Pregnancy and insomnia

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Pregnant woman

For the expectant mother sleep deprivation after the birth of the baby is a given. But insomnia during pregnancy is also very common. Uncontrolled hormones and worries can cause insomnia while you are pregnant.

Pregnancy is associated with many natural, hormonal and physiological changes that can affect sleep. 66-94% of women report sleep disorders during pregnancy, and one of their manifestations is insomnia. Pregnancy can make you feel exhausted all day and cause insomnia at night. Insomnia means that you do not want or find it difficult to sleep.

Pregnant women tend to sleep more during the first trimester but experience a sharp decline in the quality of their sleep. In the first trimester, sleep increases (on average, from 7.4 to 8.2 hours) and then decreases in the third trimester. The rate of sleep disorders also changes quarterly: at 13% in the first trimester, 19% in the second trimester and 66% in the third trimester [1].

Sleep disorders affect health and quality of life and can adversely affect obstetric outcomes. Some evidence suggests that sleep problems may affect fetal outcome, depressive symptoms, cause increased labor pain, more cesarean sections, preterm birth, and low birth weight [2]. A study from the University of California, San Francisco, found that women who slept less than 6 hours a night were more likely to have a longer delivery and 4.5 times more likely to have a caesarean section.

Why is insomnia caused?

Insomnia and sleep deprivation increase as the pregnancy progresses and are related to the physical symptoms or discomfort a pregnant woman experiences.

What causes insomnia during pregnancy? There are many reasons why you may stay awake. You may go to the toilet often, have nausea or vomiting, have back pain or tenderness in the chest, abdominal discomfort, leg cramps, difficulty breathing, heartburn or very vivid dreams that wake you up. Other causes may be related to stress. You may be worried about childbirth or how you will balance your work with motherhood and these thoughts will keep you awake at night.

In particular, in the first trimester, the most common causes of poor sleep are nausea / vomiting, increased frequency of urination and back pain. In the second and third trimesters the causes are fetal movements, heartburn, cramps or tingling in the legs and shortness of breath. Insomnia may worsen just before childbirth due to the secretion of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes awakening.

How is it treated?

One of the best things you can do to manage your sleep deprivation is to develop good sleep habits. Start by trying to get the same amount of sleep each night. Avoid spending time on screens for at least an hour before bed. Blue light from the TV, cell phone or tablet can affect the circadian rhythm and the sleep-wake cycle. Try reading a book instead. A relaxing bath can make you drowsy but watch out for the temperature which should not be high. This can be dangerous for your growing baby, especially in the first months of pregnancy. Also, avoid hot tubs.

Diet and exercise can also affect your sleep. Drink plenty of water a day, but minimize it after 7 p.m. Avoid caffeine late in the afternoon. Eat a healthy meal but not too much to reduce the chances of heartburn. Eating dinner long before bed can help, but do not sleep hungry. Eat a light snack if you want to eat something late at night, something high in protein to keep your blood sugar levels more stable at night. A glass of milk can help you feel drowsy. Stay active during the day to rest at night.

If insomnia affects your ability to function properly, your doctor may prescribe a safe medicine to help you sleep better. Be sure to consult your doctor before taking any medication, dietary supplement or herb to treat the problem.

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