While you readily prepare yourself for the potential sleepless nights ahead, what most mums-to-be aren’t anticipating is experiencing pregnancy insomnia and sleep deprivation before your little one even enters the world.
Is it normal?
Research has found that nearly 80%* pregnant women suffer some form of insomnia at some point during their pregnancy. Experts believe that this is mainly due to hormonal changes, however, common symptoms such as heartburn, those midnight bathroom trips and general discomfort all play a role.
Unfortunately, pregnancy insomnia can hit hardest during the third trimester when expectant mums have the addition pre-baby and birth jitters, which can contribute to making it harder to switch off at bedtime. Pregnancy insomnia doesn’t just mean you lay awake all night waiting to fall asleep, it can also result in disrupted sleep where you often wake during the night or struggle to return to a deep sleep
*Eileen Sloan, a psychiatrist at the Toronto Sleep Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital. Secondary research Tiina Paunio of Helsinki University Hospital in Finland.
Here are some tips to help you combat pregnancy insomnia:
1. Set a routine
While it is recommended that babies get into a consistent routine within their first few months, these tricks can also be beneficial to expectant mums. Simple steps like having a consistent bedtime, creating a relaxing environment in the bedroom and limiting screen time an hour before bed can help you drift off.
2. Food and sleep
It is recommended that anyone avoids eating three hours before sleeping, and this is particularly important for pregnant mums who may be suffering from heartburn or indigestion. By allowing yourself plenty of time to digest your food it will ensure you’re much more comfortable when lying down.
In particular, caffeine, fizzy drinks, spicy food and chocolate should be avoided before bed.
3. De-stress and relax
It may sound easier said than done but worrying about lack of sleep can be counterproductive making it harder to drift off. Breathing, relaxation techniques such as meditation and apps that offer relaxation exercises and music can all create positive experiences to practice before bedtime to help you get a more restful night’s sleep.
Gentle activities such as yoga, swimming or pilates could also help as exercise is proven to release endorphins which help to change moods and emotions. It also boosts energy levels during the day, which in turn can help you to sleep at night.
4. Create a restful bedroom environment
Try not to spend too much time lying in bed at night unless you are planning to go straight to sleep and do not view electronics such as your phone, tablet or TV whilst in bed as this will stimulate your brain and keep your awake for longer.
5. Find the best sleeping position
Having trouble sleeping when pregnant is also caused by the physical changes taking place within your body. As your baby and bump grow finding the right position to sleep in becomes increasingly difficult. A pregnancy pillow can really help particularly in the later stages and will provide support for both your bump and back. To find out more about the best, and safest, sleeping positions for each trimester click here.
What happens if you wake up?
During the night you’ll inevitably wake for toilet breaks or finding a more comfortable position, but the problems start when you can’t drift off back to sleep. If you’re awake longer than 20 minutes, try getting out of bed and reading a few pages of a book or try some meditation before returning to bed.
Sleep and mental health are proven to have a direct link so if you’re continuously struggling with little or disrupted sleep it is recommended that you speak to your midwife or GP to ensure you’re looking after yourself while growing your little one.
The good news is, although insomnia can be difficult to deal with during your pregnancy, it doesn’t harm your baby who is happily resting during its nine months of growing.
Learn how sleep changes during each trimester here