Pregnancy is the time when you need ample rest to beat the fatigue and strain on the body. But it is also one of the times where most women find it hard to experience a good night’s sleep. At least 80% of the women suffer from sleeplessness or insomnia during pregnancy. Various factors like hormonal changes, heartburn, baby belly etc. cause loss of sleep or disturbed sleep quality. Sleeplessness can be a very uneasy and miserable condition, but it can be managed with some 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, stay 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, the baby belly can seriously affect your sleep. Insomnia can happen any time during the nine month period, 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 it does not affect the health of the baby 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 changes in respiration and physiology which disrupt sleep.
- Digestive disorders like nausea, bloating, heartburn, indigestion etc. cause much uneasiness and keep us awake.
- Anxiety and jitters about being a new mother, proper development of the baby in the womb, balancing work and motherhood are common fears that occupy our mind and disturb our sleep.
- Pregnancy causes muscle cramps due to changes in physiology and stress on various muscles caused by the growing uterus. Back pain, 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 it very difficult for you to find a comfortable position to lie down. This starts during the second trimester and gets worse in the third trimester when the baby is growing in full.
- Breathing difficulties when lying down is another major cause of difficulty in sleeping. The pressure on the diaphragm by 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:
It is very important to regulate the sleep and wake schedule 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 is found to suppress 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. And this aids in muscle relaxation and sleep.
7. Bust Pregnancy Worries:
Fears and anxiety about smooth delivery and of 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, cognitive behavioural therapy are very effective methods of relaxing and calming your mind. These techniques have proven to improve sleep quality and cure insomnia.
9. Light and Healthy Diet:
Make sure your dinner is light and healthy. Avoid spice, 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 your 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 going to bed. A relaxed liver helps in better sleep.
12. Healthy Snack:
Eat a light protein bar or a warm glass of milk before going to bed. This helps maintain sugar levels and support better sleep.
Physical activity, prenatal yoga and exercise during the day for at least 30 mins is found to improve sleep quality and cure insomnia. But your doctor must approve of you engaging in any physical exercise when pregnant.
14. Fluid Intake:
Drink plenty of water and liquids during the day to keep your body well hydrated and healthy. But avoid drinking liquids after 7 pm. This helps in reducing the number of toilet breaks at night.
15. Day Time Naps:
Take short day time 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. Sleeplessness when pregnant must be managed through lifestyle changes, healthy diet and relaxation techniques. Dietary supplements like natural melatonin and other herbs do help with better sleep, but they must be suggested by the doctor based on your health condition. In severe cases, however, doctors do suggest sleep medications and other aids which are safe to take when pregnant. But they must be prescribed by your doctor after a thorough assessment.
Pregnancy comes with its own 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, it is recommended to 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 flow 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 of 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 worsen insomnia. Higher levels of progesterone and estrogen also deteriorate the quality of sleep. It is advised to take naps at periodic intervals throughout the day to give the body 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, frequent urination during the night also disturb sleep and contribute to wakefulness. Towards the end of the second trimester, there is a further decrease in the quality of sleep. But during the third trimester, insomnia takes a more severe form. At least 98% of pregnant women experience sleeps problems during this period. Baby belly, backache, heartburn, restless leg syndrome, fetal movements etc. greatly contribute to sleeplessness during the third trimester and in the 9th month towards the end of pregnancy.