sure your dinner is light and healthy. Avoid spices, fats and other foods that strain your digestive system and cause heartburn or bloating.
10. Avoid Caffeine:
Avoid coffee, tea, chocolates and other foods that contain caffeine post afternoons. Caffeine keeps your mind from relaxing and keeps you alert and wakeful.
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11. Early Dinner:
Finish your dinner at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. This gives ample time for the food to get digested before bed. A relaxed liver helps in better sleep.
12. Healthy Snack:
Eat a light protein bar or a warm glass of milk before bed. This helps maintain sugar levels and supports better sleep.
Physical activity, prenatal yoga and exercise during the day for at least 30 minutes are found to improve sleep quality and cure insomnia. But your doctor must approve of you engaging in physical exercise when pregnant.
14. Fluid Intake:
Drink plenty of water and liquids daily to keep your body well-hydrated and healthy. But avoid drinking liquids after 7 p.m. This helps in reducing the number of toilet breaks at night.
15. Day Time Naps:
Take short daytime naps and avoid naps a few hours before bedtime. This helps you fall asleep easily at night.
Medications to Cure Insomnia During Pregnancy:
Over-the-counter sleep medications are not suggested during pregnancy as they may affect the baby’s development or cause other complications. Pregnancy sleeplessness must be managed through lifestyle changes, healthy diet and relaxation techniques. Dietary supplements like natural melatonin and other herbs help with better sleep, but the doctor must suggest them based on your health condition. In severe cases, however, doctors do suggest sleep medications and other aids that are safe to take when pregnant. But they must be prescribed by your doctor after a thorough assessment.
Pregnancy comes with its ups and downs. The excitement of giving birth to a baby can also be infected with endless jitter and lack of sleep. Insomnia during pregnancy can be easily treated with the remedies provided above. But if your insomnia continues, you should see your doctor for prescription drugs that can be safely taken when pregnant. Let us know how this article helped you beat your insomnia by commenting below and liking this article.
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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers:
Q1. Is insomnia harmful during pregnancy?
Ans: Though insomnia is normal during pregnancy, chronic and severe case of sleeplessness does affect the health of the mother and the growing fetus. Inadequate sleep increases inflammation in the body and reduces immunity levels. Many studies have linked pregnancy insomnia to conditions like high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. These conditions can disrupt the blood and oxygen flow to the growing fetus, affecting its development and growth. Preeclampsia can be fatal to the mother and baby. Low birth weight and pre-term births are common complications of insomnia. According to research, women who sleep less during pregnancy are more likely to have longer labour and cesarean section deliveries.
Q2. Is insomnia in late pregnancy a sign of delivery?
Ans: Some women do experience worsening sleeplessness right before labour. Worry and anxiety about labour and delivery are found to be one of the common causes. Hormonal changes before delivery also contribute to increased insomnia. Secretion of oxytocin, a very important hormone that helps in delivery, increases wakefulness and worsens insomnia. Higher levels of progesterone and estrogen also deteriorate the quality of sleep. Taking naps at periodic intervals throughout the day is advised to give the body the required rest and prepare it for labour.
Q3. When does insomnia start during pregnancy?
Ans: Sleeplessness or changes in sleep patterns usually start during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is due to the changes in the levels of reproductive hormones like progesterone. Fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and frequent urination during the night also disturb sleep and contribute to wakefulness. Towards the end of the second trimester, sleep quality is further decreased. However, during the third trimester, insomnia takes a more severe form. At least 98% of pregnant women experience sleep problems during this period. Baby belly, backache, heartburn, restless leg syndrome, fetal movements, etc. greatly contribute to sleeplessness during the third trimester and the 9th month towards the end of pregnancy.