Insomnia often occurs during pregnancy because your body is going through many changes that can disrupt sleep.
- To get better sleep during your pregnancy, you can establish a calming sleep routine, get some light exercise each day, and try a few relaxation techniques.
- While occasional sleep troubles during pregnancy aren't likely to harm you or your baby, you should talk with your doctor if you consistently experience the symptoms of insomnia throughout each trimester.
Insomnia and sleep deprivation can be one of the most frustrating aspects of pregnancy.
Expecting mothers experience many symptoms during pregnancy — from nausea and nasal congestion to increased urination and anxiety — and all of these can cause trouble sleeping.
Thankfully, there are ways to improve your sleep habits, even when you feel like the odds are against you. Here's what you need to know about insomnia during pregnancy.
What causes insomnia during pregnancy?
Insomnia can occur at any time during pregnancy, but it's most common in the third trimester.
A 2017 study in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology found that more than 60% of pregnant women experienced third-semester insomnia.
"For some women it may increase in the third trimester as it becomes more difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep and there is increased anticipation about the baby's arrival," says Danielle J. Johnson, MD, FAPA, Chief Medical Officer at the Lindner Center of HOPE.
The major causes of insomnia during pregnancy include:
- Restless legs
- Abdominal or back pain
- Discomfort caused by gestation (growing a baby in the womb)
- Frequent urination
- Hormonal changes
- Nausea or vomiting
- Respiratory changes, which can cause nasal congestion or nose bleeds
- Psychological factors like stress or anxiety
Pregnancy is an immense time of change for your body, both physically and mentally. Your hormones fluctuate, your habits shift, and you're expected to make many stressful decisions — from your birth plan to your parenting preferences.
As you adjust, it's natural to have some trouble sleeping when you're pregnant. However, a routine lack of sleep can put pregnant women at a higher risk of developing potentially harmful conditions, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
Moreover, a 2015 article published in Obstetric Medicine also found that consistent sleeping troubles in pregnancy can lead to depressive symptoms, increased pain during labor, preterm birth, or low birth weight.
How to get better sleep during pregnancy
We all need sleep, but it's even more critical for expecting mothers and new parents. Thankfully, there are ways to improve your sleep habits during pregnancy.
According to Johnson, here are four of the best recommendations for avoiding insomnia and improving your sleep while pregnant:
Establish a sleep routine
First, it's important to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, Johnson says, and make sure you're sleeping in a dark, quiet room with a comfortable temperature.
And even though you're likely feeling a lot of discomfort throughout pregnancy, it's still possible to still find a comfortable position in bed.
Pregnant women should try and sleep on their sides for optimal comfort.
You should also remove all electronics from the bedroom, including TVs, smartphones, and tablets, and only use your bedroom for sleeping or sex, says Johnson.
Implement exercise into your day
Regular physical activity can improve quality of sleep and also reduce anxiety or depression.
When pregnant, you should get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. For example, you can go for walks, practice yoga, or try a dance class.
"If you exercised before pregnancy, it is okay to continue the same exercise," says Johnson. However, you should discuss your exercise regimen with your physician to ensure you're maintaining safe habits.
Find ways to relax
"Pregnant women and new mothers often worry about their health, their baby's health, if they will be a good mother, and how their family will change," says Johnson, adding that this anxiety can keep you lying awake at night.
If you're feeling anxious or worried, it's important to find the relaxation techniques that work best for you. Johnson says it can be helpful to practice deep breathing, try meditating, read, or take a bath — either right before bed or if you wake up in the middle of the night.
Address your mental health needs
However, if you're experiencing anxiety or depression during your pregnancy, you should speak to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Psychotherapy and hypnotherapy can help relieve symptoms, says Johnson, and a therapist can teach pregnant women or new moms coping skills or tools to reduce their stress.
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