Most women will experience some sort of problems with sleep during their pregnancy. Whether you’re struggling to get to sleep, waking up in the early hours and worrying, or you just feel like you haven’t slept properly in weeks, pregnancy insomnia can be draining and frustrating.
In this article, we take a look at why you’re likely to experience insomnia when you’re pregnant and what steps you can take to get a better night’s sleep.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that can mean you have difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep through the night — or both. It can also cause you to wake up too early in the mornings, and struggle to fall asleep again, and you may feel like the sleep you do get isn’t good enough to help you feel refreshed.
Insomnia can have a big impact on your sleep. If you’re suffering from it, it can make you more irritable, less able to concentrate, lower your energy levels, affect your ability to work, and have some serious effects on your mental health.
Why is insomnia common during pregnancy?
Insomnia can affect you at any stage of pregnancy, but many women will start experiencing it more in their third trimester and towards the end of their pregnancy.
In some cases, it can be a result of hormonal changes in your body, but there are a number of other things that can cause insomnia:
- Vivid, stressful or disturbing dreams
- An active baby kicking or rolling
- Restless leg syndrome or leg cramps
- Heartburn, congestion, constipation, or morning sickness
- Frequent bathroom trips
- Difficulty getting comfortable as the baby grows
- Shortness of breath
- Back pain
Worries, stress and anxiety about the pregnancy, labour, or looking after a child can also keep you up at night.
What impact does insomnia have during pregnancy?
A few bad nights without much sleep aren’t going to have too much of an impact on you or your baby. However, there have been some links made between long-term sleep problems and diabetes, stress and depression. There is also thought to be a connection between insomnia and having longer labour or an increased chance of having a c-section.
If you’re experiencing insomnia and trouble with your sleep over a longer period, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor.
How to deal with insomnia during pregnancy
Whether you are tossing and turning all night or feeling exhausted in the mornings, there are plenty of things you can try that might help tackle insomnia.
Develop good sleep habits
A good bedtime routine is an important part of managing any type of insomnia, pregnancy or otherwise. Try to go to bed every night at the same time, and wake up in the mornings at the same time.
Start unwinding and getting ready for bed an hour or so before you want to go to sleep. Avoid watching television or looking at your phone — read a book or listen to music or a podcast instead. This will help you to relax and switch off so that it’s easier to fall asleep.
Write down your thoughts
If you find yourself staying up worrying about things then it might help to write out what you’re thinking about. Are you worried about the birth, or how your baby is doing? Do you have a long mental to-do list of everything you need to sort out before the baby arrives? Keep a notepad next to your bed so that any time a worry or concern pops into your head you can write it down.
You can then try to deal with the things you’ve written down the next day. If there aren’t any steps you can actively take to deal with your worries, try talking to someone about them to get a bit of perspective or help. This could be your partner, friends or family, or your doctor.
Make yourself comfortable
Ensure that your bedroom is a comfortable and restful environment. Keep it clear of clutter and make sure that it’s completely dark during the night. If you’re feeling too warm at night (it’s pretty common to feel super hot all the time when you’re pregnant), open the windows to keep the room cool and airy.
A pregnancy pillow can also be worth investing in as your baby grows. It can help you to find a comfortable position and ease pressure on your joints when you’re lying down.
Add a nightlight to your bathroom so that you don’t have to switch on any bright lights when you need to go in the night — this will make it easier to fall asleep again.
What and when you’re eating and drinking can also impact how you sleep. It’s important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated when you’re pregnant, but try to avoid drinking anything in the evenings after 7 pm. This will reduce the need to get up for the toilet during the night.
Make sure you’re eating healthy, balanced meals so that your body is getting everything it needs nutritionally and avoid foods that might cause harm to you and your baby. You’re more likely to experience heartburn during pregnancy, so eat your meals slowly and don’t eat too late so that your body has settled down by the time you go to bed.
Meditation and breathing exercises can be a useful way to control your thoughts so that you can drift off more easily. Try following a guided meditation when you’re lying in bed so that you can clear your mind and let go of any stress or worries.
Get out of bed
If you’re still wide awake after half an hour of trying to fall asleep, get up and do something.
Pick a small task like folding some washing or organising some paperwork that’s fairly boring and doesn’t require too much effort or attention. When you’re lying in bed unable to sleep you’re likely to just get more and more frustrated (and pregnancy hormones definitely won’t help with this either). By getting up and doing something you’ll probably tire yourself out some more and make it easier to sleep.
Insomnia during pregnancy is common and these tips should help you to manage it. But if you’re still struggling to sleep or feeling so exhausted that it’s impacting your day-to-day life, talk to your doctor or midwife about it.