When you get a positive pregnancy test, one thing that you do accept will be in your future is sleepless nights.
However, what most women don’t expect, and others often don’t tell you is that those sleepless nights can start in your pregnancy. Unfortunately, insomnia during pregnancy is a far more common and, at times, distressing symptom that many women may not realise they will have to deal with.
If you are someone who has always had no problem when it comes to sleeping, then this can come as quite a shock. Here we will take a look at insomnia, pregnancy and some of the things that you can do to help when it comes to getting some quality sleep.
Insomnia is a disorder linked to sleep that means a person has difficulty staying asleep, falling asleep or, in some cases, both. Insomnia can be experienced by a woman at any stage during pregnancy, but it is far more likely to occur during the first and third trimesters.
Essentially, if you are experiencing inadequate sleep during your pregnancy this may be referred to as pregnancy insomnia. Inadequate sleep can occur for a number of reasons:
- Difficulties in falling asleep in the first place
- Difficulties in getting comfortable in bed – this is especially the case as your pregnancy progresses
- Frequently waking up during the night
- Finding it difficult to get back to sleep once you have woken up
- Sleep that is unrefreshing and not restful
Fortunately, whilst pregnancy insomnia can be annoying, and it can make you a little miserable, it is in no way harmful to your baby. While many women consider insomnia to be a sign of pregnancy there is no indication that this is the case, although it is certainly a symptom that can appear when you are pregnant.
Obviously, hormones play some part in this, especially in the early weeks of your pregnancy when a woman’s hormones are all over the place. However, there are also other reasons that you might struggle to even fall asleep in the first place including:
- Frequent need to urinate – especially common in the third trimester of pregnancy
- Difficulty finding a comfortable sleep position – if you were a stomach sleeper before your pregnancy it can be hard to get used to a new sleeping position
- Issues with your legs – this might include restless legs and leg cramps; some women also experience these at other times, for example during menstruation, when hormone levels are altered
- Snoring – not that of your partner, although that can sometimes be a factor for those struggling to sleep, but your own, which can be caused by your increased weight or hormones
- Congestion – hormones can cause the mucous membranes in your nose to swell which leads to nasal congestion
- Worries and anxiety – many pregnant women, especially those who are expecting their first child, worry about how they will cope being a mum and also about the arrival of their child.
If you are struggling with pregnancy insomnia then don’t worry, you are not alone. Statistics show that around three quarters of pregnant women found that they suffered some form of pregnancy insomnia at some point in their pregnancy.
Methods to help with Insomnia
Over the counter insomnia remedies are not recommended during pregnancy but there are plenty of different things that you can try that may help with your insomnia.
- Don’t eat too late – having a full heavy meal too close to bedtime can make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Eat lighter smaller meals and try to eat earlier in the evening as this can really help. If you find that you are hungry before bed time, then eat a light snack such as a piece of fruit – bananas can be very beneficial if you struggle with restless legs at night.
- Eat slowly – it is also important to eat your evening meal slowly and not wolf your food down, as this can really cause issues with heartburn that can keep you wide awake at night.
- Avoid caffeine – Caffeine can keep you awake, so limit your intake or avoid it all together in the later afternoon and early evening – caffeine can be found in energy drinks, cola drinks, coffee, tea (including green) and chocolate.
- Avoid late fluid intake – as your pregnancy progresses, there will be less room for your bladder and you will need to urinate more frequently, so try to drink most of your recommended fluid intake earlier on in the day and avoid drinking anything too close to bedtime so that you do not need to get up, too often, to go to the loo.
- Exercise – gentle exercise is not only very good for you during pregnancy but can be very beneficial in making you feel sleepier at night. Avoid doing your exercise too late though, as this can make it harder to get to sleep.
- No electronics – avoid screen time before bed as the light from a screen alters how sleepy or alert you might be. Screens supress melatonin levels which can help to regulate your internal clock and help you sleep. It is recommended to do this one hour before bedtime.
- Temperature – making sure that your bedroom is neither too hot nor too cold can make a huge amount of difference when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Having the window open just a little bit can really help.
- Talk about any worries – If something is worrying you and that is the cause of your insomnia then talk to someone about it. This should help to get things straight in your head.
- Get into a routine – create a sleep routine. Try and get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Perhaps read a book for a while to help you unwind, listen to some gentle music, or take a warm bath – find something that works for you and add it to your routine.
- Pillows – as your pregnancy progresses, finding a comfy sleep position can be difficult. Pillows are a really helpful solution that can make it much easier for you to support your body in a comfortable sleep position.
- Lavender – Lavender is a great, natural aid to relaxation and is said to promote sleep. Mist your pillow with a lavender sleep spray or place a lavender sachet under your pillow.
Insomnia in early pregnancy
During early pregnancy, more women feel tired more often as a result of the huge change in hormone levels that they experience. Unfortunately, this sleep is often not restful sleep and can cause them to wake up feeling unrefreshed.
The body goes through a lot in the first trimester of a pregnancy; hormones levels increase, breasts can feel tender – which can make certain sleep positions uncomfortable- and then there is the nausea. Whilst It is called morning sickness, for many women the nausea continues all day and can even make it difficult to sleep.
Eating little and often and drinking plenty of water can help to keep the nausea at bay for longer, making it easier to get to sleep and hopefully, wake refreshed. If you are struggling with your sleep it can be worth speaking to your doctor or GP, who might be able to suggest some things that can help you; you should not take any medication that is available to assist with sleep without first speaking to your GP as it may not be suitable for you.
If you don’t already have children, then taking naps can really help, and you won’t have to worry about anyone else when you do nap. If, however, you have other children to look after, or you work, then take naps when you can and if you are tired try having an early night.
Growing another human is hard work and you may find that you need to change your sleeping habits in order to listen to the signals from your body properly.
Insomnia during pregnancy
Sometimes insomnia can be a symptom of something else like depression. While it might be hard to imagine that one of the happiest times in your life may result in depression it can happen – and being sleep deprived can make you feel depressed. It can be a good idea to talk to you GP or midwife if:
- You have a feeling of sadness that doesn’t go away
- You feel tired and have no interest in doing anything
- You are overeating or have lost your appetite
- You have a lack of confidence or low self-esteem
- You are struggling with anxious thoughts
Talking to someone might help you, and there is always extra support available.
Insomnia in late pregnancy
As you enter the final trimester of your pregnancy, it can become increasingly difficult to get comfortable at night. Your growing bump can make it tricky to find a comfortable position and if you are suffering with SPD the pain can make it even harder.
Whilst the nausea might have retreated it may well have been replaced with heartburn, a common symptom later in pregnancy, which your GP can prescribe you something for.
Some of the methods that we have already discussed should help you to get better sleep if you are struggling with insomnia in late pregnancy so it is worth looking at what might work for you. Don’t despair, however, the end is in sight and soon your baby will be here. But, get all the rest you can, as your pregnancy insomnia may well be replaced with another form of sleepless night – at least for a short time while you get used to the routine of having a new baby.