A good night’s sleep is vitally essential for you and your growing baby. However, sleep tends to evade pregnant women when they need it the most. While lying down, your kidneys find it easier to flush excess fluid and wastes from your system, and blood flow to your placenta increases. During sleep, also you secrete more hormones involved in the growth, repair, and regeneration of your tissues. Even though rest is so important, however, most women have difficulty sleeping during pregnancy- especially in the last few months of the third trimester. No wonder, about 8 in every ten pregnant women complain of getting insufficient sleep in the later staged of pregnancy.
What Causes Insomnia During Pregnancy?
- Lack of comfort: One of the most common sleep problems is difficulty in getting comfortable. As your womb enlarges, lying on your back interferes with blood flow through the large vessels (aorta and inferior vena cava) connecting the heart to the lower body
- Sound and Light: Sometimes, the room you sleep in does not allow sufficient darkness, and there is no way to cut outside sound. If the room is not dark enough or there are sounds of traffic coming in, sleep will probably evade you
- Pain and Cramps: You will be feeling pain in many parts of your body – be it hips, back, legs, and even feet. Leg cramps are also common during pregnancy making it difficult to sleep
- Hormonal changes: Pregnancy hormones are also at play, the trips to the bathroom are frequent, and heartburn are also a common problem.
- Anxiety and Stress: Every mother is excited and stressed over the arrival of her baby. Thousands of questions run through a woman’s mind, multiplying anxiety levels – thus making it difficult to get a shut-eye
Sleeping on the Side In Third Trimester of Pregnancy
Lying on your stomach puts pressure on the womb, and it becomes impossible after the first few months. Your only option is then to lie on your side, although the weight of your stomach can pull you over and make it difficult to relax.
It is advised to start practicing sleeping on the side in early pregnancy. It helps to use a few extra pillows. Put one behind you, so you don’t roll on to your back during the night, or get your partner to snuggle up close. Place another pillow between your knees or fold it in half and place it in front of your legs. You can then roll forwards slightly, with your bent upper leg resting on the pillow. This stops you rolling fully on to your front.
Back Ache in Third Trimester
Later in pregnancy, when you produce a hormone (relaxin) that softens your ligaments, backache can be a real nuisance, especially if you are sleeping on a mattress that is too hard or too soft. Special mattresses made from heat and pressure-sensitive viscoelastic polymers naturally mold to your body, so you partially sink into them. This will help to support the natural curves of your back by decreasing the load on your pressure points. The muscles and ligaments will also recover themselves during sleep. Now that the strain is less, the number of times you turn during sleep will also reduce from about 80 times a night to around 20 times. It allows you to sleep comfortably on your side without needing extra pillows; your hip sinks into the polymer just enough to support your tummy and make your bulge feel almost weightless. Read more about sleep during pregnancy here.
Tips for Dealing with Insomnia During Pregnancy
Here are some tips for dealing with insomnia during pregnancy:
- Eat a healthy diet: Eat a healthy, wholefood diet and plenty of unrefined, complex carbohydrates (e.g., wholegrain cereals, brown bread, wholewheat pasta, brown rice) plus fruit and vegetables for vitamins and minerals. Avoid hunger as this will make you more alert, but avoid rich, heavy, fatty meals in the evening. Read more about healthy eating during pregnancy here
Avoid stimulators in the evening: Avoid substances that interfere with sleep, such as caffeine (e.g., coffee, tea, chocolate, colas) and nicotine. A warm, milky drink just before going to bed will help you to relax; hot milk is better than hot chocolate, which contains some caffeine
- Take some exercise: Try to take gentle exercise during the day as active people sleep better. A little walk every day goes a long way. Yoga is excellent for improving joint suppleness, relieving stress and helping sleep
- Destress yourself: Take time to unwind from the stresses of the day before going to bed—read a book, listen to soothing music, or have a candle-lit bath.
- Bedtime habits: Get into a habit by going to bed at a regular time each night and getting up at the same time each morning. Set a bedtime routine such as brushing your teeth, bathing and setting the alarm clock to set the mood for sleep
- Place comfort first: Make sure your bed is comfortable, and your bedroom warm, dark, and quiet, as noise and excessive cold or heat will keep you awake. A temperature of 18-24 °C (64-75 °F) is ideal
- Not sleeping? Get up: If you can’t sleep, don’t lie there tossing and turning. Get up and read or watch the television for a while. If you are worried about something, write down all the things on your mind and promise yourself you will deal with them in the morning when you feel fresher. When feeling sleepy, go back to bed and try again
- Try herbal teas: Drinking a soothing, herbal tea is often all that’s needed for a good night’s sleep. Choose ones containing gentle herbs such as lime flower, lemon balm, or rose-hips. Lime flower blossom tea is especially helpful. Drink no more than three cups of infusion or herb tea daily except under the advice of a qualified herbalist
- Ask your partner for a prenatal massage: All forms of massage are very relaxing. Therapeutic mass¬ age is particularly useful in helping sleep problems due to stress and muscle tension, especially when combined with aromatherapy essential oils
- Meditate: Meditation is a self-help technique in which the power of concentration is used to control thoughts and calm the body. During meditation, you learn to enter a trance-like state that tones you into your body; some people can lower their pulse and blood pressure at will. Muscular tension drops, blood circulation improves, and brain wave patterns change. Meditation often leads to sleep
- Reflexology: Reflexology before bedtime will help you sleep—ask your partner to learn the technique!
- Color Therapy: Blue can be used in color therapy to promote restorative sleep
- Crystal therapy: Carry an amethyst with you at all times
Homeopathy For Insomnia In Third Trimester of Pregnancy:
Homeopathy: Take the 6c remedy half an hour before going to bed and repeat every half hour if necessary, as follows:
- for an overactive mind take Coffea;
- for repeated waking that leaves you irritable and unrefreshed take Nux vomica;
- if you are overtired and can’t get comfortable take Arnica;
- if sleeplessness is due to fear, panic, or shock, take Aconitum 30c.
Please do not self medicate. Do consult your doctor
Aromatherapy For Insomnia During Pregnancy:
Aromatherapy oils can also induce sleep. Use mandarin oil during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. Thereafter, you can use lemon, sandalwood, lavender, chamomile or neroli oils. After the 16th week of pregnancy, try placing a herbal pillow filled with dried lavender flowers at the head of your bed.
Acupuncture and acupressure For Sleep Problems During Pregnancy
Acupuncture and acupressure free blockages in the flow of energy (qi) and stimulate the release of natural opiate chemicals in the brain that help you relax. They are excellent for relieving insomnia linked with stress. Acupressure is similar but stimulates acupoints with firm thumb pres¬sure or fingertip massage (e.g. Shiatsu)
Bach Flower Remedies For Insomnia During Pregnancy
Bach flower remedies are homeopathic infusions of flower essences in brandy. These 38 different essences can treat most negative emotions that lead to difficulty in sleeping. A practitioner will select the one most suited to your state of mind. You should soon be enjoying a good night’s rest through natural, gentle means. Once your baby is born, you will be able to sleep on your front or back again. For at least the first few months, however, your sleep will be broken by night feeds. Interestingly, if you breastfeed, research shows that producing milk hormones help you to sleep better after waking in the night than if you give a bottle feed.