Effects and Treatment of Insomnia During Pregnancy

| December 26, 2011 | 0 Comments

Statistics reveal that every year more than three-quarters of pregnant women report that they are suffering from some form of insomnia during their pregnancy.  In some cases the insomnia is occasional; but it’s also oftentimes a chronic condition, particularly in the third trimester of the reproductive process.

Pregnancy and Work

Under certain conditions, the effects of working during pregnancy can be a reason for insomnia.  If your work requires quite a bit of physical labor, care should be taken in order to avoid situations which could ultimately lead to insomnia as a result of pain.  Be aware of physical movements which could lead to lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or a fall.

The types of activities which are best to avoid since they can lead to painful conditions during pregnancy include:

  • Heavy lifting, especially repetitively
  • Handling heavy loads, whether pushing or pulling
  • Stair climbing with intensity
  • Prolonged standing

It would benefit a woman during pregnancy not only to avoid strenuous activity at work but also to be careful to rest frequently throughout the day, drink plenty of water, eat healthy and nutritious foods, avoid either sitting or standing for prolong periods, and manage stress levels.

Hormonal Changes

One of the reasons for insomnia during pregnancy is the hormonal changes which the body is going through.  Particularly during the initial trimester, progesterone is released into the body.  This is a natural sedative and causes pregnant women to feel sleepy and tired throughout the day.  Then because of the disruption in the sleep cycle, women will feel as though they’re wide awake when it’s time to sleep for the night.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Research has shown that almost 20 percent of pregnant women suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS).   RLS is linked to insomnia and is defined as an uncomfortable sensation in the calves which occurs when sitting or lying down.  There is an uncontrollable urge to relieve the creeping, tingling, aching, throbbing, or prickling sensation by moving the legs.  This syndrome is usually worse at night.

Doctors have found that pregnant women develop restless leg syndrome after long periods of sitting still, whether during a movie or a lengthy car ride.  Moving the legs provides instant relief, but the discomfort returns when the movement stops.

Restless leg syndrome usually peaks during the 7th or 8th month of pregnancy.  It’s a temporary condition that usually disappears altogether after the baby is born.

The cause of RLS is still a mystery, but it’s believed that in pregnant women it could be attributed to circulatory changes, hormonal changes or a deficiency of iron or folate.  There are drugs available for treating RLS, but none of them are recommended during pregnancy.

Some things which can help in the treatment of restless leg syndrome during pregnancy include:

  • Avoid caffeine, which has been found to make RLS symptoms worse.
  • Avoid taking cold and allergy remedies, such as antihistamines.
  • Avoid lying in bed to read, work, or watch television.  RLS is intensified the more you lie down.
  • Ask your doctor whether supplements such as vitamin B12, folate, or iron could help in the treatment of RLS.
  • Getting a massage, taking warm baths, or practicing relaxation could help to cure RLS which leads to insomnia.

Treatment for Pregnancy Sleep Problems

Besides those stated above, there are numerous issues which can cause a woman to experience insomnia during pregnancy.  For example, stress is sometimes caused not only by work issues but also by concern over the pregnancy and whether the baby will safely reach full term.  Back pain is common, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy.  Sleep can be interrupted by the need for frequent urination, as well, because of pressure on the bladder caused by the growing baby.

Getting a full night of restful sleep is important for a pregnant woman because the baby is adversely affected by insomnia.  The following are some tips to help pregnant women prevent insomnia:

  • It could help to sleep on a schedule; go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Avoid eating foods which tend to cause heartburn, particularly in the two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Get exercise routinely throughout your pregnancy; consult a physician to determine which exercises are safe and appropriate for you.
  • Try drinking a glass of warm milk before you go to bed.
  • Experiment with different sleeping positions.  If you have difficulty getting comfortable, you may want to get a body pillow which provides neck and back support and is designed for pregnant women.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol, activities which create added risk for your pregnancy, anyway.
  • Adjust the room temperature so that it’s nice and cool in your bedroom.
  • Run a fan, play relaxing sounds or play soothing instrumental music as you sleep.
  • As much as possible, eliminate all sources of light in your bedroom to create as dark an atmosphere for sleeping.
  • Drink chamomile tea before bedtime, but first check with your physician about herbal treatments.
  • Be intentional about quieting your mind when it’s close to bedtime.
  • Remember that insomnia is common during pregnancy; but for the safety of the unborn child, make every attempt to find a way to fall asleep and stay asleep nightly.

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Category: Insomnia

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