Insomnia is a common sleep disorder among adults. The percentage of women affected by insomnia in pregnancy is startling. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 78% of women reported an increase in the frequency of disturbed sleep during pregnancy than at other times.
The quality and the quantity of sleep gradually decreases, starting from the first trimester onwards. A recent study led by the University of Granada showed that 44% of women have insomnia in the first trimester, which increases to about 46% in the second and eventually increases to a high percentage of 64% by the third trimester.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person cannot sleep or finds it difficult to stay asleep. It can be due to many reasons such as depression, anxiety disorders, side-effects of some medicines, or due to specific personal issues.
Pregnant women can experience insomnia during all stages of pregnancy, but it is most extreme in the first and third trimesters. The good news here is that insomnia in pregnancy is not harmful to the baby.
What causes Insomnia in Pregnancy?
Insomnia in pregnancy can be caused by various behavioral and physical or psychological factors. Some causes are:
- Hormonal changes
The level of progesterone increases during the first trimester. This can lead to a feeling of excessive sleepiness during the day. Changes in hormone levels can have an inhibitory effect on the body’s muscles, which can cause sleep apnea in obese women. It can also cause snoring and frequent bathroom trips at night.
- Emotional response
Most women also undergo emotional stress and anxiety thinking of the baby’s delivery, labor pain, changing environmental conditions, and so on. These emotions could trigger a sense of restlessness and uneasiness, especially at night.
- Body pain
Pregnancy demands a lot from a woman’s body. It can be difficult to sleep with such a big baby bump and sometimes back pain. Experiencing severe abdominal cramps, feeling nauseous, and vomiting are some of the common causes of sleepless nights during pregnancy.
There are also many other causes that can vary from one woman to another, depending on the stage of pregnancy, the number of past pregnancies, etc.
Consequences of Insomnia in Pregnancy
A pregnant woman who is not getting enough sleep is exposed to a number of health risks in the near future. There is an increased association of insomnia in pregnancy with higher risks of cardiovascular diseases.
Not sleeping for the required number of hours or continuous nights of poor quality sleep may induce depression, anxiety, and other mental problems in the mother.
Studies have shown that poor sleep during pregnancy has been associated with longer labor pain and can even affect the woman’s ability to cope with labor pain.
Women with sleep deprivation are also 4.5 times more likely to undergo cesarean section and are at a higher risk of preterm deliveries. Insomnia can also cause gastrointestinal problems in women.
There is no full-proof treatment for insomnia in pregnancy. Women should learn to overcome insomnia through certain lifestyle changes.
It is not at all recommended to take drugs when you are pregnant. It can cause harm to the developing fetus. Most drugs normally used for insomnia is known to cause health risks to the fetus.
Restless Leg syndrome is also a common cause of insomnia in pregnancy. It usually occurs in women with low levels of dietary iron. This should be taken care of prior to pregnancy. Iron supplements should be taken before pregnancy in order to avoid complications later.
In the case of overweight and obese women who suffer from breathing problems, CPAP ( Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is an effective way to tackle sleep apnea.
Cognitive- Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is also a commonly used treatment for insomnia with no side-effects.
How to cope with Insomnia in Pregnancy?
The best way to cope up with is by doing the following.
- Maintain a bedtime routine
Developing a good bedtime habit will reduce insomnia. Maintain a particular time every day for bedtime and avoid any distractions, such as the use of phones or laptops before sleeping.
Many women believe that physical activity can harm their baby and is hesitant to do any physical work at home. However, it should be noted that physical activity can be beneficial for both the mother and the baby.
It is recommended to consult a doctor first before deciding to exercise. Exercising for even 30 minutes a day can do wonders to your body. Staying active during the day will help you sleep better at night.
- Eat and drink healthy
Try to eat foods rich in protein and avoid fatty foods. Don’t keep your stomach empty and try to eat light snacks at regular intervals.
Drink as much water as you can during the day, but avoid drinking too much before bedtime.
Drinking a glass of warm milk before bedtime can also help you sleep well.
- New sleep positions
It can be challenging to sleep in one position every day. Try out new sleep positions frequently. It is advised to sleep on your life side to allow the proper flow of blood and nutrients to the fetus. Avoid sleeping on your back for long periods.
- Don’t over think
Worrying too much will not help you or the baby. It is best not to over think but instead keep a clear head.
- Reduce daytime naps as it may become difficult to sleep better at night.
- If you cannot sleep, get up and distract yourself by reading a book.
Monitoring your sleep during pregnancies is as important as regular pregnancy checkups. The burden of insomnia in pregnant women is increasing because of the changing lifestyles and modern livelihood. The problem of sleep deprivation among pregnant women should be given more importance in terms of research and studies.
Insomnia can be easily tackled if you can change certain habits and is more aware of its causes and effects. Take the help of your family members and doctors in order to overcome this problem.