Pregnancy insomnia is thought to affect up at 78% of women at some point during the pregnancy.
If you're in that 78%, you probably know only too well how infuriating it is each time someone tells you to ‘get plenty of sleep now, because you won't be able to once the baby arrives!’
It can be frustrating being wide awake, especially when you may have been exhausted all day. Whose cruel joke is this?
If you need some help with pregnancy insomnia, here's some tips and information to help get to the bottom of it.
What Causes Pregnancy Insomnia?
There could be lots of things keeping you up at night during pregnancy, including:
- Frequent urination – with an enlarged uterus pressing down on your bladder, it's no wonder you're having to visit the bathroom more often. Some women blame frequent bathroom trips for their lack of sleep during pregnancy, especially during the final trimester.
- Discomfort – trying to find a comfortable sleeping position when you're hauling a baby and placenta around with you can be challenging, to say the least.
- Leg cramps – if you keep waking up thinking your legs are broken, you may be experiencing leg cramps. These are most common in the second and third trimester, though some women experience them as early as the first trimester.
- Strange dreams – some women report having some pretty bizarre dreams during pregnancy. Interrupted sleep patterns, and anxiety about the birth and motherhood, is thought to contribute to these unusual and extravagant dreams.
- Baby acrobatics – babies are lulled to sleep by movement, and you may find your baby wakes up as soon as you sit down for a rest. As you get further into the pregnancy, the movements will become strong and more deliberate, and this may prevent you from getting a good night's sleep.
- Anxiety – some degree of anxiety is considered to be normal during pregnancy, as women prepare for birth and motherhood. You may find yourself lying awake at night worrying about the health of your baby, how you will cope during labour, or whether you are ready to be a mother.
- Stress – though it should ideally be a time for calm and relaxation, pregnancy is often fraught with stress. You may find yourself battling against an ever-growing to do list, whilst trying to prepare for maternity leave, prepare for motherhood and keep the house tidy.
- Excitement – it's not just the negative emotions that can keep you awake at night, excitement may be playing a part in your sleep debt, too. Daydreaming during pregnancy could be a fulltime job, so it may be your hopes and dreams for the future keeping you awake at night.
- Diet – are you trying to combat fatigue with stimulants like caffeine? Or are you eating and drinking other foods that cause your natural energy and sleep patterns to be thrown off track? What you’re eating and drinking can be a big contributor to both fatigue and insomnia.
Identifying which of the above root causes is contributing to your case of insomnia can help you to find a more effective solution, rather than seeking general bandaid solutions for insomnia.
How Can I Avoid Insomnia During Pregnancy?
There is no way to guarantee yourself a full eight hours of uninterrupted blissful snoozing, however there are things you can do to minimise your sleep disturbances. For example:
Insomnia Tip #1: Don't Drink Before Bed
If frequent bathroom trips are keeping you awake, try to limit your fluid intake a few hours before bedtime.
Insomnia Tip #2: Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
Avoid caffeine in the hours leading up to bedtime. Chocolate, coffee, tea and soft drink/soda all contain caffeine that could be keeping you awake at night. To find out about the safe limits of coffee and pregnancy, read our article here.
Insomnia Tip #3: Take Your Vitamins, And Eat A Healthy, Balanced Diet
Those pesky leg cramps may be caused by an insufficient intake of certain vitamins and minerals, for example, magnesium. Take a good quality prenatal vitamin daily (ideally a brand your naturopath recommends), to ensure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs. It’s also important to make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet. Make sure you’re eating enough protein, organic fresh fruit and vegetables, good fats and dark leafy greens.
Insomnia Tip #4: Drink Plenty Of Water
You should be drinking eight glasses of water during pregnancy. Dehydration can contribute to leg cramps, so make sure you are getting enough water throughout the day. If you can afford it, look at getting a water filter installed in your home, as the water will taste better (you’ll feel like drinking it more!), it will hydrate you more effectively and will be much better for your body, eliminating nasty toxins.
Insomnia Tip #5: Exercise Every Day
You should aim for at least thirty minutes of exercise every day, ideally first thing in the morning to promote more restful sleep. You could sign up for a prenatal yoga class, go for a swim each day, or even just walk home from work. If 30 minutes seems like too much, start small.
Think of it this way: a 20 minute walk means 10 minutes one way, then you can start heading back again! Exercise releases ‘feel good’ hormones, and the exposure to vitamin D from the sun will have the same effect. Both exercise and vitamin D from the sun also helps to reduce your chances of depression and anxiety. So once you start walking, you’ll probably feel much better! You may even be motivated to do more than 20 or 30 minutes.
Insomnia Tip #6: Manage Your To Do List
Instead of lying awake worrying about all the things you haven't done, write down a comprehensive to do list. Work out what you can do, and set yourself a realistic schedule. Having a plan can help you to feel in more control, and reduce your stress levels, enabling you to get a good night's sleep.
Insomnia Tip #7: Open Up
If you are lying awake at night feeling anxious, stressed or worried, tell someone. Being honest about your feelings may help you to process them better, and enable you to get your stress levels under control. Talk to your partner, and close friends and families about your worries, their reassurance may help you to feel less anxious.
Insomnia Tip #8: Have A Warm Bath Each Evening
You need time at the end of the day to wind down and relax, and having a soak in the bath is the perfect way to do this. Not only will you emerge feeling relaxed and refreshed, but you may also notice a reduction in your aches and pains.
Insomnia Tip #9: Use Pillows
You have a bump to support now, so you're usual two pillows aren't going to cut it. Using extra pillows to support your bump, and to place between your knees, may help you to get comfortable at night. You could invest in a made-for-purpose pregnancy pillow, or just use a couple of normal pillows.
Insomnia Tip #10: Try Relaxation Exercises
These will come in useful during labour too, so there's no harm in learning some now to try and help you sleep. Learn some breathing techniques that will help to slow down your breathing, and leave you feeling relaxed.
Insomnia Tip #11: Get Up And Do Something Else
If you really cannot sleep, then get up and go into a different room. Read a book, or find something else to occupy yourself until you feel drowsy, then go back into your bedroom and try again.
Insomnia Tip #12: Sleep At Different Times
Have a lie in after a bed night, go to bed early if you feel tired, and nap during the day if you have time. Speak to your boss about flexible working, and explain that you're struggling to sleep at night. Most workplaces will try to accommodate your needs during pregnancy.
Insomnia Tip #13: Turn Off Electronic Devices
Pregnant or not, electronic devices and screens can stimulate your mind and interrupt sleep patterns. Give yourself an hour away from screens and devices before bedtime, making sure the devices are switched off or on silent – ideally in another room. Instead, create rituals for restful sleep as mentioned in this article.
For example, spend the last hour before bed in a nice warm bath, sipping a nice herbal tea (you can find out which teas are safe and which are best to avoid in our article on tea during pregnancy). Instead of staring at screens, indulge in your favourite books while snuggled up in bed, or ask your partner for a massage to help you rest.
Insomnia Tip #14: Acupuncture
Acupuncture is fantastic for insomnia and other health complaints where the body is out of balance. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for so much longer than modern medicine, and is recognised by the World Health Organisation as being a treatments for many conditions.
There’s nothing alternative about TCM! Acupuncture has the added benefit of helping you to identify the underlying cause, as well as being able to diagnose any other ways your body is out of balance. You can find an acupuncturist who specialises in pregnancy in our directory here.
Insomnia Tip #15: Get Some Regular Massage Or Osteopathy
Especially if you are stressed or anxious, or perhaps you don’t even know the reason why you can’t sleep, regular massage or osteopathy can help to relax your body and mind. If you see an osteopath, they can see if there are any muscular or structural problems in the body that may result in you feeling more tense, uncomfortable or stressed. search for someone who is experienced in pregnancy work, and seek a ‘cranio-sacral’ osteopath if you can.
Insomnia Tip #16: Try Not To Worry
Yes, I know it’s hard, but most women experience pregnancy insomnia. Being a little short on sleep won't put your baby at risk, but you do need to get as much rest as possible. Speak to your healthcare provider if you are starting to feel exhausted and are still unable to sleep.