There is nothing like the excitement of pregnancy. There is so much to do and prepare for, but many women do not realize how much their pregnancy can impact their sleep.
Insomnia during pregnancy is a very real problem, and it is only made worse by the reminder of those sleepless nights to come when the baby finally arrives. Now is when you need your sleep, but unfortunately, pregnancy insomnia can make that incredibly difficult.
Every family prepares for their new bundle of joy differently, but when you are pregnant, you need your rest more than ever. At the Slumber Yard, we take your sleep seriously, and we’re here to help.
If you are one of the many expecting moms who are suffering from pregnancy insomnia, here are some tips to help you catch the sleep that you and your baby so desperately need as you prepare for your new life together.
Insomnia During Pregnancy
The early days of your pregnancy may be marked by long, luxurious naps and sound nights of deep sleep. However, for many women, this begins to change as the pregnancy progresses, making it harder and harder to find sleep when you need it most.
Simply put, insomnia is marked by the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep or go back to sleep. According to the American Pregnancy Association, insomnia affects an overwhelming 78% of pregnant women. This is because pregnancy increases the hormone progesterone, pushing it past normal levels in your first trimester to accommodate the extra demands on your body. This can make you sleepy throughout the day and interfere with your sleep schedule, making it harder to find rest.
During pregnancy, insomnia can be caused by any number of troubles. As your body grows to accommodate the baby, you may have some difficulty adjusting to your new size, especially when it comes time to sleep. It is also common for pregnant women to experience pain and swelling from the increased pressure on your body.
Back pain is a leading symptom for pregnant women. Breathing problems are also common, but this is more prevalent towards the end of the second semester and the beginning of the third.
Other causes can include:
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Frequent bathroom use
- Tender breasts
- Stomach pains
- Leg cramps or Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep apnea
- Vivid dreams and nightmares
There are also significant hormonal changes that are occurring within the body at this time, as your body supports not just one system, but two.
Lack of sleep has been proven to promote a longer labor, and may even require a C-section delivery in some cases. When untreated, sleep apnea can also complicate your pregnancy and cause issues such as high blood pressure, in addition to lasting sleep problems. This is why it’s important to receive the quality sleep you deserve (and require) during pregnancy.
Adjusting to life after pregnancy is far from easy, and it affects your sleep, too.
“I often refer to the perinatal period, or the time immediately before and after birth, as a perfect storm for insomnia,” writes Dr. Leslie M. Swanson, Ph.D., for Michigan Health. “Stress and life changes, positive or negative, are the biggest triggers for insomnia. So the arrival of a new baby, even under the best of circumstances, is a likely trigger.”
These are not the only reasons why your sleep can be affected after your baby’s arrival. After birth, the body experiences an abrupt and significant decrease in reproductive hormones, in turn impacting your body’s natural clock.
This can lead to postpartum depression (PPD), which affects between 7% and 20% of women within the first four weeks after delivery.
Symptoms of PPD are serious and can be quite severe, including:
- Changes in appetite
- Inability to concentrate
- Psychomotor disturbance
These symptoms can also be accompanied by feelings of worthlessness, guilt and in the worst cases, suicide.
Even with all of this going on, studies still show new moms continue to put their babies first. Dr. Swanson explains that there is “a shift for the brain to be more alert to listen for the baby,” fueling chronic sleeplessness, or insomnia.
Many new parents experience long days and even longer nights of tending to their baby’s irregular sleep patterns, so you aren’t alone. However, it can wreak havoc on any established sleep patterns you may have enjoyed in your pre-baby life. Babies are known for their random sleep schedules, which means that as a parent, your sleep will be random, too. Below, you can learn tips on how to get better sleep, pre and post-pregnancy.
Tips For Better Sleep Health
Insomnia affects new moms of all kinds, whether you are currently pregnant or have already given birth and are stumbling through the troubles of postpartum depression. The demands of a newborn along with the physiological changes in your body can mean that you spend more time tossing and turning than you do counting sheep.
Thankfully, there are many ways to help you sleep better at night. While you should always consult a doctor for your personal care, these are some methods that have helped many women like yourself who have experienced insomnia with pregnancy.
Sleep Tips During Pregnancy
- Limit fluids before bedtime.
In the hours before bed, try to avoid eating and drinking. This will not only help your system settle for rest, but it can also help limit the number of trips to the bathroom throughout the night.
- Take iron and/or folic acid.
Some women experience restless leg syndrome throughout their pregnancy, which can be a result of folic acid or iron deficiencies. Ask your medical provider about whether supplements could help you sleep better.
- Stay active.
Engaging in physical activities can lower your chances of gestational diabetes. Maintaining an active lifestyle can help you avoid common ailments like back pain and heart problems. Prenatal yoga has been shown to improve sleep and reduce many of the symptoms associated with insomnia and PPD.
- Research melatonin.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body. It has emerged as a popular sleep aid, but its effects on pregnant women still require further study. Ultimately, you should talk to your doctor before taking any medications, supplements or treatments to ensure it is safe for your body.
- Curl up on the right mattress.
It is hard to find sleep when you are constantly shifting on a lumpy, bumpy or threadbare mattress. Choosing the right mattress can be an important part of beating insomnia during pregnancy, especially because your sleeping patterns change as your body grows.
- Invest in extra pillows.
Don’t forget about new pillows when you buy your new pregnancy mattress. Your pregnancy will require you to begin sleeping on your side, and extra pillows can provide the additional cushion and support you need to rest without disruption.
Postnatal Sleep Tips
In the hustle and bustle of life after pregnancy, do not forget to take care of yourself. These are some ways to improve your sleep after giving birth.
- Breastfeed at night.
A study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that breastfeeding at night can actually help you sleep better. Those women who breastfed received an average of 30 minutes of sleep more than women who used formula. Although more research continues, the study concludes that “New mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed exclusively since breastfeeding may promote sleep during postpartum recovery.”
- Spend more time outside.
Spending your days outside can have more health benefits than you think. The Vitamin D will brighten your mood and lighten your days, while also serving to reset your inner clock to reinforce a more regular sleep schedule.
- Ask for help.
With everything on your plate, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, so don’t forget to use your support system. Enlist friends and family to help you and your spouse so that you can give your body the time and rest that it needs to recover from the traumatic event of pregnancy.
- Keep the lights low at night.
When you awaken during the night for bathroom breaks or to tend to the baby, use low lighting. By keeping the lights dim, you can accomplish what you need to do without fully awakening your body from the overstimulation of bright lights.
- Maintain consistent bedtimes and wake-up times.
As you help your baby find a regular sleep schedule, it’s important that you don’t forget about yourself. New parents can also benefit from a regular sleep schedule, which will give them more energy during the day and help new moms recover faster.
- Don’t force sleep.
Sometimes, tossing and turning at night will only cause greater agitation, pushing sleep farther and farther away. If you cannot fall asleep, go to another room and unwind with a relaxing activity such as reading, journaling or drawing until you are ready to return to bed. Be sure to keep the lights dim, so you reinforce a relaxing, restful environment that is more conducive to sleep.
- Prepare for nighttime feedings.
You can take some of the stress of your nighttime feedings by developing a routine that requires as little fuss as possible. Make sure there’s an easy path to the baby with everything you will need ready closeby, such as diapers, bottles and baby wipes. If you automate the process, it causes far still disruption and can make it easier to return to sleep.
- Avoid Google.
As a new parent, it is normal to worry about every little thing, and the internet stands waiting, ready to answer all of your questions with sometimes dramatic and horrifying results. Instead of hitting the web for potentially incorrect information, turn to a parent or friend with children who can calm your worries and assuage your fears. Your sleep will thank you.
Adding a new member to your family is an exciting, albeit stressful, time for your household, so it’s only natural for your sleep to be affected. There is much to prepare, and nighttime hours can become plagued with growing anxieties and worries about the impending arrival of your new child. Sometimes, the harder you try to sleep, the more sleep eludes you, and as the sleepless nights add up, you could begin to experience impacts on your health.
If you are one of the many, many women experiencing insomnia from pregnancy or postpartum depression, you can sleep better with just a few adjustments to your daily routine. This includes fostering a more relaxing environment with low lighting, extra pillows, and a new mattress specifically designed to cushion your growing body.