For a new mom-to-be, experiencing sleep deprivation after the baby is born is a given. But you probably didn’t realize that it could also occur during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Most women experience sleep problems during pregnancy. Pregnant women tend to get more sleep during their first trimesters (hello, early bedtime) but experience a big drop in the quality of their sleep. It turns out that pregnancy can make you feel exhausted all day long. It can also cause insomnia at night.
Here are some of the most common culprits for insomnia during early pregnancy, plus a few tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.
Insomnia means you have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Women can experience insomnia during all stages of pregnancy, but it tends to be more common in the first and third trimesters. Between midnight bathroom breaks, out-of-control hormones, and pregnancy woes such as congestion and heartburn, you might be spending more time out of your bed than in it. The good news: While insomnia might be miserable, it’s not harmful to your baby.
Sheer logistics play a role as well. By the end of a pregnancy, many women have a hard time just getting comfortable enough to sleep well. During the first trimester, you might not have much of a baby belly to accommodate, but there are other issues that can prevent a good night’s sleep.
Expecting? There are many reasons you might be wide awake in the wee hours. These can include:
- need to urinate frequently
- nausea or vomiting
- back pain
- breast tenderness
- abdominal discomfort
- leg cramps
- shortness of breath
- vivid dreams
Other causes of insomnia can be stress-related. You might feel anxious about labor and delivery, or worry about how you’ll balance work with being a new mother. These thoughts can keep you up at night, especially after your third visit to the bathroom.
It can be difficult to distract yourself from these thoughts, but try to remember that worrying isn’t productive. Instead, try writing down all of your concerns on paper. This will give you a chance to consider possible solutions. If there are no solutions, or there is nothing you can do, turn the page in your journal and focus on another worry. This can help empty your mind so you can rest.
Being up front with your partner about your feelings and worries can also help you feel better.
One of the best things you can do to manage insomnia while you’re pregnant is to set up good sleep habits.
Begin by trying to go to bed at the same time every night. Start your routine with something relaxing to help you unwind.
Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed. Blue light from the TV, your mobile phone, or tablet can have an impact on your body’s circadian rhythm. Try reading a book instead.
Taking a soothing bath might also make you sleepy. Just be careful that the temperature isn’t too hot — that can be dangerous for your developing baby. This is especially true during early pregnancy.
To be safe, avoid hot tubs.
Diet and exercise can have an impact on your sleep.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, but minimize drinking after 7 p.m. Try to avoid caffeine starting in the late afternoon.
Eat to sleep
Eat a healthy dinner, but try to enjoy it slowly to reduce your chances of heartburn. Eating an early dinner can also help, but don’t go to bed hungry. Eat a light snack if you need to eat something late in the evening. Something high in protein can keep your blood sugar levels steady through the night. A warm glass of milk can help you feel sleepy, too.
Learn about more foods and drinks that can improve sleep.
Stay active during the day so you can rest at night.
Making yourself — and your bedroom — more comfortable can result in better sleep.
Make yourself comfortable. Lie on your side, tuck a pillow between your knees, and use one under your belly as it gets bigger.
If breast tenderness is bothering you, opt for a comfortable sleep bra that fits properly.
Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet for optimal sleeping conditions. Use a nightlight in the bathroom for those midnight visits. The dim light will be less jarring than a bright overhead light.
Practice ways to feel more relaxed at night.
If you’re lying in bed and are wide awake, get up and distract yourself with something until you’re feeling tired enough to fall asleep. It’s more effective than lying in bed and staring at the clock.
Practice meditation, or try relaxation techniques and exercises. These methods are often taught in childbirth classes.
For most women, insomnia during the first trimester will pass. If you’re having trouble, try taking naps during the day. But skip any sleep-inducing supplements, medicines, or herbs until you consult with your doctor.
If your insomnia is impacting your ability to function, your doctor may be able to prescribe a sedative that’s safe to take during pregnancy.For more pregnancy guidance and weekly tips tailored to your due date, sign up for our I’m Expecting newsletter.