Pregnant, exhausted and wide awake all night long? Gynaecologist Dr Amer-Wahlin comes to the rescue!
By Dr Amer-Wahlin
From the first few weeks to the final trimester, if you can’t get to sleep at any point during pregnancy, exhaustion can quickly start to take its toll. As your pregnancy develops you might be mindful of the fact you need to catch up on sleep before the little one arrives, and nothing makes sleep harder to achieve than worrying about not getting enough sleep! Never mind the physical demands of growing a human being.
If you’re exhausted and can’t seem to switch off, rest assured you are not alone. Sleep problems during pregnancy are extremely common, for a number of reasons. The good news is just a few simple lifestyle changes can put you on the road to a more restful night’s sleep.
Dr Amer-Wahlin, Obstetrics and Gynaecology Consultant at Bonzun’s My Pregnancy applooks at the common causes and offers her expert tips so you can get some much needed shut-eye:
Is pregnancy insomnia normal?
Sleep problems during pregnancy are extremely common, especially towards the later stages of pregnancy when physical discomforts become more numerous and the baby grows larger. However, it is important to note that insomnia can occur at any time during the pregnancy, and can be caused by both physical and mental discomfort.
What causes pregnancy insomnia?
The causes of insomnia during pregnancy can be physical, as well as mental. For example, the mother-to-be may be worrying about the pregnancy and the baby, or the birthitself, as that time draws nearer.
The causes of insomnia during pregnancy can be physical, as well as mental.
She could also be worrying about the fact that she isn’t sleeping as much as she should be, which in itself could keep her awake at night.
Physical causes for insomnia are usually linked to general pregnancy discomforts and side-effects, such as the need to urinate more often than usual, heartburn, restless leg syndrome, backache, snoring, or the inability to find a comfortable position to sleep in.
Herbal sleep supplements and pregnancy
It is essential that the mother-to-be tries to get plenty of sleep and is well rested throughout her pregnancy, especially as the birth approaches, as she will need all of her strength during labour. However, some herbal supplements can be used during pregnancy, but not without consulting your doctor first.
There are a number of lifestyle changes that a pregnant woman can make in order to beat insomnia, which I’d recommend trying.
Common suggestions include:
- Maintaining an exercise regime and a healthy and balanced diet.
- Developing a sleep routine.
- Investing in a pregnancy pillow.
- Doing some breathing exercises to relax before sleep.
Lastly, it is important to keep your bedroom dark and cool, and to limit the amount of screen time you have before bed, as the blue light from electronic devices has been proven to disrupt sleep.
Is it safe to take sleeping pills?
The majority of sleeping pills are not safe to take during pregnancy, so I would advise against taking anything without consulting your doctor first.
Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?
Mothers-to-be should try and be as active and fit as they can throughout their pregnancy – being fit equips women to better handle the labour process, and makes reintegrating exercise after birth easier.
Women should adapt their exercise regime to their pregnancy – they shouldn’t exhaust themselves.
However, women should adapt their exercise regime to their pregnancy – they shouldn’t exhaust themselves, and should be able to hold a conversation while exercising. If a pregnant woman is running out of breath while exercising, she needs to slow down.
Exercising to feel more tired is a good idea so long as the mother-to-be isn’t exhausted, so 30 minutes of exercise a day is a great place to start. I would also suggest exercising earlier on in the day, or at least four hours before your bedtime, as exercising just before sleep can leave you feeling even more awake.
Yoga is a great workout to incorporate into your pregnancy exercise regime, as it isn’t too strenuous, and many yoga routines include meditation, which can help you to feel more relaxed before going to sleep.
Can diet impact pregnancy insomnia?
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is important throughout pregnancy, for both the baby’s and the mother’s overall health. Diet can also have a positive effect on insomnia during pregnancy.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is important throughout pregnancy, for both baby and mother.
For example, while it is important that the mother-to-be drinks plenty of water throughout the day, I would suggest reducing the water intake after 7pm – that way, you may not need to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
I would also suggest eating a healthy, balanced dinner at a reasonable time (a few hours before bedtime), as this can reduce heartburn and acid reflux. That said, it is worth having a few healthy snacks to hand, just in case you feel hungry before bedtime – a snack that is high in protein will help your blood sugar level, while a glass of warm milk or chamomile tea may make you feel sleepier.
Lastly, while it is already necessary to cut down your caffeine intake to two cups of coffee a day for the duration of the pregnancy, mothers-to-be who are struggling with sleeping problems should reduce their caffeine even further, especially after midday.
Insomnia throughout the trimesters
Sleeping problems can occur at any point during pregnancy, but are more common as the pregnancy progresses and the baby grows, making it more difficult to get comfortable. Most mothers-to-be who experience sleeping difficulties will most often do so in the second and third trimesters.
How to beat pregnancy insomnia
Wide awake all night long? Sleepless nights can take their toll and mums-to-be need to be well rested. If you’re battling with insomnia, here’s how to cope:
- Establish a routine
In addition to exercising and eating well, it is important that mothers-to-be establish a routine that they stick to – going to bed and getting up at the same time every day is especially important.
- Practise good sleep hygiene
Similarly, making sure that the sleeping environment is free of distractions is very important – make sure that your bedroom is cool and that there aren’t any screens to distract you before you go to sleep.
- Comfort is key
Being comfortable when you go to sleep is also important, so try taking a shower before you sleep, read a book, ask your partner to give you a foot rub or purchase a pregnancy pillow, which can make being in bed more comfortable, especially as the baby grows.