One of the first signs of pregnancy is often an unshakable fatigue. And unfortunately, it’s not generally a symptom that gets better over time. “I’m tired as soon as I wake up”; “I want to nap all day”; “I just can’t get enough sleep.” I hear these phrases all the time from clients in all stages of pregnancy.
Insomnia is the inability to fall (or stay) asleep, and it affects close to 80% of pregnant people. Some experience it in one or both ways, and in pregnancy it is often caused by several factors like hormonal and metabolic changes (hello hot flashes and midnight snacks!), frequent urination, heartburn, nausea, restless legs, back pain, leg cramps, inability to get comfortable around your belly, baby dance parties, vivid dreams, and/or anxiety. Wow. Pregnancy can be uncomfortable!
While most insomnia is considered normal when growing a baby, it goes without saying that a lack of sleep can negatively impact every aspect of your life. So what can you do to help encourage better z’s?
Have a bedtime routine. We are creatures of habit. Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day can make a big difference. Also, a consistent wind-down routine about an hour before bedtime can help your mind inform your body that it’s time to rest. Your routine may include things like a warm bath, a book, a cup of caffeine-free tea, or some meditation.
Minimize bluelight. The light emitted from screened devices can suppress melatonin, disrupting your sleep cycles. It’s recommended to unplug at least an hour before bedtime.
Reserve your bed for sex (if you want) and sleep. Daytime activities, like sending emails and paying bills, need to be done in the living room and NOT in bed. Train your brain to recognize your bed as a place for rest and relaxation.
Don’t force it. If you can’t fall asleep, get up and move around for awhile. Maybe have a glass of warm milk, knit, or read for 15-20 minutes and then try again.
Get moving (but not too late). Daily exercise is good for your body and can make you sleepier at night; just be sure to avoid a hard workout right before bedtime. Stretching or yoga can help with leg cramps, too.
Pile on the pillows. There can never too many. Period.
Practice labor relaxation methods. Slow abdominal breathing, progressive muscle movement (alternately tightening and releasing specific muscles), peaceful visualization, meditation, or hypnosis are all great techniques to try. There are also several apps that offer nature sounds or white noise.
Nap. If insomnia is persistent, it can be important to get sleep whenever you can. If you are able to get a 15-minute catnap midday, go for it! But remember, longer naps late in the day can impact your ability to sleep at night.
Try aromatherapy. A drop or two of lavender oil on your pillowcase can encourage rest. Look for a brand that is potent and pure.
Take a magnesium supplement. Daily intake of magnesium can promote smooth muscle release and mood stabilization, and it can decrease symptoms of restless leg syndrome and/or leg cramps. (Cheryl recommends Integrative Therapeutics Liquid Calcium Magnesium. Click here to access our Fullscript dispensary and have it shipped to your door, for 25% off the retail price!)
Talk it out. If you can’t turn your mind off because of racing thoughts or fears, write them down or share them with someone you trust. Sometimes a good talk, or a good cry, is just the ticket for a restful night.
Most cases of sleeplessness in pregnancy are considered normal, but if you’ve tried all the tricks to beat insomnia and insomnia keeps winning, you should reach out. Your provider can talk to you about sleep aids that are considered safe in pregnancy, and they can rule out serious disorders like sleep apnea or other conditions that need medical treatment. We’re here for you!
Until next time, sip some tea and sweet dreams.
Jenni Meyer is a certified nurse midwife at Willow. She lives with her husband, Danny, her baby son, William, and their Great Dane-Shephard, Oliver. She takes pleasure in traveling, baking pies, a strong cup of coffee, and long walks with her family.