The journey of pregnancy is as complicated as it is beautiful. The female body goes through a fantastical transformation that can cause interesting changes you might not expect.
Another common experience shared among many pregnant women is insomnia. This is a common occurrence for a number of reasons. A full bladder and frequent trips to the bathroom may keep some women up. Or it could be cramps, aches, and pains that keep others from peacefully slumbering.
Since all expecting mothers know that there might not be much time to rest in the near future this can be a very frustrating condition to deal with. But, some women find relief by trying natural remedies for insomnia during pregnancy.
Keep reading to learn some of the ways you may be able to find some relief at home, too.
What Causes Pregnancy Insomnia
Many symptoms of pregnancy lead to discomfort, which can keep you up at night.
Backaches are almost unavoidable by the time your center of gravity shifts forward overworking your back muscles. And pregnancy hormones are busy weakening ligaments so injuries are much more common during this time.
Gas can also cause serious discomfort. Pregnancy hormones may be to blame here again. They slow digestion, which can lead to bloating and gas.
Heartburn hits some women so hard during pregnancy that they don’t complain about anything else. You guessed it, pregnancy hormones are relaxing muscles in your digestive tract, including the esophagus. A weaker esophagus makes it easier for acids to rise up and cause terrible heartburn.
Hot flashes are another common problem when pregnant. They will make the chest, face, and neck area feel very warm. Not all women get them, but those that do can feel such a sudden onset of warmth that it takes their breath away.
Restless legs and cramping occur due to changes in circulation and pressure. The weight of the baby pushes on nerves and muscles that can make your legs cramp. This can also result in the tingling, prickly sensation of restless legs syndrome.
Frequent trips to empty your bladder can keep you too busy to get adequate rest. But when you are pregnant, your blood flow increases. Your kidneys need to filter the extra blood, so they create extra fluid to do so. This extra fluid ends up in the bladder. Additionally, your bladder is under more and more pressure the farther along into the pregnancy. Meaning more frequent trips are necessary.
Breast soreness can also be an irritating foe when it comes time to sleep. Especially for those who like to sleep on their stomachs or sides. You may find that you can sleep more comfortably in a new position altogether and supported by a mountain of pillows.
Wild dreams can wake expecting mothers up out of the deepest sleep. Dreams can become more common and more intense.
Nausea affects many pregnant women, some to the point of needing medical intervention. There is a possibility for women in this case to experience nausea even while sleeping at night. So much so that they may wake up due to throwing up.
Shortness of breath can be an alarming symptom of pregnancy. But it may be due to the extra weight the uterus is putting on the diaphragm. This pressure can make it hard for your lungs to fully expand and for you to catch your breath.
Snoring is a seemingly innocent symptom of pregnancy, but it can have some substantial effects including waking you up. Pregnancy may cause your nasal passages to swell up. And the added weight of your pregnancy can make snoring worse. These changes to your body can temporarily block breathing while you sleep.
Anxiety gets the best of us. And it may creep up when you are preparing your mind and body for the arrival of a new baby. If you struggle with putting down worrisome thoughts at night, insomnia can become a regular occurrence.
Why Pregnancy Insomnia Needs Attention
It is always important to get regular and adequate sleep. The Sleep Foundation recommends most adults get somewhere between 7 and 9 hours each night. And when you’re pregnant, it is particularly important to try to get the recommended amount of sleep as your body needs it to care for you and your growing baby.
Things like obesity, age, and a family history of this or other sleep disorders may exacerbate the problem for some women. It may even have negative effects like causing a premature delivery. It can also cause longer labor or C-section delivery.
What to do About Pregnancy Insomnia
So just how can you deal with pregnancy insomnia? Treatment options are limited when you’re pregnant because some medications or strategies may not be safe for your growing baby. But there are some natural remedies for insomnia during pregnancy you can try at home.
Some easy-to-implement ones include the following:
- Say no to caffeine. This is such a hard change for many adults that rely on caffeine to get their energy for the day. But it has a few positive benefits that make it worth the effort. Caffeinated beverages like coffee, soda, and energy drinks can keep you awake when you wish you were sleeping. And cutting back on caffeine also allows your body to absorb iron better, which both you and baby need a lot of right now.
- Drink more water. Start as early as you can in the morning so that you don’t feel like you should drink too close to bedtime. Try to have your last drink around two hours before bedtime so you don’t have to get up in the night.
- Cut back on screen time. Despite the growing awareness around how screen time can affect our sleep cycles, many people still take their phones into bed with them. Try to set a time in the evening when all your screens go off. This includes the TV, phones, and tablets. Get in the habit of using the do not disturb mode on your devices so that they don’t tempt you with notifications.
- Eat less before bed. If you eat a big meal later in the day, it could contribute to keeping you up. Try to adjust your eating habits so that you are eating smaller meals. Eat earlier in the day and eat more often. That way you don’t end up uncomfortable in bed while your dinner digests.
- Steer clear of heartburn-inducing foods. Heartburn can be persistent, keeping people up for hours. Pregnancy makes it worse. If you are dealing with this pesky problem, avoid eating things that can trigger heartburn before bed. Chocolate is a common culprit. As are greasy and spicy foods.
- Squeeze some light exercise into your day. Don’t plan any workouts within 4 hours of your bedtime. But getting at least 30 minutes a day of light exercise like walking or swimming can help you sleep better at night.
- Take shorter naps. If you are taking naps during the day, try to set some boundaries to protect your nighttime sleep. Keep them short. A half-hour nap is perfect for a quick recharge that doesn’t dip into your nighttime sleep.
- Try a warm bath or massage. Self-care practices like taking a warm bath or enjoying a massage can help your body and your mind let go of stress and relax. It is important to set some time aside for yourself each week, or as needed, to refill your power banks. As the saying goes, you can’t pour into others’ cups if your cup is empty.
- Try prenatal yoga. Another form of self-care, prenatal yoga is geared specifically toward helping expecting mothers feel good. It can be a safe way to stretch and warm up sore joints and muscles. And it can be an outlet for any pent-up energy.
- Talk with a friend or professional. Sometimes the best remedy for whatever is keeping you up at night is to tell someone else about it. Somehow this seems to release its power. If you have a family member or friend you feel safe sharing with then why not give it a try? You may be shocked at how much better you feel just by sharing. And if you don’t have a person who pops into your mind, you can always consider speaking with a professional. A sleep doctor or therapist may be able to help you get through your pregnancy while successfully managing your insomnia.
- Get frisky with your significant other. Sex can have all kinds of positive benefits. They include lower blood pressure, better mood, and better sleep. Having sex produces lots of feel-good hormones like oxytocin and prolactin. These cause feelings of pleasantness and relaxation. And there is evidence that shows cortisol levels also drop. This hormone is associated with stress. These changes happening in your body at the same time may cause drowsiness and make it easier to fall asleep. Just talk with your doctor to make sure it is safe to have sex while pregnant. While it usually is, there are some instances when it might not be a good idea.
- Gently stretch before bed. Sometimes body cramps can disrupt sleep. If you experience cramps while you are sleeping, you can try to help it by gently stretching your legs out before bed. You don’t want to pump your blood enough to start producing endorphins that will keep you awake. Take it easy and breathe in big breaths to help your body relax.
- Maintain a positive sleep environment. Having the right ambiance in whatever space you sleep in is crucial to having good sleep. Keep your sleep space dark and cool at night. And aim to keep your space quiet. If you have a hard time falling asleep in silence, you can always use a sound machine to play ambient white noise or ocean waves in the background.
- Have a bedtime routine that you stick to. Some people like to read before bed. Others like to stretch. As long as you are practicing good sleep habits like the ones on this list, it doesn’t really matter exactly what you do. It just matters that you do it consistently. A simple routine like brushing your teeth, stretching, reading a bit, and getting into bed can work perfectly.
- Sleep on your left side for comfort. This position is comfortable for many people as it may help to ease backaches and heartburn. Sleeping on your left side helps to improve circulation and can also reduce swelling.
- Get a pregnancy pillow. Even if you don’t invest in a special pillow, you can arrange spare ones you have around the house to create extra support in places like your knees, hips, and back.
- Consider a sleep supplement. This is a tricky option for pregnant women as so many medicines and supplements can be harmful to our babies. Some women try things like Benadryl as it has antihistamines which can cause drowsiness. Others take supplements like melatonin or CBD. There is very limited research surrounding CBD and pregnancy. Evidence shows that CBD may be able to help people fall asleep. But the data surrounding whether or not CBD is safe during pregnancy is lacking. You should always talk with your doctor before starting a new supplement.
Get the Sleep You Need
If you feel like you have gone through this list and still aren’t getting results, it may be time for you to seek the help of a doctor. Insomnia can be caused by many different things. There might be underlying reasons as to why sleep is eluding you.
For example, you may be suffering from restless legs syndrome. In this case, you might need to take an additional iron supplement among other treatment options. You may have another sleep condition like sleep apnea. A doctor may recommend something like a sleep mask that helps to keep airways open and lets you breathe easier at night. Or, perhaps your doctor may prescribe a heartburn medication to help conditions like acid reflux that may lead to insomnia.
Because insomnia can be caused by so many factors, it makes it difficult to figure out the best treatment plan on your own. Don’t wait to get help if you need it.
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