Sleepless and Expecting: Tips to Tackle Pregnancy Insomnia

Sleepless and Expecting: Tips to Tackle Pregnancy Insomnia

Navigating Pregnancy Insomnia: Tips For A Better Night's Sleep

Pregnancy is a time of transformation and anticipation, but it can also bring about a host of unexpected challenges, particularly when it comes to sleep. Many soon-to-be parents find themselves tossing and turning, trying to find a comfortable position, or waking up in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep. Understanding the sleep changes that occur during pregnancy, including the common occurrence of insomnia, can equip you with the knowledge and tools needed to improve your sleep quality during this special time.

The Dynamics of Sleep During Pregnancy

Sleep disturbances are widely reported across all stages of pregnancy. These disturbances can include increased night-time waking, insomnia, daytime fatigue, and restless legs syndrome. Notably, the experience of sleep changes varies throughout the trimesters:

  • First Trimester: Many experience an increase in total sleep time accompanied by daytime sleepiness. This suggests an increased need for rest as the body undergoes significant changes.
  • Third Trimester: This period is often marked by a decrease in sleep duration. Factors such as increased size of the uterus, back pain, and hormonal fluctuations contribute to discomfort and restlessness, making it harder to maintain a good night’s sleep.

Why Pregnancy Insomnia happens

Pregnancy insomnia can be attributed to several factors:

  • Physical Discomforts: As the baby grows, back pain and difficulty finding a comfortable sleeping position can significantly impact sleep quality.
  • Hormonal Changes: Increases in progesterone levels can disrupt normal sleep patterns.
  • Emotional Factors: Anxiety about childbirth, changes in life, or the health of the baby can lead to sleepless nights.
  • Physiological Changes: Conditions like snoring or restless legs syndrome tend to increase, especially in the later stages of pregnancy.

Recommendations for Managing Pregnancy Insomnia

Improving sleep quality during pregnancy is crucial for your health and your baby’s development. Here are several strategies to help combat insomnia:

  • Maintain a Regular Bedtime: Establishing a consistent sleep schedule helps regulate your body’s internal clock.
  • Take your magnesium supplement before bed: Magnesium can help you get better, deeper sleep as well as help you feel more relaxed, prevent restless leg syndrome and constipation, and more! Read more about all the awesome benefits of magnesium during pregnancy here. 
  • Create a Restful Environment: Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. Consider using blackout curtains and a comfortable mattress.
  • Limit Screen Time: Avoid electronics and screens at least an hour before bed to reduce exposure to blue light, which can interfere with sleep.
  • Practice Relaxation Techniques: Acupressure, particularly at the H7 pressure point on the wrist, relaxation exercises, visualization, and aromatherapy can aid in relaxation.
  • Adapt Your Diet: Avoid heavy meals, spicy foods, and excessive liquids before bedtime to minimize discomfort.
  • Support Your Body: Use pillows or positioning aids to support your body and reduce pressure on your bladder and back.
  • Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT for insomnia, even delivered online, has been shown to improve sleep quality during pregnancy.

When to Call Your Midwife

While pregnancy insomnia is a common discomfort of pregnancy, persistent sleep disturbances should not be ignored. If you:

  • Experience significant daytime fatigue affecting your daily activities
  • Have concerns about how insomnia might be impacting your pregnancy
  • Notice a sudden increase in snoring or new breathing difficulties during sleep

It’s important to discuss these symptoms with your midwife. They can offer additional support, resources, and referrals if necessary.

Sleep disturbances like insomnia are common during pregnancy but manageable with the right approach. By incorporating good sleep hygiene, relaxation techniques, and seeking support when needed, you can improve your sleep quality and overall pregnancy experience. Remember, taking care of your sleep is an essential part of prenatal care for both you and your growing baby.

FAQs about Pregnancy Insomnia

  1. Why is pregnancy insomnia common? Insomnia during pregnancy can be attributed to a variety of factors including physiological changes like increased uterine size, back pain, and rising progesterone levels which all contribute to discomfort and restless sleep. Other contributors include obesity, snoring, restless legs syndrome in the third trimester, fear of childbirth (tocophobia), and prenatal depression. These elements combined can significantly disrupt normal sleep patterns throughout pregnancy.
  2. How does sleep change throughout pregnancy? Sleep patterns tend to vary across the trimesters. During the first trimester, many experience an increase in total sleep time and daytime sleepiness, suggesting a greater need for sleep. However, the third trimester often brings a decrease in sleep duration, with wakefulness after sleep onset (WASO) becoming more significant, particularly in the weeks leading up to labor.
  3. What simple measures can I take to improve my sleep quality during pregnancy? Several strategies can help improve sleep, including maintaining a regular bedtime and ensuring the bed is used only for rest and sleep. Limit screen use before bedtime, avoid emotionally or cognitively stimulating activities several hours before sleeping, and delegate chores to reduce stress. Modifying your diet before bedtime to avoid indigestion, heartburn, and nocturia can also help. Additionally, using relaxation techniques, positioning aids, preparing a comfortable sleep environment, and practicing good sleep hygiene can significantly improve sleep quality.
  4. Can acupressure help with insomnia during pregnancy? Yes, acupressure, particularly at the H7 (heart 7) point located on the inner side of the wrist, has been reported to improve sleep quality in some pregnant individuals. This non-invasive technique can be easily applied at home and is a safe option for managing insomnia during pregnancy.
  5. When should I consider seeking help for insomnia during pregnancy? If insomnia significantly impacts your daily life or if you’re struggling with severe sleep deprivation, it’s important to consult your midwife or healthcare provider. Persistent sleep disturbances may require further evaluation and possibly cognitive therapy for insomnia, which has been shown to improve sleep quality and duration during pregnancy and postpartum. It’s crucial to address sleep issues not only for your well-being but also for the health of your developing baby.

Additional Resources for Pregnancy Insomnia

Jenni Jenkins Sekine Student Midwife

Jenni Jenkins – Sekine is an Oklahoma Student Midwife, Midwives Assistant, Birth & Postpartum Doula, and Child Birth Educator who serves her Central Oklahoma  community. She began her journey as a student midwife in 2022 at the Midwives College of Utah.

To learn more about Jenni, please click here.

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