I’m Pregnant and Can’t Sleep! How Can I Get Some Sleep?
Truth-be-told, there’s probably nothing worse than being pregnant, uncomfortable and unable to sleep. At a time when you need quality sleep more than ever, it eludes you. You feel swollen, bloated, hot and sweaty, achy, and exhausted, which makes it nearly impossible to fall and stay asleep all night long. Oh, the woes of pregnancy.
You acknowledge the blessing you’ve been given; however, knowing you’re carrying a bundle of joy doesn’t make pregnancy insomnia any easier. As a pregnant woman, you realize how important it is to get proper sleep not just for yourself, but also for your unborn baby.
Plus, this is the time to get sound sleep because you definitely won’t be getting that type of rest once the baby is born. But, you’re still unable to sleep. Guess what? If you are suffering from pregnancy insomnia – you’re not alone. Approximately 78% moms-to-be experience this dreaded “sleeplessness.”
The truth is it doesn’t matter if the pregnancy insomnia stems from rushing pregnancy hormones, wild pregnancy dreams or frightening pregnancy nightmares, child birth anxiety, fears of what is to come once your sweet baby is born, frequent trips to the potty, or vigorous rib and abdomen kicks, getting proper sleep is a necessity during this monumental time.
If you are one of the millions of women throughout the world, experiencing this unpleasant dilemma, worry no more, because help is on the way! This article will describe what you’re experiencing, explain why you may be experiencing it, and provide tips on how you can stop it from happening.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects both children and adults. When you have insomnia, falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night is challenging, if not impossible. Insomnia can also involve tossing-and-turning all night long, repeatedly waking-up throughout the night, and awakening the next morning feeling groggy, irritable, and exhausted. Insomnia can affect your self-esteem, memory, productivity, and mental and physical health. In fact, 60% of Americans report mood swings, low energy, frequent illnesses, extreme fatigue, and poor work performance and missed deadlines when they are unable to sleep.
Is Pregnancy Insomnia a Real Thing?
Yes, it is absolutely a real thing.
Most moms-to-be understand and accept that they will experience a hefty dose of sleep deprivation once their little bundles of joy are born. In fact, studies suggest that approximately 40% of pregnant women experience (at least) occasional insomnia at some point.
However, sleep deprivation doesn’t just occur after the baby is born. No, it can pretty much occur every trimester until delivery. So, although, the first trimester is noted as a time of increased fatigue and sleep, sleep quality typically goes downhill after that. It can even occur in the first trimester if “morning sickness at night” occurs. And, yes, that actually happens when you are pregnant.
Pregnancy discomfort coupled with an inability to take medication to alleviate this discomfort can lead to anxiety, depression, and a lot of sleepless nights. The good news is there are “safer” options to reduce or alleviate pregnancy insomnia, such as online sleep programs, relaxation techniques, a consistent bedtime routine, etc. These natural sleep tools can help you get quality sleep without risking your baby’s health and well-being.
What Causes Pregnancy Insomnia?
There are a variety of reasons why you may be experiencing pregnancy insomnia; however, the most common ones are listed below:
- Back pain
- Racing thoughts
- Pregnancy stress
- Frequent night urination
- Anxiety or depression
- Aches and pains
- Bloating, abdominal discomfort and/or edema
- Intense dreams or nightmares
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or upset stomach
- Tender, sore, or achy breasts
- Muscle cramps
- Shortness of breath
When Does Pregnancy Insomnia Typically Begin? And, How Long Does It Last?
As mentioned above, pregnancy insomnia can arise at any time during your pregnancy; however, the most common times to experience it is during your second and third trimesters. In other words, the further along you are, the more likely you are to experience pregnancy insomnia.
During your second and third trimesters, your body produces the most pregnancy hormones and your body changes (expanding belly, increased blood flow, swollen ankles, back pain, etc.) the most to accommodate your growing fetus. As a result, pregnancy symptoms tend to “ramp-up” during these trimesters.
There is also no definite timeline as to when pregnancy insomnia ends, primarily because there is no timeline as to when it arises. As a result, you may experience “sleeplessness” all three trimesters or one or two trimesters. It’s also possible that you will not experience pregnancy insomnia at all!
Are There Any Consequences of Poor Sleep During Pregnancy?
Yes, poor sleep can affect your health and the health of your unborn baby.
Researchers suggest that one or two nights of “sleeplessness” is not a big deal, however, if it continues and becomes chronic, then it can heighten your risk of anxiety, depression, stress, or gestational diabetes, and your baby’s risk of premature birth, delivery complications, an undersized or oversized baby or failure-to-thrive. It can also increase the probability that you will need a C-section to deliver your baby.
Can I Take Melatonin for Pregnancy Insomnia?
Yes, you can but you’ll want to use it sparingly.
Your body naturally produces melatonin, also referred to as the “sleep hormone.” It is responsible for regulating or balancing your circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycles). And, it is your circadian rhythm that tells your body when it is time to go to sleep and when it is time to wake-up.
Artificial or man-made melatonin, in the form of pills, gummies, liquid, etc., can put more melatonin in your body, when it is not producing enough to trigger sleepiness. It is important to understand, however, that melatonin is considered a dietary supplement. And, like most dietary supplements, it has not garnered approval from the FDA. It’s also important to understand that studies on melatonin in pregnancy are extremely limited at this time.
Still, most doctors do not mind if their pregnant patients take a low dose of melatonin (1mg) occasionally to combat insomnia. Other pregnancy-safe medications you can try to help you get some much-needed zzz are Tylenol PM, Unisom, or Benadryl. Note: If you decide to take Benadryl for “sleeplessness” only use the regular kind – not the Allergy or Congestion Plus versions, and only use it occasionally.
How Can I Get Some ZZZ While Pregnant?
If you just can’t seem to get enough sleep (or any for that matter), don’t fret because there are ways you can improve your sleep quality – even while heavily pregnant.
Listed below are some easy tips that can help you and your unborn sweet pea get the sleep you need and deserve:
- Develop a consistent bedtime routine and sleep schedule. Determine a time to go to bed and a time to get up and try to start unwinding at least an hour before bed. Turn-off all devices (including the television) 30-45 minutes before bed. Blue screen light can prevent you from falling asleep.
- Try a new sleep position.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day, but cut it off after 6pm.
- Ready yourself for bed by taking a warm lavender-scented bath.
- Turn on a sound machine, turn down the thermostat, open a wind down, or turn on a fan – cooler is better when it comes to sleep.
- Eat a healthy dinner filled with lots of fruits, veggies, fish or lean meat, and whole grains. Try to eat dinner before 7pm and don’t overstuff yourself with food because that could lead to bloating and heartburn – two known culprits of pregnancy insomnia. If you get hungry later, nosh on a healthy snack like peanut butter crackers or apple slices.
- Try counting or reciting a mantra, word, or phrase until you get sleepy.
- If you still cannot fall asleep – get up! Read a book, listen to soft music, or watch a boring show like infomercials, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, or your local news.
- Try to exercise each day.
- Get comfortable! Perhaps, lie on your side, tuck a pillow between your legs or place one underneath your stomach to cushion it.
- If your breasts are sore and achy, invest in a comfortable sleep bra.
- Take an early nap. But don’t sleep too long or take a nap too close to bedtime or you’ll be up all night, tossing-and-turning.
- Darken your room and remove all distractions. You may want to invest in “blackout curtains.”
- Fill your room with sweet smells, such as lavender- or vanilla-scented satchels or scented pillows. This will help you relax so you can fall peacefully to sleep.
- Only use your bedroom for sex and sleep!
- Invest in an online sleep program. Online sleep programs, like Somnus Therapy, uses cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT-I) to help you reframe how you see sleep, so that it is something you can’t wait to indulge in each night.
- Avoid caffeine and chocolate too close to bedtime, because these stimulants can trigger pregnancy insomnia.
- Talk it out. If something is bothering you call a friend or loved one. Try to get a peace-of-mind before bed, because it will help you sleep better.
- If all else fails and the “sleeplessness” continues or escalates, talk to your doctor about your sleep concerns.
Pregnancy insomnia is no joke. It is real and often persistent. And, because pregnant women are often advised to avoid most medications, it can make getting sound sleep feel like dark tunnel with no light insight. The good news is the insomnia will not last forever. Eventually, you will give birth and your child will grow into a toddler, then a young child, and then a teenager, who doesn’t require feedings or not much else. And, one day your young adult child will go off to start his or her life and you’ll miss the days when you were up all night with him or her. So, try the suggestions in this article and embrace every second with your little one – sleepless nights and all!
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