Insomnia (Trouble Sleeping) During Pregnancy: Why and What to do about it

No one needs to tell you twice – when you’re pregnant, you’re tired. All the time. And there’s no better time to justify hitting the snooze button one or five more times.

But what about when you’re dragging like a bag of rocks yet can’t seem to actually fall asleep? Luckily, you’re not alone. Pregnancy insomnia hits 75% of women in their third trimester the hardest – but it’s not exclusive to the last three months.

Insomnia (Trouble Sleeping) During PregnancyThere could be a variety of reasons why you’re not getting some shut-eye.

Hormones – The culprit of countless discomforts during pregnancy, you can blame insomnia on those pesky hormones, too. National Sleep Foundation explains that hormone changes “may also have an inhibitory effect on muscles, which may result in snoring and in obese women increase the risk of developing sleep apnea and may be partly responsible for the frequent trips to the bathroom during the night.”

Frequent urination – Nothing’s worse than waking up from a deep, restful sleep because of a nagging feeling to urinate. Especially when these midnight trips become more frequent as your baby grows, pushing harder on your bladder. But just because you were sound asleep before your bathroom break doesn’t mean you can fall right back into that crazy dream of yours. The physical movement of getting out of bed and walking around plus having to turn on the lights can activate your brain and make it impossible to go back to sleep.

Dreams – Any mom-to-be will tell you all about the bizarre dreams that come with pregnancy. Partly caused by (you guessed it) hormones combined with conscious anxieties, active dreaming is not an uncommon phenomenon among expecting mothers. But sometimes these bizarre or too-real dreams can take a dark turn, with fears of things going wrong with your future bundle of joy seeping through a resting mind.

Anxiety and/or impatience – Anxieties don’t just affect the subconscious mind. Worrying about nutrition, mother’s and baby’s health, potential hospital costs, possibilities of delivery complications, a fully stocked nursery – these are all just a small portion of what could be running through an expectant mother’s mind. Besides thinking of everything left to do, eagerness to finally see your new mini-you is a natural emotion for any soon-to-be-parent.

Leg cramps – A much, much more unpleasant cause of insomnia could be a direct result from a less-popular pregnancy symptom: leg cramps, also known as Charley horses. These muscle spasms can sometimes happen during the night, leaving the mom-to-be in a paralyzed-like state of pain. Sometimes the pain can remain for hours after the muscle relaxes, still leaving the area tender and bruised-feeling. Needless to say, sleeping after such an ordeal can seem like an elusive concept.

Sleep apnea – The more serious of the many causes, sleep apnea can be a culprit to a good night’s rest. Sleep apnea is the obstruction of air passageways during your sleeping state and can cause frequent snoring and even a lack of breathing for short periods of time. These breathing interruptions can easily cause a sleeper to wake suddenly; or at the very least, be the cause of a shallow rest without ever reaching a truly rejuvenating deep-sleep state.

No matter what the cause of your late-night tossing and turning, there are numerous ways to combat it. Take a look at these pregnancy sleep tips to gain ideas on how to stave off insomnia.

Create a routine – Watching one more episode of your favorite show or catching up on the latest in your social media feed before bed can be tempting. But sometimes, that extra 20 minutes of screen time can keep your brain wired as you’re trying to wind down. Try implementing a nightly routine to condition your brain and body to know it’s time to relax. Drink soothing herbal tea like chamomile or lavender that are meant for relaxing (and avoid any teas with caffeine, like black or green tea); establish a routine of washing your face or taking a calming Epsom salt bath, or pick up that pregnancy book you’ve been meaning to finish and lay in bed as you read.

If midnight trips to the bathroom are the causes of your sleep deprivation, then know you are not doomed. Before going down for the rest of the night, be sure to make one last trip to the bathroom. Leaning forward can help ensure every drop is cleared. Then be sure to restrict your liquid intake after, taking only small sips of water when needed to avoid filling your bladder back up.

Get comfortable – Noisy crickets outside your window distracting you from drifting off? Bringing your blankets up to your chin, or kicking them furiously away to let your feet hang out? Or has your pillow lost its plump appeal? Whatever it is that’s keeping you up, find a way to beat it. Bring a fan in the room for noise (and/or cooling), or invest in a white noise maker with a soothing wave or rain forest tracks. Toss an extra blanket on or off the bed, and go out and buy a new pillow.

Work out and stretch more – You may not have enough energy to leave the couch during the day, but resting too much could actually be the reason why you can’t fall asleep at night. Exercising during pregnancy has a long list of benefits, and one of them includes getting a good night’s sleep. By spending more energy, your body will finally catch up to the same level of exhaustion has your mind (and vice versa), finally drifting you off to sleep. If leg cramps are behind your insomnia, then establish a daily (or even nightly) routine of stretches to circulate blood throughout your veins. Yoga is a great exercise routine that soothes both your body and your mind.

Just stay up – Unless you’ve gone more than 11 days without any sleep at all or you have Fatal Familial Insomnia, you won’t actually die from insomnia (even though you may feel like you have). So instead of tossing and turning for hours while thinking about everything that needs to get done, just get up and start checking tasks off your list. Finish a chapter or three in your book, tidy up the living room, or organize the nursery. The relief and spent energy will (eventually) allow you to drift off without the struggle.

Do a sleep study – Some women can develop more severe sleep disorders while pregnant, or their pregnancy can make existing symptoms even worse. If your insomnia persists or seems to be getting worse, or if your sleep deprivation is due to Obstructive Sleep Apnea, then the first step is to schedule a sleep study. You can take our quiz and find out if you do have sleep apnea if you’re unsure.

If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, then the best tip for better rest is to call a sleep specialist and schedule a study.

It’s important for pregnant women to get an extra shut-eye in order for the body to replenish all that spent energy of growing a baby. It’s important to correct endless nights of insomnia and get back to a healthy routine of falling off to sleep as soon as a problem is noticed. Otherwise, insomnia could develop past a nightly annoyance into a full-grown dilemma.

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Geoffrey Nevine — IT Services and IT Consulting

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