Pregnancy insomnia 1 is frequently experienced by pregnant women throughout their special journey of motherhood. 78% of pregnant women report various changes in sleep pattern throughout their pregnancy.2 This usually begins as early as the first trimester of pregnancy. Pregnant mums can experience wide-ranging effects of pregnancy on sleep by trimester. Changes occur in quality, quantity, and the very nature of sleep. Let’s take a closer look at what they are.
Sleep during pregnancy
Most women experience some degree of sleep disturbance during pregnancy. Insomnia during pregnancy is the most common sleep disorder that tends to occur.3 An expectant mother will generally notice the following changes in their sleep pattern throughout the 9 months:
First trimester (First 12 weeks)
During early pregnancy, levels of the hormone progesterone increases and your metabolism is running high.4 This can cause daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Pregnant women tend to crave more sleep while the placenta grows.4 It is best to rest and give in to the need to sleep and take naps where possible.
Second trimester (Week 13 - 28)
This period often brings some relief. Most pregnant mothers report better sleep during pregnancy in their second trimester.5 Sleep usually normalises to the amount you used to enjoy before your pregnancy.5 However, you may find yourself waking up more than usual to use the bathroom as the trimester progresses.
Third trimester (Week 29 to term)
Due to your expanding abdomen, your third trimester is usually the hardest time during pregnancy to get good sleep.6 Women tend to suffer from pregnancy insomnia and fatigue during this time. Expectant mothers also experience lesser quality sleep due to factors such as:7
- back pain
- Foetal movement and kicks
- more frequent urination urges
- leg cramps
- congestion associated with late-term pregnancy
Sleep management during pregnancy
Figuring out how to get better sleep during pregnancy is not just important for your energy and mood.7 These pregnancy sleep positions may also offer some relief to expectant mums:
Left angled sleeping position
The best pregnancy sleep position in the third trimester is on the left side, with your legs slightly tucked up towards your chin. This position improves blood flow to the uterus, and helps deliver nutrients and oxygen to the fetus.8
Tucking a small pillow on the right side of your back so that your tummy shifts and points to the left would help ease the pressure of your stomach. However, avoid turning to a complete 90 degree angle as this would put stress on your shoulder.9
Carefully placed pillows can help you get comfortable. Try placing a pillow between your bent knees or under your belly to help flatten out your back. Propping your head up with pillows can also combat acid reflux.10
Sleeping on your back and stomach is not encouraged, especially after the 28th week of pregnancy.11 Lying on your back is not recommended because of pressure on the inferior vena cava, a major vein that returns blood from the lower body to the heart.12 Sleeping on the stomach may also cause neck and shoulder stiffness. Some mothers experience lower back pain in this position.12
If you often find yourself in this position, try placing a wedge pillow behind and in front of you when you go to sleep on your side. This is to help give you a tilt, in case you roll back and stop you from rolling forward, thus lessening the effect of sleeping on your back and stomach.13
Lifestyle remedies for pregnancy insomnia
If your sleeping patterns are affecting your quality of life, some of these lifestyle changes and remedies may be able to help you to take charge of your sleeping patterns:
Getting lots of fresh air and doing moderate exercise for as long as you feel comfortable might help you feel sleepier at night.14 35-90 minutes of light aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming and stationary bicycling, 3-4 times a week during pregnancy can lower the likelihood of developing insomnia during pregnancy.14 Exercise boosts serotonin and dopamine which can help with mood elevation and enhance sleep quality.14
While pregnancy is often exciting, it can also be life changing. Having a new responsibility on the way can bring about many thoughts and apprehensions, particularly in birth, finances and lifestyle. Try incorporating relaxation into your schedule, like yoga, painting, journaling, and breathing exercises. These are considered low impact activities and can help calm the mind and increase melatonin production.15 You consider taking a soothing bath or practising meditation to relax in the evenings too.15
Eating a healthy diet is important when trying to get good sleep.16 Cut down or cut out caffeine, especially later in the day. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake and also slightly increase blood pressure, especially when pregnant.16 Caffeine is also present in tea, chocolate, carbonated/soft drinks, energy drinks, and some medicines, such as cold and flu remedies. These can also trigger acid reflux.17
Drinking milk may help you fall asleep easier, as milk contains natural tryptophan and melatonin may help you fall asleep.18
Choosing the right milk formulations specially designed for pregnant and lactating mothers is essential in supporting a pregnant mothers nutritional needs as well as foetal development.
These formulations with the highest DHA & Choline, contain folic acid, protein and calcium which meets recommended levels of dietary recommendations is essential to keep you and your child healthy throughout your pregnancy.
When to seek help
Pregnancy insomnia can affect health and quality of life. It may also have an effect on your process of delivery. While certain methods may help to improve sleep quality, some women may require medical intervention. Speak to your doctor if you feel that your sleep is affecting your health.
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