Insomnia During Pregnancy: 9 Tips for the Best Night's Sleep
Expecting a new bundle of joy can bring a lot of excitement and changes to your daily routine, but also many sleepless nights. Insomnia during pregnancy is common and affects approximately 78% of pregnant women.
Having insomnia means you have trouble falling or staying asleep, which carries over into the daytime causing excessive fatigue. Getting the proper amount of sleep during pregnancy is important for both mom and baby. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep problems may appear for the first time during pregnancy.
What causes insomnia during pregnancy?
A variety of factors can contribute to insomnia during pregnancy. Trouble sleeping can begin as early as the first trimester as hormone levels begin to change and can persist or worsen in the third trimester as your baby gets larger. Common causes of pregnancy insomnia include:
- Nausea: Nausea often begins early in pregnancy and can occur at night, affecting sleep.
- Hormones: Changing hormone levels throughout pregnancy can affect your natural circadian rhythm and sleep patterns
- Back pain: Changes in the muscles, joints and posture can cause back pain for pregnant women, even in early pregnancy.
- Leg cramps: Leg cramps occur in about half of pregnant women, and around 25% may experience restless legs syndrome. RLS causes uncomfortable feelings in the legs, making it difficult to fall asleep in later pregnancy.
- Nighttime bathroom trips: Not only does your growing baby put pressure on the bladder, but blood volume also increases during pregnancy, causing the kidneys to produce more urine. Most women feel the need to urinate two or more times at night, which can disrupt sleep.
- Heartburn: Many pregnant women experience heartburn at night, especially in later pregnancy, making sleeping difficult. Not only does the uterus put pressure on the digestive system, but pregnancy hormones also make it easier for stomach acid to come up the esophagus.
- Physical discomfort: As your stomach grows to accommodate your baby, getting comfortable in bed can become increasingly difficult. Switching to side sleeping may also be difficult for those accustomed to sleeping on their back or stomach.
- Anxiety: It is common to have concerns or feelings of anxiety when expecting a baby. For some, stress about pregnancy or the life changes that await can lead to insomnia.
What can I do to cope with pregnancy insomnia?
There are many things you can do to get better sleep while pregnant. Try these tips if you are experiencing insomnia:
- Prepare yourself for bedtime by decreasing stimulation. Turn off the TV and stop using your phone at least one hour before you lay down.
- Take a warm bath, meditate or a have massage before bed.
- Avoid any liquids two hours before bed if you are waking up frequently to urinate and avoid stimulants such as caffeine (coffee, tea or soda) after noon.
- Set up your bedroom for sleep. Try lowering your thermostat to a cooler temperature and play some relaxing white noise or natural sounds. Use a dim night light so you do not have to turn on a bright light to use the bathroom, which tends to increase wakefulness and make it more difficult to fall back asleep.
- Exercise regularly during the day (recommended at least 20 minutes per day if you have been cleared by your doctor for regular exercise during pregnancy).
- If you cannot fall asleep, try reading a book, eating a small snack, or drinking warm milk or warm water with lemon. Do not spend time scrolling on your phone – the light can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm and hormonal control of sleep/wake cycles.
- If you want to nap during the day, you should take a short nap of 20-30 minutes. Long naps may interfere with your sleep schedule at night. You should avoid napping closer to your usual bedtime.
- Use pillows to support your abdomen, lower back and between your knees to help reduce back pain. Some women may prefer a pregnancy pillow that is designed to accommodate the needs of their growing body.
- Sleep on your left side. This can reduce pressure on your inferior vena cava, the main blood vessel that brings blood back to your heart from your lower body, increasing blood flow to the rest of your body. Elevating your legs and feet can also help increase blood flow and reduce swelling and discomfort that keeps you awake at night.
It’s important to talk with your doctor if your insomnia persists or worsens. He or she may prescribe medication safe in pregnancy to help you with your sleep.