Dealing with insomnia when pregnant
Most pregnant women know that once the baby arrives, their nights of unbroken sleep will end, well at least for a while. Yet, one of the downsides of being pregnant is disturbed nights – from the very beginning when those pesky hormones made you want to pee virtually every few minutes, to late in the third trimester, when your baby will have probably have a habit of kicking madly, just as you’re drifting off to sleep
But sometimes, when you’re pregnant, there’s no apparent reason for not being able to sleep – you just can’t seem to drift off. If this is you, then you could be suffering from insomnia.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder whereby the sufferer has habitual sleeplessness. Sufferers will often struggle getting to sleep, and, once they’ve managed it, they can’t stay asleep. It can happen without any other associated problems, or it can be the symptom of another condition.
Why is insomnia so common in pregnancy
Interrupted sleep is very common in pregnancy, and it could be for reasons as simple as excitement because you’re having a baby. Difficulty getting comfortable is another factor, especially in the later weeks. Pregnancy can cause you to have backache, carpal tunnel syndrome, and painful sinuses, all of which will contribute to keeping you awake.
Plus as you near full term, you may find yourself back needing to pee really frequently again because the ever-growing baby will start to push things out of place in your abdomen and you may find yourself waking in the night with a baby sitting on your semi-full bladder.
Will my sleeplessness affect the health of my baby?
One of the most important things to remember is that all your tossing and turning at night won’t cause any harm to your baby. The only way in which it could possibly be dangerous is if your exhaustion leads to you perhaps dozing off while driving or collapsing from exhaustion. This is why it’s important to address your insomnia and try to do something about it.
What can I do to combat insomnia?
It may go without saying, but to give yourself the best chance of getting to sleep you want to avoid having any stimulants before you go to sleep.
It’s a good idea to avoid caffeine completely when you’re pregnant, but if you’re struggling to get to sleep, you have all the more reason to avoid all items which contain the chemical, such as cola and energy drinks, tea, coffee, and chocolate.
Put your tablet/phone/laptop away and turn off the TV. While the technology of the 21st century is certainly wonderful, it’s a good idea to keep it out of the bedroom, especially if you’re having trouble sleeping. Concentrating on bright, glowing screens just before going to bed is not the way to prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep, as the light emitted from them can interfere with sleep and cause eye strain.
Researchers from the Lighting Research Center at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute (Troy, New York) and from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts) both found that light emitted from screens suppresses melatonin and, when such technology is used just before sleep, can disturb the body’s circadian rhythms which govern natural sleep patterns.
Instead, you could try reading a real (we mean paper) book or put on some relaxing music – maybe something instrumental. There are plenty of ‘chill out’ compilations you could download, but when playing them off your phone or iPad, take care not to examine the screen for too long.
If you do like to read before drifting off but your entire library consists of e-books, then there are apps that place a red filter across the screen to help soothe eyes.
Or simply taking a warm bath is always a nice idea for relaxation, especially if you make the light levels low.
Try not to get angry or frustrated with yourself if you are still having trouble nodding off. This will only make the situation worse because you can’t expect to properly relax if you feel stressed. Yes, we know this is easier said than done in the middle of the night when you’re desperate to sleep, but the more worked up you get, the longer you are likely to stay awake. And so on, and so on.
If you are lying in bed and starting to feel hopeless, then try getting up for 20 to 30 minutes and accomplish a small task or have a warm, caffeine-free drink.
Is my insomnia a sign of something more serious?
It is completely normal to feel tired during pregnancy and experience restless sleep. However, if your insomnia is persistent and you find yourself experiencing other symptoms, then it could be the sign of another underlying problem, such as depression or an anxiety disorder.
If you feel that your mood has declined and you’re struggling to cope with stress, displaying symptoms such as a low self-esteem, constant anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and a general feeling of hopelessness, then you should speak to your doctor or midwife about these emotions. Don’t worry, they will have heard it before and will be able to offer advice and support.