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Pregnancy Insomnia

Pregnancy Insomnia – Where it Comes From and What to do About it

Oh sweet relief- after a long day of being pregnant you’re finally nestling in your soft bed, cuddling with your body pillow, and listening to your partner not snoring – you’re ready for a good night’s sleep. But wait, you can’t sleep? While pregnant women should absolutely be exempt from insomnia it unfortunately has a one-sided love affair with them, thinking they want it in their bed when really they would do anything to get rid of it.

So, what’s up with that? Why is it so common for exhausted with-child ladies to be wide-awake for hours past their bedtime?

A few common causes of pregnancy insomnia are:

  • always wanting to be aware of baby movements (making sure baby isn’t still for too long)
  • having to get up multiple times to pee
  • out of control hormones
  • common pregnancy symptoms like heartburn and congestion that seem to relish the supine position
  • an overactive imagination that obsesses over everything that could go wrong

While a few nights of restlessness are inevitable during pregnancy, you can say goodbye to regular bouts of insomnia by incorporating the following into your life:

Pregnancy Insomnia Tip 1: Practice sleep-inducing rituals

Think about the activities, aromas, sounds, and textures that soothe your mind and body and incorporate them into your bedtime routine, starting the routine about an hour before bedtime. For example, if soaking in warm water is your jam create a ritual of drawing a warm bath before bed, upping the tranquility factor by lighting a few candles, turning off the lights, and listening to your favorite mellow music. In your second and third trimester, it’s safe to incorporate soothing essential oils like lavender or chamomile into your rituals. There’s no right or wrong ritual to practice as long as it sends your mind and body the clear message that it’s time for lights out.

Pregnancy Insomnia Tip 2: Have Paper and Pen to Purge Your Mind

The mental hamster wheel of what-ifs is a common pregnancy insomnia culprit, but one that can be alleviated by pulling all those worried thoughts out of your mind and pouring them onto paper. Keep a pad of paper and a pen by your bed so you can shut down that hamster wheel if it starts spinning.

Studies have shown that writing about our worries helps us unload our anxieties and have more space in our minds to use for more productive activities, like sleeping. So, you can incorporate a quick writing exercise into your bedtime ritual, purging your mind by writing out anything and everything that’s troubling you, or, just keep the paper and pen handy for an impromptu mental purging of those worrisome mind-whispers that wake you up at night.

Pregnancy Insomnia Tip 3: Be Vigilant With Hydration Until 7pm

Ah, incessant urination, the bane of the pregnant woman’s existence, with an emphasis on her nighttime existence. Because proper hydration is a mega-must during pregnancy it’s not advisable to drink less water, but you can choose when you drink water. Work out a plan to get in your recommended 2.3 liters of water before 7pm (for example, have a one liter bottle of water that you drink and refill at least 2.5 times before the evening) so your bladder can empty its contents before bedtime.

Pregnancy Insomnia Tip 4:. Eat a Protein Rich Dinner

According to research from Purdue University eating a diet rich in protein helps you have deeper more restorative slumber as protein helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the night. And, because protein is essential to pretty much every critical function in your body, and is a crucial baby building block, go ahead and say yes to that bowl of lentil topped with salmon and massaged kale. Oh, and frozen yogurt also has a decent amount of protein, especially when you top it with nuts.

Pregnancy Insomnia Tip 5: Create a Blackout

Did you know artificial lighting could increase your stress hormones at night and suppress your melatonin levels? Melatonin is a lovely hormone that lowers your glucose levels, body temperature, and blood pressure, helping your body settle into sleep. Nurture your melatonin levels by covering bedroom windows with blackout curtains (preventing artificial outdoor lighting from sneaking in), and cover any other light sources from items such as phones, alarm clocks, computers, or other digi-light-emitters.

Pregnancy Insomnia Tip 6: Update Your Bed to Luxury Hotel Standards

If you don’t yearn for your bed at the end of the day, you deserve to upgrade it. Ensure you’re sleeping on a supportive mattress, have high quality sheets, and a supportive pillow (the aforementioned body pillow is a must for many pregnant women.)

Another unknown sleep-disrupter in many beds is dust mites, which according to WebMD 20 million Americans are allergic to. To kick dust mites out of your bed, cover your mattress in an “allergy proof” slip cover, and wash all your bedding in hot water at least once a week. Your bed should be so enjoyable the finest hotels will be calling you for bedding advice.

Pregnancy Insomnia Tip 7: Exercise

A few factors that impact insomnia are arousal, anxiety, and depression, all of which exercise conveniently helps to minimize. It’s been found that aerobic exercise, like walking or swimming, reduces the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and helps the body stay asleep for longer periods of time. The ideal time to put on your walking shoes, or slide into the pool, is first thing in the morning as you’re less likely to skip your workout, and according to Sleep.org the early exercise will help you spend more time in the reparative stages of sleep

Pregnancy Insomnia Tip 8: Have Go-To Mental Relaxation Tools

Sometimes, those numerous sheep jumping through your mind just aren’t enough to coax you into sleep. Having an arsenal of effective and easy relaxation techniques to use when the insomnia refuses to fade can be your saving grace. When you’re not desperate for sleep, try out different relaxation tools like sleep-specific guided meditation recordings, deep breathing, affirmations like “my mind and body easily let go and drift into a deep sleep,” or counting exercises that incorporate visualization, for example, counting down from 40 to 0 envisioning a natural relaxant flowing from the top of your head to the tips of your toes as you count. Then, decide what works best for you, add them to your sleep tool kit, and pull them out when your eyes can’t stay shut.

Sweet dreams soon-to-be-mama!

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Bailey Gaddis
Bailey Gaddis

Bailey Gaddis is the mother to one super spirited little dude, author of the newly born book Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood, and a childbirth preparation educator and birth doula to the world's strongest women. Bailey is constantly inspired by the random yet wise thoughts of her preschooler, and gets her laughs from watching playground politics.