Many of the physical and hormonal changes a pregnant woman goes through can contribute to poor sleeping patterns and insomnia. In the third trimester, it can be particularly bad. Sometimes this is due to sheer discomfort, and sometimes due to issues such as Restless Leg Syndrome which can be prompted by hormonal changes.1 Having been through both (severe carpal tunnel syndrome disrupted my sleep in the last 2 months of my pregnancies) I sympathize with women going through that now.
Good sleep is important to physical and psychological sleep. Lack of sleep can be particularly frustrating for a pregnant woman who is anticipating several future months of night-waking with a baby, and just wants to get some hours in her sleep bank, but can’t. What can she do?
Search out the causes
For some, it might be obvious. Pain, for instance, or discomfort. But in other cases it might be a little harder to pinpoint. Maybe some caffeine has snuck into the woman’s diet without being to obvious. It could be medications (like antihistamines, heart medications, some pain med combinations). There could be an undiagnosed medical disorder. It also could be learned habits that contribute to the problem or even eating a little too much in the evening.2 If a cause can be determined, and corrected, go for it.
Create good sleep habits
Recommendations from the Mayo Clinic are heavy on habits and regularity to help relieve insomnia. Some suggestions from their site include keeping to a regular sleep schedule, reserving the bed for sleep related activities only, avoiding naps and the habit of lounging in bed (if you want to lounge, lounge on the couch!), and of course, avoiding stimulants and exercising regularly.
While it may seem strange, hiding clocks to avoid obsessing over the time is also recommended. The idea being that if you don’t know what time it is or how long you’ve been awake, you’ll have a harder time worrying about it.3
Try some (safe) home remedies
Before taking anything, be sure to check with your doctor or midwife regarding its safety for you and your baby.
Caution should be used with anything you may ingest. If you are looking for natural or homeopathic remedies, make sure you seek out someone qualified to give you information on dosage and safety. For some women, careful use of aromatherapy (especially lavender) or sleeping on a hops-filled pillow may help.4
Calm it down
Although there are many causes for insomnia, some that can be fixed and some that can’t, the one thing that never hurts is to deliberately take the pace of life down a notch. Making space in your life for enjoyable exercise, relaxation, stress-relief, and your chosen insomnia therapies is a very important aspect of insomnia relief. Give yourself a break.
Ultimately, it may or may not be possible to cure pregnancy related insomnia or even treat it well, depending on the root causes. But if it is related to pregnancy discomforts and hormonal changes, the hope is that these will mostly be relieved after birth. If it is necessary to “grin and bear it” through pregnancy, developing and maintaining healthy sleep habits will give you a head start on regaining lost sleep once the discomforts have diminished and the hormones have subsided somewhat.
1Insomnia During Pregnancy, Sleepdex.org
2Insomnia: Causes, Mayoclinic.com
3Insomnia: Lifestyle and Home Remedies, Mayoclinic.com
4Insomnia (natural remedies), Babycentre.co.uk