Is pregnancy insomnia hitting you hard? Not being able to get the rest you need, especially while pregnant, can affect your whole day. If this is a problem for you, check out these natural and safe remedies for pregnancy insomnia.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is characterized by having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, waking too early and feeling unrested. It’s totally normal to have insomnia once in a while or even more frequently when something big is going on in your life (like, um, having a baby!) but if you’re experiencing trouble sleeping often (at least 3 nights a week for 3 months or longer) it could be chronic insomnia.
If you’ve had trouble sleeping before getting pregnant you may want to optimize your general sleep first with these sleep tips.
Why do we get pregnancy insomnia?
Hormones are typically the culprit as is true for other pregnancy related issues like pregnancy acne, constipation, and other strange pregnancy ailments. Changing hormones can cause snoring, frequent bathroom trips, restless leg syndrome, heartburn and congestion which can make it difficult to sleep.
One reason may be that you’re waking up more often to use the bathroom, so you have more chances throughout the night to have trouble getting back to sleep.
It may also be a comfort issue. Its tough sleeping with a big ol’ belly, especially if you’re typically a tummy or back sleeper. When you finally find a sweet spot it’s hard to fall asleep before that position gets uncomfortable again. Baby sometimes takes these awake times to get some exercise, which can make it more difficult to sleep too.
For some women, especially first time moms, pregnancy and birth anxiety can keep you up as well.
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Natural remedies for pregnancy insomnia
Mama’s gotta get her sleep! Here are some tips for optimizing your pregnancy sleep naturally.
Melatonin is a hormone that your body makes in your pineal gland. Its job is to help your body know when to wake up and when to go to sleep. According to a review published in the Nutrition Journal, melatonin supplementation is effective in overcoming sleep-related challenges such as jet lag and insomnia. Here’s the good news: you can find melatonin in some foods, including tart cherry juice and pistachios.
In studies, tart cherry juice increased sleep time by up to 90 minutes a night! That’s because it contains the world’s highest melatonin content of any food (the hormone that helps us sleep.) Try 1 ounce of this tart concentrate twice a day (one dose around 3 p.m. and the other dose around 8 p.m.) mixed in kefir or yogurt for extra calcium and blood sugar balance. I usually find it works within a week or two. As a plus, tart cherry juice has a low glycemic index and is high in antioxidants so it’s healthy during pregnancy.
Pistachios contain 660 nanograms per gram of melatonin, making these small nuts a mighty source of melatonin. Roasting the nuts doesn’t compromise the melatonin content, so grab a handful and savor this tasty treat 1-2 times per day.
Many of us (some say over 80% of the population) are deficient in this calming and important mineral. Here are the deficiency symptoms (hint: one of them is insomnia!) and here’s how you can boost your levels with food. Most of us also need a little supplementation too and in this post, I talk about the best magnesium supplement for specific issues. As a general guideline, try taking 200-400 mg of this magnesium supplement for relaxation. (Of course, talk with your midwife!)
You can also find magnesium supplements in the form of a spray. This method of supplementation delivers magnesium directly onto your skin, instead of taking an oral supplement. Some mamas feel a little tingle as it starts to work. Tip: Some mamas use this spray when little ones have growing pains, so it’s a handy spray to keep in your cabinet.
8 Sheep magnesium lotion is also very popular with mamas right now. This creamy lotion is organic and helps reduce insomnia as well as restless legs and leg cramps. Bonus, this lotion absorbs quickly.
When I was struggling with insomnia, I would dilute one drop of cedarwood in lotion and apply it to each of my big toes — and it worked every time! Cedarwood isn’t your only pregnancy-friendly essential oil though. Lavender and Roman chamomile can also help you sleep easier at night.
While hot baths aren’t recommended during pregnancy, you can soak in a luke-warm bath. Adding 2 cups of Epsom salt into your bathwater can help you sleep more soundly. Why? Epsom salt contains magnesium, and because magnesium helps your body produce melatonin, soaking in this bath allows your body to soak up magnesium through your skin.
Getting enough exercise during pregnancy is important for a healthy pregnancy and can help make labor easier and your baby smarter (oh my!), but exercise can also improve your sleep! Our bodies are designed to move, not sit at a desk all day so find ways to get more activity throughout your day (Start with taking a short and brisk walk during your lunch break.)
If you work your body each day, you’ll be physically tired and more apt to sleep at night. A good goal is to work up to at least an hour of physical activity to prepare you for a good night’s rest.
Low impact exercise, like walking and swimming, is great during pregnancy, especially if you can combine it with the outdoor elements like fresh air and sunshine.
It’s best to exercise in the morning or early afternoon as some sensitive mamas get an adrenaline rush from working out too close to bedtime.
To nap or not to nap?
The short answer is: it depends. If napping works for you, do it. If not, don’t. But how can you tell? Well, first remember that pregnancy puts a lot of stress on your body and napping is necessary for many women to get through the first trimester, or the whole pregnancy! However, if you aren’t able to sleep at night, your napping may have something to do with it. Try limiting your nap to 20 minutes. Anything longer may be upsetting your sleep rhythm. If you find that even a short nap makes it hard to sleep at night, then eliminate it and go to bed earlier in the evening.
Of course you know that you should be eating a healthy, real food diet, especially during pregnancy. Choose pastured meat and poultry, wild caught (low mercury) fish, organic fruits and vegetables and healthy fats (find out more about the best prenatal diet). Choose a whole food prenatal vitamin. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D, and magnesium in particular (since most of us are deficient) as they have been shown in studies to support healthy sleep.
Not only is what you eat important but also when you eat, especially as it pertains to your sleep! Avoid eating a large meal before bed as this can lead to indigestion and heartburn, which can keep you up. However, eating a small, easy to digest and blood-sugar-balancing snack (like gelatin treats) an hour before bed may help improve your sleep.
Limiting caffeine during pregnancy is a good idea but many women find that avoiding all caffeine after lunch time is essential for good sleep. That includes chocolate too!
Because getting comfy may be the hardest part of sleeping while pregnant, finding a good sleep position is huge to fight pregnancy insomnia. You’ll want to find a safe pregnancy sleep position, which means sleeping on your back in the last trimester is probably out. Side sleeping is optimal but can be hard on the hips. Grab as many pillows as possible to support your legs, back, arm and head to make side sleeping more comfortable. Or you can grab one of these guys instead.
Avoid blue light at night
Once the sun goes down, turn off the TV, put away the iPhone and get off the computer. As hard as this can be, it will make a HUGE difference is your sleep quality! (Find out how I avoid blue light at night).
Electronics emit blue light, like the light from the sun, and signals our bodies that it’s time to be awake. It stimulates cortisol and interrupts melatonin production, the hormone that tells our bodies it’s time for sleep. If this sounds impossible, wear these weird orange glasses instead. Also, use lamps instead of overhead lights at nightfall… or even better, candles!
Turn down the heat, lower the A/C or open a window
Our bodies are designed to sleep best in a cooler room, somewhere around 65 degrees. If it’s too warm or we are wrapped up in too many blankets we can become restless and wake up. The cooler temperature also signals our bodies that it’s time to go to sleep.
Not only is relaxation important for a healthy pregnancy but it can also help with labor, so getting some relaxation techniques under your belt now can only help!
Yoga or light stretching are excellent ways to prepare your body for sleep and fight pregnancy insomnia. Simple poses like child’s pose and lotus pose can help relax your body and mind before bed.
Stretching and deep breathing before bedtime is a great way to release tense muscles and even reduce swelling to avoid tossing and turning trying to get comfortable. You can also calm your mind and spirit with positive pregnancy affirmations! Meditation, prayer also and guided imagery are other ways you can relax before bedtime.
Reduce bathroom trip wakefulness
Since getting up for the bathroom can make it harder to fall back asleep, we want to reduce occurrences or avoid if possible. Drink your fluids earlier in the day and avoid drinking more than a cup or so of fluid in the hours leading to bed. If nature still calls (which happens as your bladder gets smaller from baby compressing it!) get out of bed right away, use the bathroom, and get back to bed as quickly as possible. You can use relaxation techniques to ease back to sleep and keep your brain from “turning on”.
Is it your bed?
If you’re waking up sore every morning it may be more than pregnancy insomnia. Maybe your mattress is to blame. Many mattresses just don’t hold their shape longer than a few years and off-gas hormone disrupting chemicals (the last thing you want when you’re pregnant!). If you think it’s time for a new mattress find out which eco-friendly mattresses are the real deal, and which one we chose.
Hang in there!
If after trying all of these remedies, you still are struggling with sleep, take heart that it will pass. And, some say that it will prepare you for your fractured sleep once baby arrives. You’ll be able to sleep again when the child is around 5 😉
How about you?
Did you struggle with pregnancy insomnia? What helped you sleep the most? Share with us!