Tips to fight Insomnia During Pregnancy
Fighting Insomnia During Pregnancy
Women can cope with insomnia during their pregnancy by exercising, using relaxation techniques, and eating small snacks. Changing sleep positions may help reduce insomnia as well.
By Norra MacReady
Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
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According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 78 percent of moms-to-be deal with insomnia at some time during gestation.
Erica Assayag knows this only too well — this mom has an 18-month-old son and is now in the final trimester of her second pregnancy. Insomnia dogged her both times. “For me it starts in the third trimester,” she explains. She says that her size, the frequent need to urinate, and aching hips contribute to her inability to find a comfortable position in bed. Although pregnancy pillows alleviated some of the back and hip pain, nothing really helped her sleep.
Before her first pregnancy, “I was a really good sleeper,” recalls Assayag, who adds ruefully, “since then, not so much.”
Expect Insomnia When You're Expecting
In a study comparing women’s sleep habits before and during pregnancy, researchers found that poor quality sleep started to increase rapidly during the second trimester and became most common during the third trimester. More than 75 percent of the women interviewed in the survey reported insomnia or some other kind of sleep disorder.
Emotional and physiological changes and other factors, such as the presence of additional children at home, can keep pregnant women awake at night, says Donnica Moore, MD, president of the Sapphire Women’s Health Group. She believes hormonal changes are the main culprit, saying that “many women report overwhelming fatigue before they even start showing." This can cause disruptions in sleep and lead to daytime sleepiness, she explains.
As the baby grows, a woman's expanding abdomen can make it harder to find a comfortable sleep position, and increased pressure on her internal organs can lead to back pain, heartburn, and the need to urinate frequently during the night — all of which contribute to the loss of sleep. Add morning sickness and excitement or anxiety about the new arrival, and you’ve got a recipe for insomnia.
Tips to Better Sleep During Pregnancy
Dr. Moore says that most insomnia remedies that work for non-pregnant patients work for pregnant women, too. Her first suggestion is to establish and adhere to a daily schedule, including a regular bedtime. “This is a good time to put yourself on a routine, because you’ll be putting the baby on a routine,” she says. Keeping regular hours, including regular sleep-wake times, is a standard insomnia therapy recommended by many sleep authorities, including the National Sleep Foundation. It’s also okay to nap if you find yourself yawning during the day.
Other tips to consider:
- If heartburn keeps you awake, eat small, frequent snacks of bland foods like crackers. For morning sickness, munch on a cracker or two before you even get out of bed and never let your stomach become completely empty, Moore says.
- Experiment with new sleep positions as your belly gets larger. Some women may prefer to sleep on their left side because that facilitates blood flow to the baby. Putting a pillow between your legs may also help. If you have hip pain from sleeping on your sides, putting an inexpensive piece of "egg-crate" foam rubber between your sheet and your mattress may help.
- Regular exercise contributes to a good night’s sleep. Just follow your doctor’s advice and do it early in the day so you’re not too wired in the evening.
- Reserve the bedroom for sleep and sex only — remove the TV and keep the room cool, dark, and quiet.
- Many childbirth classes teach relaxation exercises, so make use of them. You can also try a glass of warm milk or techniques such as meditation or guided imagery.
- If you can’t sleep, don’t toss and turn. Get up and read, watch television, or try one of the relaxation methods suggested above; only return to bed when you’re sleepy.
- Talk about your insomnia problems to your partner, a close friend or relative, a clergy member, or a mental health professional.
Video: DIY-how to get rid of insomnia during pregnancy at home
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