Pregnancy insomnia (A brief guide)

Pregnancy insomnia
Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.

In this guide, we will discuss what pregnancy insomnia is, symptoms, most common causes and some helpful tips to cope with it.

Pregnancy insomnia: is it possible to have again a good night’s sleep?

Insomnia is characterized by difficulty either falling asleep, staying asleep or both. It has been suggested that women can experience insomnia during all the stages of pregnancy but it can be more common during the first and the third trimester. 

Finding out about being pregnant can be both nerve-wracking and the happiest moment of your entire life. You may feel worried and anxious, but also excited and ecstatic for the news of a new addition to the family. However, if it is your first child or if it is the second or third, every pregnancy is different and it comes with certain symptoms that can make us think about the following months to come. 

It is a beautiful experience so don’t worry about it, as long and you take good care of yourself and follow your doctor’s instructions every step of the way it will make it an enjoyable, pleasant and happy experience.

Pregnancy insomnia (A brief guide)

When your pregnancy is starting, your body is going through a lot of physical and emotional changes but this is completely normal, don’t be scared and enjoy the experience. Most women report having sleep problems during pregnancy and needing to get more sleep during the first trimester but if they sleep the whole day, they still may feel tired. This can lead to developing insomnia at night. 

What is insomnia?

Insomnia can be defined as the difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or both. You can experience insomnia during all of your pregnancy or just during the first and third trimesters. You may be needing to go to the bathroom more often and can even be in the middle of the night or may get up with that painful burning feeling in your chest or throat that will disrupt your sleep. 

Pregnancy insomnia (A brief guide)

Moreover, while your pregnancy advances, you may have a hard time getting comfortable when going to sleep or you can get that sensation of being uncomfortable that you keep tossing and turning trying desperately to get into a comfortable position.  

According to Carmel Armon, MD, MSc, MHS from Medscape, low back pain is a common symptom among pregnant women which means that the weight of your enlarged uterus stresses the spine and changes your lumbar posture. 

Also, nocturnal cramping can occur more frequently during pregnancy than in other stages of life which causes painful and sleep-disrupting attacks where their origin cant actually be determined or pinpointed. Frequent fetal movements as your pregnancy progress can also make you feel uncomfortable at times and disrupt your sleep. 

There are many reasons why you might be wide awake in the middle of the night, we will see some of them next. 

What can cause insomnia during pregnancy?

You may experience some of the following causes of insomnia during pregnancy according to Jessica Timmons from Healthline,  which in the end can lead to having sleeping problems:

  • Needing to urinate more frequently
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Back pain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Leg cramps
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heartburn 
  • Frequent and Vivid dreams
  • Being hungry
  • Being depressed
  • Frequent fetal movements

Other causes can be related to the stress in your day to day activities or simply be anxious or nervous when thinking about labor, delivery and if you can balance your new mom’s life and other activities. 

According to WebMD, additional probable causes that contribute to pregnancy insomnia can be related to gas due to slow indigestion, making you feel bloated and gassy, snoring, where your nasal passages may swell up and these may briefly block breathing over and over during sleep. 

Pregnancy insomnia (A brief guide)

These thoughts can come around and hit you like a thunderstorm and keep you up worrying and thinking about things yet to come. However, remember that these intrusive thoughts and the time you spend on them won’t change the outcome unless you decide to make changes. Try writing down those intrusive thoughts and setting up a plan to get into action. 

This will let you gain control over them and let you feel less worried and stressed, eventually improving your sleep. 

Tips to help you cope with pregnancy insomnia

Here are some tips from real moms that had suffered from pregnancy insomnia. We have included a top 8 of the best tips. 

  1. It can be really helpful if you establish a consistent routine. 

Having a consistent routine before going to bed every night can contribute to a good night’s sleep, this means getting a comfortable and cozy pajama, making sure you eat less acidic food to avoid heartburn. 

Additionally, use all the pillows you need (or a pregnancy pillow) to support your belly and feel more comfortable, maybe putting some relaxing music, meditating or stretching 10 to 15 minutes before bed can prepare your body to slowly get ready to get some rest more easily.

  1. Try to turn the “switch” off on those worrying thoughts or distract your self from them with other activities. When you are in bed, facing into the seeling, millions of thoughts can go through your head in a split second and can prevent you from going to sleep if you don’t find a solution to all of them at that moment.

Try just to lie in bed and not worry about not being able to fall asleep as soon as you close your eyes. Try to listen to some relaxing music, close your eyes for a few seconds and try telling yourself “If I can’t sleep, at least I can get some rest”. This will tell your brain that not falling asleep is not a bad thing and it doesn’t mean it is a problem that needs to get resolved. 

If you keep trying and training with this strategy, you may even master it in no time and get the full benefits of good night sleep. 

Pregnancy insomnia (A brief guide)
  1. Try doing some physical activity or exercise. We know that exercise can be the last thing that goes into your mind but there are plenty of benefits associated with doing physical activity during pregnancy. Your brain will release certain neurochemicals to help boost your energy and improve your mood during the day, but you may feel so tired at night that you may even fall asleep as soon as your head touches your pillow.
  1.  Be mindful of your sleeping habits. We know that you may feel very tired during the day and may even fall asleep anywhere, but cutting up your naps will help you sleep at night. If you are taking too many naps during the day then it makes sense that you have trouble sleeping at night. Additionally, try avoiding caffeine and sweets before going to bed. We know this might sound so obvious for some, but for other people can be the advise they are expecting to gain those precious hours of good sleep. 
  1. Avoid using your phone, tablet, kindle, tv, laptop or any other device with a bright light on the screen while you are in bed. It has been suggested by researchers that the light from the screen can alter your sleep patterns and changes the levels of the hormone melatonin which is has a very important role in regulating your sleep cycle. 
  1. Spray some lavender into your pillow or a sachet tucked into your pillowcase, this is said to have a relaxing effect and will help you fall asleep faster. Also, you can try having a relaxing bath with warm water to help you relax your muscles before bed, so this can be considered a double threat to your sleeping problems. 
  1. We get it, you may feel compelled to drink that glass of water before going to sleep every night but it is recommended to get used to hydrating yourself earlier in the day to avoid disrupting your sleep with those annoying midnight trips to the bathroom. Hydrating earlier will give you the chance to empty your bladder before bed to let you sleep the entire night without interruptions. 
  1. Keep your room under the appropriate conditions to sleep, this involves keeping your room cool, dark, quiet and under the optimal conditions to be able to sleep the whole night without interruptions. 

Why is this blog about pregnancy insomnia important?

When someone says “insomnia” it can be quite scary. For some, sleeping is the best part of their day and knowing that adding to the stress and all the changes that being pregnant bring then it can be frustrating and discouraging. 

However, we have gone through some tips proven by other pregnant women that proved to be highly effective for them. It is true that no pregnancy is the same as the other but you can try several tips and tricks and keep the ones that actually work for you. 

Please feel free to comment on the content of this blog post “pregnancy insomnia” in the comment section below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about pregnancy insomnia

What causes insomnia in pregnancy?

The causes of insomnia during pregnancy vary. Some of the reasons include being hungry, nauseous, over worrying, depression, feeling uncomfortable, heartburn, midnight trips to the bathroom, among others. 

What helps with insomnia during pregnancy?

You can try different or new sleeping positions to get comfortable, having a consistent routine before bed, taking a warm bath or getting a relaxing massage, putting some relaxing music as nature sounds or white noise, meditating a few minutes before bed, among others. 

Is insomnia a sign of labor?

Insomnia is not necessarily an indication or sign of labor. However, it has been suggested that insomnia generally worsens right before labor because of the secretion of oxytocin which is the hormone involved in stretching your cervix and uterus during labor, as well as stimulating your nipples for breastfeeding. 

How early can you get pregnancy insomnia?

You can get pregnancy insomnia at any point during your pregnancy, however, it is believed that it can start during the first and third trimesters and get worse by the end of your pregnancy due to hormonal changes. 

How many hours should a pregnant woman sleep?

The recommended amount of hours per night is at least 8 hours but it can vary from one woman to the other. Some may sleep fewer hours and feel as rested as if they slept 8 hours.

Recommended books/links

  1. The Effortless Sleep Method: The Incredible New Cure for Insomnia and Chronic Sleep Problems
  2. The 4-Week Insomnia Workbook: A Drug-Free Program to Build Healthy Habits and Achieve Restful Sleep
  3. Beating Insomnia: Without Really Trying
  4. The Sleep Book: How to Sleep Well Every Night
  5. Insomnia During Pregnancy: Peaceful Music Helpful when Falling Asleep also Gentle for the Child

References

HealthLine

What to expect: 6 things I wish I had Known About Pregnancy Insomnia

Medscape: What causes insomnia during pregnancy?

WebMD: insomnia during pregnancy

Pregnancy insomnia (A brief guide)