Causes and Solutions for Pregnancy Insomnia

Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Restless pregnant woman in bed

Insomnia can strike at any time during pregnancy. From new anxieties to your growing belly, getting sleep may become more difficult the further along you get.

Why Insomnia Happens

Insomnia impacts the majority of pregnant women throughout all trimesters of pregnancy. In fact, about 64 percent of women report insomnia by the third trimester.

First Trimester

In the first trimester, progesterone levels skyrocket. Progesterone is known for causing a sleepy effect which can impact your sleep habits. For some women, this rapid shift in hormones can make you feel very sleepy yet unable to get enough sleep that feels satisfying. Frequent urination, general fatigue, nausea and vomiting also tend to plague women during the first trimester and can negatively impact sleep.

Second and Third Trimesters

During the second and third trimesters, your growing belly may begin to impact your comfort level during sleep. A once comfortable sleeping position may now feel out of reach. On top of that, your hormones continue to change, impacting your mood, energy level and general comfort.

You may also be experiencing round ligament pain, back pain, restless leg syndrome, headaches, heartburn, nausea and frequent urination. All of these symptoms can impact your overall quality of sleep. The lowest quality of sleep has been reported to be around the third trimester when you may experience multiple symptoms on top of anxiety about labor, delivery and becoming a parent.

Dealing With Insomnia While Pregnant

There are many ways to deal with insomnia. Give several options a try to figure out which techniques work best for your individual needs.

Sleep Routine

Pregnant woman practicing yoga

Getting into a relaxing and consistent bedtime routine can make a huge difference when it comes to getting a good night of sleep. You may want to take a relaxing bath, read a book, light some scented candles, and dim the lights in your bedroom.

Prenatal Massage

If your back is bothering you or you're just feeling a bit more tense, you may want to consider getting a massage from someone who specializes in working with pregnant women. These massages are similar to regular ones but use pregnancy safe products, focus on pregnancy specific aches and pains, and may utilize a unique massage table that accommodates your growing bump.

Stretching and Exercising

A good walk or stretch can be very relaxing for some pregnant women. It can be a way to unwind, process your day and release the tension built up in your back or legs from carrying around some extra weight. Be sure to check with your doctor before engaging in any sort of exercise, and if you're taking a class, be sure to let the instructor know that you are pregnant.

Natural Strategies

Natural sleep strategies, such as reducing caffeine, increasing your water intake and eating a healthy diet, can make getting a good night's sleep a bit easier. Note which foods and drinks tend to perk you up during the day and try to avoid them in the afternoons and evenings.

Bedroom Atmosphere

Create a relaxing bedroom environment by diffusing pregnancy safe essential oils, lighting candles, getting super soft sheets and utilizing a pregnancy pillow. Pregnancy pillows are specifically designed to help you position yourself comfortably in bed so you can get some rest.

Helpful Medications

If you have tried several natural sleep strategies and still aren't having any luck falling or staying asleep, you may want to speak with your doctor about some pregnancy safe medications. Depending on how severe your insomnia is, your doctor may prescribe a sleep medication or recommend an over-the-counter option.

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal yoga can be relaxing, soothing and restorative for pregnant women. If you tend to feel relaxed after exercising or stretching, you may want to try taking a prenatal class at night as part of your bedtime routine.

Talk to Your Doctor

Your doctor is there to support you throughout your pregnancy. If you ever have any concerns, there is no harm in giving their office a quick call and explaining your symptoms. They may have you come in for a check up, refer you to a specialist, or reassure you that what you are experiencing is normal.

When you do speak with your doctor or the in-office nurse, be sure to tell them exactly what's been going on without under-representing your symptoms. If your lack of sleep is causing enough distress that it is negatively impacting your happiness and overall health, be sure to call your doctor.

A Good Night's Sleep

Insomnia is a challenging aspect of pregnancy that almost all pregnant women experience at some point. Pay close attention to your symptoms, seek medical help when necessary and take extra good care of yourself and your growing baby.

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