How can I cope with insomnia during pregnancy?

While insomnia is little understood by medical science, it is fairly common among pregnant women, especially in the second and third trimesters when the growth of the belly can cause discomfort in the back. Sleeping on your side may help with back discomfort. Snoring is also more common among pregnant women. Tips include using a full-body pillow and staying on a regular sleep schedule. If you wake up, do something productive and focused like paying your bills or reading a book.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
To make a sleep plan if you have insomnia during pregnancy, first ask yourself how much sleep you need every night. Most adults need between seven and nine hours each night. You may need more while you're pregnant. Next, figure out what time you need to get up every morning during the coming week. Then count backward to determine your bedtime.

Then, create a schedule that looks something like this:
  • Morning: Wake up and get up at the same time each morning.
  • Morning-afternoon: Get some exposure to sunlight or a bright light.
  • Afternoon: Exercise four to five hours before bed, even if it's just an afternoon walk.
  • Evening: Eat dinner at least two to three hours before your bedtime.
  • Late evening: Stop drinking anything 90 minutes before bed.
  • Night: Spend 30 to 45 minutes away from TV or computer screens quietly reading, soaking in the bathtub or practicing yoga and meditation right before bed.
Once you have determined your ideal times for dinner, pre-sleep relaxation, and bedtime, write down a schedule. You might even set alarms in your phone for each of these activities. It takes time to establish a new habit, and in the beginning you will need tools to keep you on track. Follow the schedule diligently for at least two weeks.
During week 15, many women start to experience varying degrees of insomnia. Leg cramps and the need to urinate are common and can interrupt your sleep. You may also feel anxious about your pregnancy and your baby's health. Fortunately, there are some ways to treat your pregnancy insomnia. Reading or listening to soothing music can help. Having a massage is another good way to relax your mind and body. Gently stretching the calf muscles can help prevent leg cramps. If heartburn at night is keeping you up, avoid spicy, greasy, or acidic foods. Many over the counter sleep aids can be helpful and most are safe in pregnancy -- check with your provider to see which one he/she recomends.
Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing

Insomnia during pregnancy may be classified as either difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, frequent awakening, or early wakefulness. Some 64- 94 percent of pregnant women admit to sleep interruptions at some time during their pregnancy. This is significant as sleep deprivation can impair your ability to function and interfere with your body's ability to recover from its daily stresses as well as effect your mood. Starting labor sleep deprived can lead to maternal exhaustion and a labor that doesn’t go well. Things that may help you cope with your difficulties sleeping include the following:

  1. Sleep in a darkened room.
  2. Dampen the sound in your room.
  3. Consider using white noise (fan, wave machine etc.)
  4. Make sure to have adequate blankets and pillows
  5. Increase your vitamin B intake through foods or a supplement
  6. Consider herbal remedies like Chamomile tea, valerian tincture or capsules, sleepy time tea, lemon balm tea, skullcap tincture or passionflower tea or tincture. Try a glass of warm milk before bed.
  7. Try hydrotherapy. A warm shower or soak in the tub before bed.
  8. Some people find hypnotherapy and or mediation helpful.
  9. Aromatherapy can also be used to aid in sleep. Scents like Lavender, Yling Ylang, and Geranium can be placed in a room diffuser or used in a warm bath.
  10. Having your partner massage your back, shoulders and feet will also aid in relaxation and wellbeing and help with sleep.
  11. Taking a nap during the day to maintain rest will also help, as you will be getting up frequently to go to the bathroom. I call this on the job training to get in practice to get up with the baby.
  12. Limiting fluids 2 hours before bed may help with the bathroom trips but remember to stay well hydrated during th4e day.
  13. Avoiding alcohol, caffeine and getting adequate nutrition will also help.

Discuss all of these measures and your concerns with your OB/GYN or midwife. If all of these measures fail they may discuss medication to help you break the insomnia cycle and turn your exhaustion around.

Toward the end of pregnancy, you may have trouble sleeping from the difficulty of finding a comfortable position, especially if you’ve always slept on your stomach. Exercising a few hours before you go to bed may help, as well as taking a warm bath. If shortness of breath or heartburn aggravate this situation, prop yourself up at night. If the fetus being active is keeping you awake, don’t drink caffeinated beverages after dinner.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.