Pregnancy Insomnia: What to Do & How to Sleep

Pregnancy Insomnia: What to Do & How to Sleep

Pregnancy insomnia strikes just when you need your sleep the most.

Know that you’re not alone ‒ and that there are ways to get relief.

You’re pooped.

All you want is a good night’s rest.

But your mind and body seem to have other ideas.

And then, to make matters worse, the more you worry about not getting the rest you need, the less you can sleep.

Yep, pregnancy insomnia might just be the very definition of a vicious cycle.

As many as 80% of expecting mamas report sleep disturbances during their pregnancy.

So, if it helps, you’re not alone.

There are many changes afoot, both in your life and in your body.

It’s totally normal that drifting off is more challenging than usual.

In this article: 📝

  • Does pregnancy cause insomnia?
  • What causes insomnia in third trimester?
  • How early can insomnia start in pregnancy?
  • Can pregnancy insomnia affect baby?
  • How to treat insomnia in pregnancy
  • How to deal with pregnancy insomnia
  • Does pregnancy insomnia go away?

Does pregnancy cause insomnia?

Yes, pregnancy can cause insomnia or trouble sleeping.

Pregnancy insomnia refers to several kinds of sleep disturbances ‒ trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, or feeling refreshed, no matter how much sleep you get.

At the heart of pregnancy insomnia lies a tangled ball of factors:

  • Your hormones are changing
  • Your body is changing
  • Your life is changing

That’s a lot of change for a person to go through.

No wonder you’re losing sleep over this.

What causes early pregnancy insomnia?

In the early stages of your pregnancy, both progesterone and estrogen soar.

And both can influence your sleep patterns in various ways.

This hormone surge causes many symptoms that are highly proficient at keeping you up at night.

Nausea, heartburn, vomiting, aches, pains

Try sleeping through all that.

Added to this, progesterone is particularly sneaky, causing daytime drowsiness and nighttime sleep fragmentation.

Double whammy.

What causes insomnia in third trimester?

By the time you get to the third trimester, getting comfortable may be easier said than done.

1. Restless leg syndrome

If you feel a strange, uncomfortable sensation in your legs coupled with an urge to move them that refuses to go away, you may be experiencing restless leg syndrome.

It’s so common that it may affect up to one-third of pregnant women, and usually in the third trimester.

We don’t exactly know what causes this strange sensation, but experts have identified a genetic link that suggests it runs in families.

It may also have to do with the fact that something is up with a part of the brain called the basal ganglia that helps control our muscle movement.

2. Frequent urination

There’s definitely some added pressure on your bladder right now, and that might just mean a whole lot of nighttime bathroom visits.

3. The bump

Yep, your baby bump might just be taking up a lot of space, and finding the ideal sleep position can feel impossible on some nights.

4. The party animal inside you

You might just wake up with every little movement and kick.

5. Back pain

Your uterus may be pushing down on your sciatic nerve, causing discomfort in your lower back and pelvic area.

And yes, interrupting your sleep.

6. Rhinitis

Some mamas-to-be experience serious nasal congestion towards the end of their pregnancy.

That’s because high estrogen levels can cause the mucous membranes in the nasal passages to swell.

This can lead to snoring and even obstructive sleep apnea, which causes your breathing to stop momentarily while you are sleeping.

If you are struggling with your breathing at all, it’s definitely worth checking in with your doctor, as this can affect the health of both you and your baby.

7. There’s a lot on your mind

The end of your pregnancy can also come along with feelings of anxiety.

There’s a lot to think about ‒ from labor and delivery to the fact that you will soon have a new bite-size relative living with you for the foreseeable future.

It’s totally normal to feel anxious.

And it’s also totally normal to reach out if you feel overwhelmed.

Healthcare professionals, friends, family, other mamas on Peanut ‒ community really matters right now.

Does pregnancy insomnia mean baby’s a boy or girl?

Wondering if insomnia in early pregnancy means you’re having a boy or girl?

Well, while the old wives’ tales say that pregnancy insomnia is a sign that you’re expecting a baby girl, but there’s not really anything scientifically to say that’s true.

In reality, you can get insomnia during pregnancy with a boy or a girl.

Is insomnia in late pregnancy sign of labor?

Sometimes, yes, insomnia in the third trimester can be a sign that labor’s on the way — this can be due to an increase in oxytocin which can cause fragmented sleep.

Or it could mean that you’re experiencing contractions ‒ after all, it can be tricky to sleep through them, sometimes!

How early can insomnia start in pregnancy?

While insomnia tends to affect most pregnant people later in pregnancy, it can strike at any time ‒ even as early as 6 weeks.

That’s because there are so many potential causes of pregnancy insomnia.

So if you’re experiencing first-trimester pregnancy insomnia or third-trimester insomnia, know that you’re not alone.

Can pregnancy insomnia affect baby?

No, pregnancy insomnia won’t negatively affect your baby.

Although if your insomnia impacts your ability to function ‒ like if it affects your ability to drive ‒ then it could affect baby.

But if you’re at all concerned about your pregnancy insomnia affecting baby’s development, it’s a good idea to have a chat with your doctor.

How to treat insomnia in pregnancy

Now for some pregnancy insomnia treatment ideas!

Getting treatment for insomnia during pregnancy first means getting to the root of the cause.

That means working with your doctor to find the appropriate treatment for your specific needs.

Here are some treatments that might help:

  • Talk therapy can be an effective treatment. In this study, women who underwent cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) saw a significant reduction in their insomnia. This study hopes to explore the worth of digital CBT to do the same.
  • Some antidepressants have been deemed safe for pregnancy. Here’s an outline of which ones have been approved by the FDA, but you must take these medications only under the supervision of your doctor.
  • Antihistamines might help you drift off ‒ but again, make sure that you talk to your healthcare provider before you take anything. Many over-the-counter sleep aids have not been sufficiently tested or are not safe to use when you are pregnant.
  • Herbal remedies may help. A cup of chamomile tea might help relax you. (Just not too close to bedtime. That frequent urination problem might just rear its head.)

How to deal with pregnancy insomnia

Now let’s hear it from our Peanut moms-to-be with their tried-and-tested pregnancy insomnia remedies:

  • “So far, listening to guided meditations on YouTube has helped calm me down and put me to sleep, listening to music helps too to clear my mind, drinking hot tea and cocoa, going on walks during the day to get some exercise, breathe right nose strips have helped since I’ve been congested, and I’m trying a lavender spray on my pillow. I’m trying everything I can, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t…” ‒ Jocelyn
  • “Listening to my body and knowing exactly when to go back to sleep because I’m feeling tired is helpful.” ‒ Billie
  • “I find putting in ear plugs is helpful if I’m reasonably relaxed, but I need to shut off senses to the outside world a bit more.” ‒ Amber
  • “Nap when you can. Unfortunately, your body is preparing you for all the wake-ups with baby.” ‒ Michelle
  • “Cedarwood essential oil helped me!” ‒ Lauren
  • “Drink lemon balm. The only thing that helped with my first-trimester insomnia.” ‒ Ina
  • “I got myself into a bad routine. You can try taking a lavender bath. That might help. Or get a weighted blanket, those are also helpful, they are more for anxiety reduction but in my experience, it has worked.” ‒ Natalie
  • “I found it actually helped getting up and either putting the TV on or reading a book for an hour and I would fall asleep again (even if on the sofa).” ‒ Sara
  • “It’s mother nature’s way of saying to us you got to get used to little sleep, mama! We got this! Lots of under-eye cream and concealer…. small coffee… a cry!” ‒ Kate
  • Unisom has been a lifesaver for me this whole pregnancy. Run it by your doctor but mine said it was safe.” ‒ Alisanne
  • “I’ve found eating a small snack (little granola bar or cheese stick) helps me fall back asleep faster.” ‒ Maya
  • “I started taking baths at night with lavender. I would rub myself down with lavender oil. I listen to soothing music. The music really helped. I realized my mind would stay running and running. The meditation/sleep music had my mind completely still and at peace. I sleep throughout the night now.” ‒ Angie
  • “I try to write things down if I’m ruminating about something, although I’m in the bad habit now of typing them into my phone - pen and paper are definitely preferable!” ‒ Elizabeth
  • “I take magnesium. One pill is usually enough.” ‒ Lindsey
  • “Set a bedtime for yourself. Yep, you’re allowed to parent yourself too.” ‒ Abigail
  • “Create an ideal sleep environment. Keep the lights low and the digital distractions to a minimum.” ‒ Tracey
  • “Find a good sleeping position ‒ particularly if you’re in your third trimester ‒ when you’re supposed to sleep on your side. A full-body pillow can help ‒ but you don’t have to spend a fortune. A makeshift combo of smaller cushions can also do the trick for me.” ‒ Quetta
  • Gentle exercise before bed seems to help me!” ‒ Haaya
  • “Avoiding any caffeine products, even the one cup of coffee you’re allowed to drink.” ‒ Shalissa

Does pregnancy insomnia go away?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to answer this.

For some, addressing an underlying cause will help you get the rest you need.

For others, lifestyle changes may make bedtime a little easier to come by, like investing in a pregnancy pillow (we love this one by Sleepybelly, it’s adjustable, supports your bump, back, and hips, and it’s highly recommended by doulas, midwives, and osteopaths).

We know that sleep might not be easy right now ‒ but it’s also very important.

Sleep deprivation in pregnancy is related to various complications, like longer labor and preterm birth.

It’s definitely worth prioritizing your rest.

Get the help you need.

Talk to your healthcare provider.

Find support on Peanut.

Just because sleep disturbances are common doesn’t mean you have to suffer through them alone.


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