You are currently viewing Insomnia In Pregnancy

Insomnia In Pregnancy

In my last article, I wrote about those long and awful sleepless nights caused by insomnia. While there are many types of home and traditional remedies to help you relax at night, the best way to resolve insomnia is by treating or addressing the underlying factors.

Chronic insomnia is usually a symptom of a condition, such as depression, heart disease, lung disease, hot flashes, diabetes, pain or sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea or restless legs syndrome. It can also be an indicator of problems in your life, such as stress, work worries and relationship issues. Women can also suffer insomnia related to another condition: pregnancy. During these nine months, there are many afflictions, small and large, that can interfere with your nightly slumber. While pregnancy is obviously not a condition that can be “treated” to cure the insomnia, there are still ways to remedy the sleeplessness, depending on what is causing it.

Awake in the first trimester

During pregnancy, you suddenly find yourself experiencing all sorts of conditions that can keep you up at night. Your bladder becomes as weak as an old lady’s, you turn into a hormonal, anxious creature, and you get aches and pains everywhere. Much of the insomnia experienced during pregnancy is due to hormone changes. During the first trimester, a woman tends to feel much more tired, partly due to increased levels of progesterone. This hormone acts as a natural sedative, so she may take naps during the day or fall asleep while watching TV or reading a book, which disrupts her normal sleep patterns.

When she is unable to sleep at night, she will feel exhausted in the morning, and is even more likely to take daytime naps. So even if it is tempting to just doze off on the couch, try to avoid taking overly long naps. Have a brief shut-eye to refresh yourself, then try to energise yourself with other activities, like taking a walk or doing household chores. Frequent trips to the toilet are also common during the first trimester, and these will invariably disturb sleep at night. There is little that you can do about this, as the uterus is pressing against the bladder. However, it should get better by the second trimester because the uterus will grow out of the pelvis area and reduce the pressure against the bladder.

During this period, a woman may also be more anxious and worried about things, such as her health, the fate of the pregnancy, and future plans for the family. These concerns can keep her up at night, her mind busily thinking about a million things even if she is physically tired. However, worrying endlessly about these problems will not solve anything. A woman will find it more beneficial to talk about these issues with her spouse, family or friends – and she will sleep easier at night.

Second trimester slumber

Fortunately, the second trimester of pregnancy is usually considered the ‘honeymoon period’. Any morning sickness would have passed by now and the woman would be emotionally more stable. Furthermore, she won’t be experiencing severe body aches yet, as her stomach has not grown that big. These three months are a good time to truly appreciate a good night’s sleep, as the final months leading up to delivery will find the mother lying awake at night again.

Third trimester tricks

You’re probably lamenting the fact that the baby isn’t even born yet and you’re already suffering sleepless nights. In a way, this will prepare you for the long nights ahead when the baby wakes you up every few hours, crying for milk. These sleepless nights are not truly caused by insomnia, but more accurately by sleep disturbances. You may want to sleep, or even have fallen asleep, but keep waking up at night to go to the toilet or because you’re feeling uncomfortable.

Although the second trimester was less taxing on your bladder, the pressure will return in the third trimester because the growing uterus will begin to push against the bladder again. Soon, the mother-to-be will feel as if she has barely slept five minutes before waking up again to go to the toilet. As the stomach gets bigger, she will also find it hard to get comfortable in bed. She may have to constantly readjust her position and prop herself up with pillows. Rolling over will also prove to be quite a challenge!

Women who usually sleep on their backs or stomachs will find this period especially difficult, as these positions are not good for the baby. They will have to get used to sleeping on their sides, but they can use pillows under their knees or stomachs to provide support, or get a special body pillow (similar to a very long bolster).

Heartburn can also keep you up at night. To minimise the effects of heartburn, try not to eat big meals but, instead, several small meals throughout the day. Make sure your last meal is at least three hours before bedtime. You should be drinking plenty of water and fluids, but don’t drink too much fluids at mealtime, as it will distend your stomach even more. Drink some of your fluids in between meals to allow your stomach to rest.

Sleep tips

To be honest, there isn’t much that you can do to return to your normal sleeping pattern before you become pregnant…short of turning back time! You will just have to wait for these nine months to be over – but you have to prepare yourself that things may be just as challenging with a new baby around! However, here are some tips to help you feel more relaxed and reduce sleep disturbances.

Try not to drink as much fluids close to bedtime, so as to reduce your trips to the toilet at night. If you are prone to heartburn, avoid eating spicy, acidic or fried foods as these can promote the burning sensation at night. Light exercise during pregnancy is good to help keep you energised and flexible – however, do not exercise late in the day or at night, because the adrenaline released by exercise can keep you up.

Do whatever is necessary to provide your body with the support it needs so that body aches don’t keep you up at night. Some women have pillows all over their bed because they may need one for their back, one for their legs and one for their stomach. Finally, find a relaxing routine for yourself. Wind down with soothing and comforting activities close to bedtime so that you are able to relax your body and mind. You may want to have a glass of warm milk or chamomile tea, listen to soft, slow music, take a warm shower, get a light shoulder massage or do some pelvic rocking.

If you are truly suffering from insomnia, and not just occasional sleep disturbances, talk to your doctor about it as you do not want lack of sleep and fatigue to cause any harm to you and your unborn baby.

The Star Newspaper, Mar 11, 2010
By Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar