If you are (or have been) pregnant, you’ve probably been offered this well-meaning piece of advice:
“get as much sleep as you can before the baby arrives because you won’t be sleeping much after they do!”
Makes sense, right? And you desperately want to follow the advice… but what if you can’t? You toss and turn at night but sleep won’t come, or you nod off only to awake at 3am, unable to fall back asleep.
If that sounds familiar, you’re experiencing pregnancy insomnia. Defined as the inability to fall or stay asleep, insomnia can hit at any stage of pregnancy, but it’s particularly common in the third trimester– ironically, when you need sleep the most.
It’s estimated that 75% of expectant mamas experience pregnancy insomnia so you’re not alone. But before we get into how you can help with the sleeplessness, let’s take a look at all the things that can cause it:
- Hormonal changes – your body is doing weird and wonderful things and all of those new hormones will be playing havoc with your usual routines and rhythms.
- Nausea – if you’re suffering with morning sickness even at night we feel you.
- Bladder – needing to urinate frequently due to increased pressure on your bladder from baby.
- Back pain & breast tenderness – caused by your growing bump and all those hormones.
- Heartburn and leg cramps – two of pregnany’s many woes.
- Hunger – whether its due to nausea and not eating enough, cravings, or you’re just hungrier now.
- Uncomfortable – your growing baby belly makes it hard to find a comfortable position especially if you’re used to sleeping on your front or back.
- Anxiety – insomnia can be stress-related; you might feel anxious about labor and delivery, or worry what life as a mum will be like.
So, what can you do?
One of the best things you can do to manage insomnia while you’re pregnant is to set up good sleep habits. We know this is challenging, but we have some great tips below that should help you get your best night’s sleep.
1. Bedtime Routine
Try and go to bed at the same time every night. Start your routine with something relaxing to help you unwind, like a cup of chamomile tea, relaxing podcast, or a few minutes of stretching. Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed–try reading instead. If screens absolutely cannot be avoided for whatever reason, turn your settings to night mode and try blue light blocking glasses. A soothing bath might help make you sleepy (just be careful that the temperature isn’t too hot, as it can be dangerous for your baby.)
Do something each day that allows you to move. We know that the word “exercise” sounds a little overwhelming when you think of it in the context of every single day, so we like to think of it as movement. This could be anything that gets your body moving: a walk outside, a gentle yoga flow, or a 15 minute dance party to some of your favorite music.
If you’re not sure how to exercise safely for your stage, check out the workouts on the Baby2Body app. .Think about how you can stay active during the day so you can rest at night, but don’t over do it–exhaustion is not the idea here! It’s all about what feels good to you.
Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day, but slow down your sipping in the evening so you’re not waking up to go at night. Lay off the caffeine after lunch if you can–did you know that caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours? This means that 5 hours after you drink a cup of coffee, half of the caffeine is still in your bloodstream, so a cup of joe in the afternoon can really affect your sleep.
4. Eat for Sleep
Eat a healthy dinner, but keep it light, and chew slowly to reduce your chances of heartburn. Eating early can also help, but if you get hungry later on, don’t hesitate to reach for a snack.
If you struggle with nausea, make sure there is something in your tummy to settle it over night–like a plain biscuit or cracker–and keep one by your bedside if needed that you can have if you wake up feeling sick. Keeping a glass of fizzy water on your bedside table can help to ease the nausea if you wake up feeling queasy.
5. Comfort is key
Making yourself–and your bedroom–more comfortable can result in better sleep. Invest in some new pillows to help keep you propped in the right position and your belly supported. A long sausage-like pillow is a great idea for support between your knees or under your bump. If breast tenderness is bothering you, try wearing a soft sleep bra that will give you some support and coverage.
6. Optimal conditions
Ensure your room is cool. During pregnancy, your body temperature raises slightly (due to increased blood volume), so you may feel hot and sweaty at night. Make sure your room is dark, quiet, and well ventilated for the best possible night of sleep. Try not to turn on bright lights when you have to visit the bathroom at night, and instead, opt for a dim night light that will be less jarring.
7. Try to relax
Practice ways to feel more relaxed at night. If you feel worried or anxious, write down your thoughts on paper–emptying your mind can help make these feelings more manageable. Wake up your partner and talk to them if you’re feeling overwhelmed: being up front and talking about your feelings and worries can help.
We love practicing meditation or relaxation techniques–which will also help prepare for birth! These will help you relax at night and distract your mind while you focus on your breathing. Take a look at the mediation and breathing exercises in the Baby2Body app for guidance (many take just a few minutes and make a huge difference in how you feel, both mentally and physically).
Insomnia is a frustrating condition, but luckily for pregnant women, it is likely that it will be short lived. You will find that once baby arrives, you’ll be back to sleeping well (when you can of course!). Insomnia won’t hurt you or your baby, but if you do find that it is affecting your mood or your ability to do things on a daily basis, then we suggest you seek advice from your doctor.
If there is one silver lining here then it’s this: at least the sleepless nights while pregnant are helping to prepare you for those nighttime feeds and nappy changes once your little one arrives. Who knows… maybe its nature’s way of prepping you for that newborn life!