The article is a subjective view on this topic written by writers specializing in medical writing.
It may reflect on a personal journey surrounding struggles with an illness or medical condition, involve product comparisons, diet considerations, or other health-related opinions.
Although the view is entirely that of the writer, it is based on academic experiences and scientific research they have conducted; it is fact-checked by a team of degreed medical experts, and validated by sources attached to the article.
The numbers in parenthesis (1,2,3) will take you to clickable links to related scientific papers.
Insomnia During Pregnancy 2024: How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep?
Insomnia is pretty common and affects nearly 80% of all pregnant women. If you’re an expectant mother and either find it difficult to fall asleep or wake up frequently throughout the night, unfortunately, you’re experiencing pregnancy insomnia. This can happen for many reasons, and the inability to sleep causes much worry and anxiety. Most of the time, insomnia is normal and, by itself, not at all harmful to your baby.
What Is Pregnancy Insomnia?
Insomnia is when you’re not getting enough good quality sleep. Again, this is common with many women expecting a baby. When this happens frequently during a woman’s pregnancy, it can be because it’s a symptom of other issues, and it can also be a problem in and of itself.
Your family doctor, or OB-GYN, should be notified and a discussion or exam scheduled. This is because a physician can determine if you’re not sleeping due to specific reasons such as anxiety or mood fluctuations. They’ll also evaluate you for sleep disorders if that’s the reason for your lack of sleep. These can be related to breathing problems, such as obstructive sleep apnea, when the back of your throat relaxes during deep sleep and interferes with breathing. You may also have something like restless legs syndrome.
Your doctor should find out why you’re not sleeping and get ahead of this problem early on. As your pregnancy continues, this will help you sleep and feel more comfortable both emotionally and physically. Your physician can also discuss specific management strategies, which we go over in detail below, including therapy, better behaviors or effective sleep hygiene, and adequate sleep medicine. The risks of using medication to address sleep issues must be seriously considered and weighed against any possible benefits.
When Does Early Pregnancy Insomnia Start?
Could you start to experience pregnancy insomnia in the second trimester? Or even earlier? Trouble sleeping can happen early in the first trimester because this is when progesterone levels go up and cause you to feel sleepy during the day. You’re also losing muscle tone and may start snoring if you didn’t know already before this. Snoring can cause you to wake up suddenly and lead to a sleeping disorder like sleep apnea.
This is also a time in your pregnancy when you’ll be making many trips to the bathroom, even in the middle of the night. Combine that with overwhelming feelings of nausea and vomiting, and it’s no wonder you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, especially if you have pregnancy insomnia in the third trimester.
What Causes Insomnia In Pregnancy?
Every woman is different, so it’s hard to say precisely what causes each one’s sleeping problems. Here are several common pregnancy-related issues that can contribute to pregnancy insomnia:
- Lower back pain caused by the added weight
- General discomfort
- Fetal movements
- Poor digestion
- Gastro-esophageal reflux
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Concern or worry about childbirth including labor, delivery, and perceived or real complications
- Getting up frequently to pee
- Anticipating the new role of motherhood
- Disturbing dreams
Sleep disturbances may start in the first trimester, but they don’t always get solved. Unfortunately, this can lead to sleep deprivation throughout pregnancy and sometimes to postpartum depression after the baby is born. Therefore, it’s crucial to get a doctor’s help early to prevent this from happening.
Does Insomnia During Pregnancy Harm The Baby?
As a rule, insomnia doesn’t harm the baby. At the same time, sleep disturbances can affect the mother’s health and quality of life. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), insomnia might lead to more prolonged labor and/or increase the risks of a cesarean section.
When an expecting mother isn’t sleeping well at night, she can suffer from fatigue and mood changes during the day. This can make interactions with a partner more challenging and interfere when trying to bond with the new baby. When these issues continue unmanaged, exhausted women in labor don’t handle pain or discomfort as easily. These are just some of the many reasons you want to see your doctor and get some help earlier in the pregnancy rather than later.
Home Remedies for Pregnancy Insomnia
According to the Sleep Foundation, you can try several home remedies to manage pregnancy insomnia. Part of every possible solution should involve talking to your doctor about the details of your issue, talking through ideas, and including any medical, emotional, or environmental factors. You want to mention your medical history and risk factors as well. That is the best way to get diagnosed and treated early on so you can have an easier pregnancy.
A better night’s sleep often begins with educating yourself on how and why good sleep happens. What plays a role in helping people sleep well? This process shouldn’t start with pregnancy insomnia medication. In the beginning, something called sleep hygiene should be considered first. Sleep hygiene is what you can do at home to create a sleep-friendly environment.
The good news is that most of these home remedies work, and many symptoms disappear entirely when the baby is born. Consider yourself and your background, and then give these ideas a try to see some benefit and get yourself some much-needed rest.
- Sleep in a different position. Roll over onto your side or back if you’re usually a belly sleeper. See if that makes a difference.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Receive a gentle massage.
- Make your room cozy and comfortable.
- Change your thermostat. If you normally keep your home warm at night, try lowering the temperature a few degrees. If you keep the house cool, try the opposite.
- Play some relaxing, natural, or white noise sounds while you sleep. Many computer-based applications (apps) have pre-recorded sounds or videos that can play all night. They block out any sudden noises that could wake you up.
- Meditate or sit silently for a few minutes before bedtime. Concentrate on your breathing and relaxation during this time.
- Read a book before bed instead of looking through your phone or computer.
- Eat a light snack or drink some warm milk before you settle down for the night.
- Exercise regularly each morning or afternoon.
- Take only short naps during the day as needed.
- Only use dim nightlights in the bathrooms or hallways.
- Limit drinks of water after 5 pm to decrease the number of times you need to urinate during the night.
- Eat plain, non-spicy foods to decrease the risk of heartburn.
- Use your bed only for sleeping. Don’t eat, watch television, play games, use your laptop, or talk on the phone in bed.
- Use a pillow between your knees when sleeping on your side with knees and hips bent. You can also try using a pillow under your belly or lower back.
- Place a heating pad under your back to reduce any discomfort; use a pad with a timer, so you do not fall asleep on the heating pad and suffer a potential burn.
- Ask your doctor to check your folic acid or iron levels. Sometimes a deficiency can cause restless legs or leg cramps.
- Don’t drink coffee after 2 pm.
- Regulate your sleeping schedule. Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day.
- Get out of bed and walk around your house if you can’t fall back asleep in the middle of the night. You want your body conditioned to sleep when in bed. Nothing else.
- Try progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), which means gently tightening and relaxing different muscles in your body.
- Keep a sleep log so you or your doctor can see any noticeable patterns. Include times, meals beforehand, exercise habits each day, etc.
If these home remedies don’t seem to help, consider seeing a therapist. Sometimes cognitive therapy can help relieve anxiety, and then you’ll begin sleeping better at night. A qualified therapist can help you develop more realistic expectations about sleeping, motherhood, or anything that might be bothering you.
Some therapists use cognitive behavioral therapy for pregnancy insomnia. The therapist will ask you to keep detailed sleeping logs. You might also benefit from sessions devoted to sleep education, stimulus control, and sleep restriction. The therapist will then talk with you at length about sleep hygiene, including some of what’s already been discussed in this article, as well as a session on integrating all you know.
In therapy sessions, you’ll learn how to handle maladaptive thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Don’t be surprised if your therapist, or OB-GYN, gets you to begin a sleep/wake schedule as well as effective pre-sleep behaviors depending on your mood and temperament. Remember, everyone is different. Your doctor can help establish what is keeping you awake or contributing to insomnia and devise a plan for managing or defeating this common ailment.
The Bottom Line
Pregnancy insomnia, or sleep disturbances in general, are common in expectant mothers. By themselves, they are not causes for concern. However, you should speak with your doctor when you begin to lose valuable sleep. Physicians or therapists can look at your medical history, risk factors, and emotional concerns. When they talk to you about home remedies, you should give their ideas your thoughtful consideration. Most of them can help, and you’ll benefit from sleeping without medication.
+ 3 sources
Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here
- Amerian Pregnancy Association. (2012). Pregnancy Insomnia: Snooze Or Lose!. Available at: https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/insomnia-during-pregnancy/
- Hashmi, A. M., Bhatia, S. K., Bhatia, S. K., & Khawaja, I. S. (2016). Insomnia during pregnancy: Diagnosis and Rational Interventions. Pakistan journal of medical sciences, 32(4), 1030–1037. https://doi.org/10.12669/pjms.324.10421
- Pacheco, D.. (2020). Pregnancy & Sleep: Tips, Sleep Positions, & Issues – Sleep Foundation. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/pregnancy.