Is insomnia a sign of pregnancy?


You lie awake, unable to fall asleep, and you begin to wonder: is insomnia a sign of pregnancy? Could all this back and forth movement mean anything to you?

Insomnia, which is defined by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as “persistent difficulty in initiating, duration, consolidating or quality of sleep” is a common complaint in the general population. According to American Sleep Association, it is the most common specific sleep disorder in the United States, with short-term problems reported by about 30% of adults and chronic insomnia by 10%.

Add pregnancy to the mix and sleeplessness can be even more of a problem. In a study on pregnant women published in the European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, which tracked the sleep patterns of nearly 500 women at different times during their pregnancy, insomnia rates rose from 6% before pregnancy to 64% during of pregnancy. According to James Wilson, an expert in sleep behavior known as The sleep geek and co-founder of the wellness company be doing well, “I have never experienced a pregnancy that does not include poor sleep at some point.”

Here, we take a look at the science behind insomnia during pregnancy and find out how you can sleep more soundly without harming your unborn child. But above all, we will answer the question, is insomnia a sign of pregnancy?

How Does Pregnancy Affect Sleep?

There are many reasons for insomnia during pregnancy, says NHS midwife Leah Hazard, author of the memoir Hard pushed: the story of a midwife, and podcast host What the midwife said. “Sleeping can be difficult during pregnancy for a number of reasons: the increasing discomfort of a growing lump, pain in the pelvic girdle, heartburn, nausea, increased frequency of urination and cramps. in the legs can all play a role. “

As the pregnancy progresses, it can be difficult to get comfortable, especially if the baby starts kicking at night or pushes on your bladder; you may also need to get up to go to the bathroom more often at night.

According to a to study published in the journal Sleep Science, many women suffer from sleep disorders during pregnancy, such as obstructive sleep apnea. This is especially the case, says midwife Leah Hazard, for those who are already at risk (especially women who smoke or have a higher BMI). “Restless legs and leg cramps can also be a problem,” she adds. Mental and emotional issues – anxiety about pregnancy or parenthood or restless dreams – are all additional causes of poor sleep.

Is insomnia a sign of pregnancy?  The image shows a pregnant woman

(Image credit: Getty)

Can insomnia be an early sign of pregnancy?

According to a study on insomnia during pregnancy published in the Sleep Research Journal, the rate of insomnia increases as the pregnancy progresses, so you are more likely to experience it in the third trimester (weeks 28 to 41) than during the early stages of pregnancy. A study in the Journal of the Scientific World suggested that the risk of insomnia was twice as high in people in the third trimester than those in the first and second trimesters. This is hardly surprising given the changes taking place in your body and the increase in the size of the baby you carry between seven and nine months.

“I wouldn’t particularly say that insomnia can be considered an early indicator of pregnancy,” says James Wilson, although he notes that so-called morning sickness – which can last 24 hours a day – can affect your sleep. , especially in early pregnancy.

So, if you stay awake at night, it’s not necessarily a red flag letting you know that you are likely to be pregnant. If you are thinking about expecting a baby, a much more reliable way to find out is to take a pregnancy test, which is available at any drug store.

A pregnant woman looks at printed ultrasound images.

(Image credit: Getty Images / SDI Productions)

How to deal with insomnia during pregnancy

When considering sleeping pills to help you get a good night’s sleep during your pregnancy, it is important to make sure that you are not putting your own health or that of your unborn child at risk, so check all of the medications you take. consider. take with your doctor first.

“I would absolutely not recommend melatonin or any herbal / alternative sleep remedy that has not been rigorously tested and proven safe during pregnancy,” advises Leah Hazard.

If the physical discomfort caused by the size of your bump is preventing you from sleeping, James Wilson has some practical suggestions. “Sleeping on your left side and buying a body or maternity pillow can be invaluable, or putting a pillow between your legs to keep the pelvis in a neutral position.”

Reflux and heartburn are common symptoms during pregnancy, so if this is the case for you, try to allow a longer interval between eating and going to bed. A study, published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, has shown that the shorter the time between meals, the greater the problem of reflux. Some pregnant women find it helpful to lean on pillows to get a more upright position.

As for leg cramps, there is no hard and fast cure, says midwife Leah Hazard. “Try not to panic if they wake you up – flex and relax your feet, and the cramp should subside within a few minutes.”

It’s also important to follow the general principles of good sleep hygiene, says Leah. “Stop using screens and electronics at least an hour before bedtime for a” digital sunset “, make sure the room temperature in your bedroom is pleasantly cool with enough bedspreads to keep your body safe warm and your head cool, and keep all bedtime snacks simple but satisfying ((i.e. toast, banana, chapati, cereal). Avoid excessively hot bedtime baths as they can exacerbate the skin dry / itchy during pregnancy. “

It can be helpful to talk to someone else about sleep issues, advises Wilson. “I find that many pregnant couples benefit from a compassionate sleep conversation, especially if sleeping separately can help the pregnant person have more space to sleep.”

Above all, says James, try not to let your insomnia add to your stress. “Like anything that makes us sleep poorly, it’s best to try not to force sleep, be sure to relax before bed, and try a warm bath to help relax and slow your heart rate.”

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