Insomnia is an extremely common health problem in America, affecting a staggering 40 million Americans. Women tend to suffer from insomnia more than men, with 63 percent of American women reporting poor sleep compared to 53 percent of men.Women experience more sleep problems during times of major physical and psychological changes. Insomnia is commonly reported during pregnancy, menstruation and menopause. Major fluctuations in hormone levels (e.g., estrogen, progesterone) coupled with discomfort (e.g., cramping, restless legs, physical discomfort of pregnancy) are typically to blame for sleepless nights. Overactive minds and worries about life changes/stressors can also worsen sleep.Pregnancy is a time of major physical and psychological change. Women’s bodies change dramatically over the course of 40 weeks, and their minds try to prepare for the little one coming into the household.
First Trimester: Many women feel excessively sleepy during the day. In fact, a strong urge to take a midday nap is very common (and recommended if you aren’t having too much trouble with insomnia). Pregnant women in their 1st trimester tend to sleep more overall, since the body is working hard to grow the developing baby and placenta (the organ that feeds the baby until birth). Although women sleep more during this early stage of pregnancy, their nighttime sleep is often briefly interrupted with the need to urinate, nausea or general psychological stress.
The Second Trimester: This is typically a time of respite, with a more normal sleep pattern. The growing fetus moves above the bladder, causing fewer trips to the bathroom at night. Morning sickness lessens during this time, and women generally don’t have physical discomfort.
The Third Trimester: The final months tend to be the most physically and psychologically taxing for pregnant women. Physical discomfort greatly increases, due to a growing belly, heartburn, sinus congestion, leg cramps, back pain and constipation. The baby, again, puts pressure on the bladder, and frequent nighttime urination returns. Women begin to worry more about the impending birth, things that need to be done before the baby arrives, and what life might be like after baby. Another reason sleep is broken up during this trimester is that it serves to prepare mom for the disrupted sleep that’s about to happen once the baby arrives.It is likely unrealistic to think that every night of sleep during pregnancy will be great. Despite the physical and psychological rollercoaster that’s to be expected during this time, there are some things that can be done to help.
1) Pillows! Pillows can be your best friend during pregnancy. Experiment to see what work’s best for you. Many women find that laying on their side and adding extra pillows to help support beneath the stomach and lower back (by putting a pillow between your knees) can aid in pain relief. Full-body pregnancy pillows are available in stores and support the head, belly and lower back. Other women find wedge-shaped pillows helpful in supporting the lower back and belly.