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 78% 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.
So what exactly causes pregnancy insomnia? And what can you do about it?
Insomnia during pregnancy FAQs
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.
What causes insomnia in pregnancy?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The bump. Yep, it’s taking up a lot of space, and finding the ideal sleep position can feel impossible on some nights.
- The party animal inside you. You might just wake up with every little movement and kick.
- 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.
- 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.
The end of your pregnancy can also come along with feelings of anxiety.
And it’s also totally normal to reach out if you feel overwhelmed. Healthcare professionals, friends and family, other mamas on Peanut—community really matters right now.
What can I do for insomnia during pregnancy?
Okay, so we’re going to divide this up into medical treatments and lifestyle interventions. Let’s dive in.
How to treat insomnia in pregnancy
Getting treatment for insomnia in 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 treatment 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 it’s vital that you 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
- Set a bedtime for yourself. Yep, you’re allowed to parent yourself too.
- Create an ideal sleep environment. Keep the lights low and the digital distractions to a minimum.
- Find a good sleeping position—particularly if you’re in your third trimester. (Hint: that generally means 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.
- Exercise. Gentle exercise appears to have a significant effect on sleep quality.
- Meditation and breathing exercises. The research is young, but mindfulness training is proving promising as an effective intervention for insomnia.
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.
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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