5 Natural Remedies For Insomnia During Pregnancy

Pregnant women suffer from insomnia more than others, so we have rounded up five natural remedies that have been proven to improve sleep quality during pregnancy.

Five natural remedies that have been proven to improve sleep quality during pregnancy are acupuncture, yoga, exercise, massage, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Insomnia during pregnancy can be a problem for many women. To help improve sleep, try five natural remedies that have been proven to improve sleep quality. These include acupuncture, yoga, exercise, massage, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Insomnia during pregnancy can be a real problem, and many of the remedies you’ve used successfully in the past will not work. There are many options available, including acupuncture, yoga and exercise, massage and cognitive behavioral therapy. Here is a list of 5 natural remedies that have been proven to improve sleep quality during pregnancy

Pregnant and Cant Sleep 2nd Trimester

Pregnancy insomnia refers to trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both when pregnant.1 Sleepless nights are a common occurrence during pregnancy. It is estimated that up to 78% of pregnant people experience sleep disturbances throughout pregnancy.2 

There are several possible causes of pregnancy insomnia, including hormonal changes, physical discomfort, and mood disorders. It is not recommended to use regular sleep medications while pregnant.3

This article will provide an overview of pregnancy insomnia and describe natural remedies to address it. 

Mature pregnant woman sitting on her bed - negative emotion - stock photo

What Is Pregnancy Insomnia?

Pregnancy insomnia is a common condition involving trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both while pregnant. Most people experience sleep disturbances at some time during their pregnancies. 

One study found that early intervention is important because insomnia may raise the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. It is estimated that women who sleep less than six hours per night during pregnancy are more likely to have long labors. They also are 4.5 times more likely to require a cesarean section (C-section), a surgical procedure to deliver the baby through incisions made in the abdomen and uterus.2

A lack of sleep during pregnancy may also raise the risk of preeclampsia (a complication causing high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine, which indicate kidney damage) and gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy).4

Causes

Sleep disturbances in pregnancy may be related to hormonal, physiologic, metabolic, and psychological changes. These changes can raise the risk of conditions that lead to insomnia. These pregnancy-related conditions may include anxiety and mood disorders, breathing-related sleep disorders, and restless legs syndrome (RLS).2

The changes throughout pregnancy contribute to sleep disturbances in different ways. During the first trimester, a spike in the hormone progesterone causes:

All of these new symptoms can contribute to sleep disturbances at night. An increased progesterone level can also increase the risk of sleep apnea and snoring.2 

It is possible to feel and sleep better during the second trimester. However, by the third trimester, sleep disturbances can return. The growing fetus can lead to heartburn, muscle aches, urinary frequency, and extra pressure on the diaphragm in the third trimester. Estrogen levels increase in the third trimester, leading to rhinitis (nasal congestion, a runny nose, and sneezing) and obstructive sleep apnea (muscles in the back of the throat relax and disrupt breathing).4 

Most healthcare providers do not recommend regular sleep medications during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects and health complications. Most medications for sleep and RLS have risks to a developing fetus.2 Sleep medications may also raise the risk of preterm labor, low birth weight, C-section, and neonatal abstinence syndrome (withdrawal symptoms experienced by the baby from drugs exposed to when in the womb).5 

 What Meds or Pills You Can Take When You Cannot Sleep

Natural Remedies

Because sleep medications are usually not recommended during pregnancy, many pregnant individuals turn to natural remedies for sleep. It’s important to remember that not all natural remedies are considered safe during pregnancy. Talk with your healthcare provider about which methods to try. 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is used for a variety of pregnancy-related concerns. It is generally considered safe during pregnancy for the treatment of:

A study found that acupuncture can significantly improve sleep quality in pregnant women.5 This may be due to its effect on melatonin in the body. Melatonin is a hormone naturally secreted in the body that helps us relax and fall asleep. Research shows that acupuncture can increase the serum concentration of melatonin in the body. 

In addition to improving sleep quality, increased melatonin levels may also benefit the baby. Melatonin crosses the placenta and plays an important role in fetal brain development.6

 The Health Benefits of Melatonin

Yoga

If you have been experiencing disturbed sleep during pregnancy, consider trying a prenatal yoga class. A review found that starting a regular yoga practice during the second trimester decreased the number of nighttime awakenings and time spent awake in bed for study participants. Individuals who began yoga in their second trimesters experienced more benefits in sleep quality than those who started in their third trimesters.7

 Yoga for Pain Relief

Exercise

A regular exercise program may benefit those experiencing pregnancy insomnia. A review found that pregnant people who engaged in regular physical activity experienced significant improvements in their sleep quality. They also experienced a reduction in anxiety symptoms. Regular exercise was especially helpful in treating pregnancy insomnia in the third trimester.7 

Massage

Massage therapy positively impacts stress, mood, and sleep in pregnant women. A review found that pregnant individuals who took part in a massage and relaxation program reported fewer sleep disruptions.7 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Stress reduction is an important way to improve sleep.8 Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches individuals to recognize and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. 

A clinical trial found that CBT led to significant improvements in sleep quality and insomnia symptoms in pregnant individuals. Study participants reported less time lying awake in bed and fewer anxiety symptoms after participating in a CBT program. The participants were also less likely to require sleep medication than those in the control group.9

Starting CBT during pregnancy may also reduce the risk of postpartum mood disorders like depression and anxiety.10

In addition to prescription sleep aids, over-the-counter medications to avoid during pregnancy include:11

  • Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen)
  • Aleve (naproxen) 
  • Sudafed (phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine)
  • Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate)

Prevention

While it may not be possible to prevent pregnancy insomnia completely, there are steps that you can take to reduce your risk. Most healthcare providers consider sleep hygiene the first-line treatment of pregnancy insomnia.2 Sleep hygiene refers to setting up an environment that supports good sleep quality. It can improve pregnant individuals’ quality of life significantly.

Consider trying one or all of the following sleep hygiene techniques:12

  • Keep your bedroom cool and dark, and use only a dim nightlight in the bathroom.
  • Remove any screens from your room and avoid looking at them before bed. 
  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Avoid eating spicy or fried foods in the evenings. Start restricting fluids in the evening as well.
  • Aim to exercise for 30 minutes per day at least four to six hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine. 
  • Schedule your daytime naps for earlier in the day. 
  • Position yourself lying on your left side with your knees and hips bent. Keep a pillow between your legs to prevent hip or low back pain. 

Summary

Pregnancy insomnia is a common condition during pregnancy and refers to trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Pregnancy insomnia may be caused by the hormonal, physiologic, metabolic, and psychological changes during pregnancy. Regular use of sleep medication is not advised in pregnancy. Five natural remedies that have been proven to improve sleep quality during pregnancy are acupuncture, yoga, exercise, massage, and cognitive behavioral therapy. 

A Word From Verywell

Most new parents expect to give up sleep once their baby is born, but insomnia can cause sleepless nights even before the baby arrives. Pregnancy insomnia may increase the risk of serious complications, and early treatment is essential. Talk with your healthcare provider about your sleep disturbances and ask about your treatment options. Just because pregnancy insomnia is common does not mean you have to live with it. Several natural sleep options may provide relief. 

Insomnia During Pregnancy and Gender

Insomnia during early pregnancy is usually due to factors such as hormonal changes. Many people experience insomnia at some point, during pregnancy. Better sleep hygiene, relaxation techniques, and cognitive behavioral therapy can help.

According to a 2018 study of 486 pregnancies, 44.2 percent involved insomnia during the first trimester. The study concludes that insomnia is more likely to occur in those who have sleep problems before they become pregnant. However, anyone can experience sleep disturbances in pregnancy.

Insomnia tends to get worse as pregnancy progresses but can occur at any stage. In the first trimester, hormonal shifts are the most likely cause.

What causes insomnia in early pregnancy?

Woman laying awake because of insomnia during early pregnancy
Insomnia can result from hunger, nausea, anxiety, or depression.

Levels of the hormone progesterone are high during the first trimester, and this can cause sleepiness and napping during the day.

Aside from hormonal changes, factors that may make insomnia worse include:

Other less obvious causes include difficulty breathing, with this difficulty sometimes affecting a person’s breathing at night when they are pregnant. This can cause snoring and brief pauses in breathing called apnea.

Breathing problems during sleep at the end of the second and during the third trimester are more common.

Simple home remedies

According to early studies, use of sleeping pills during pregnancyTrusted Source requires caution. This restriction may feel frustrating, but some natural remedies can safely treat insomnia:

1. Practice better sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to habits that make it easier to fall asleep. Good sleep hygiene signals the brain to wind down and begin sleeping.

People may wish to try the following:

  • Only sleep in the bed and not anywhere else.
  • Wake and go to bed at the same time each day.
  • Keep the bedroom dark and cool.
  • Make the bed as comfortable and inviting as possible.
  • Do not use screens in bed, such as phones or television.
  • Get up if you cannot sleep after 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Limit caffeine before bed, or eliminate it throughout the day.
  • Limit fluids in the hours before bedtime.

Other habits to promote sleep include having a massage to reduce stress or taking a warm bath before bed.

2. Try dietary supplements

People who are pregnant should not use dietary supplements without first talking to a doctor. Herbal and dietary supplements may help with sleep, however.

Supplements of the naturally occurring hormone melatonin may also help.

A limited body of research suggests melatonin may also support healthy brain development in a baby. However, a 2016 Cochrane review emphasizes that more research is necessary to confirm this possible effect.

People with RLS may be deficient in iron and folic acidTrusted Source, so if RLS keeps a person awake at night, they should ask their doctor to test them for nutritional deficiencies.

3. Relaxation techniques

Woman performing meditation
Meditation can help with insomnia in pregnancy.

Relaxation exercises can help calm an anxious mind.

People can try progressive relaxation, which involves slowly and steadily relaxing each muscle in the body one at a time, beginning with the toes. Meditation may also help.

A 2015 study in the journal Obstetric MedicineTrusted Source concludes that meditation may help insomnia in pregnancy. The study says that meditation is a nonpharmacological way of managing insomnia and that prenatal hatha yoga may help.

More studies are needed to make this a definite recommendation, but people may find it useful to try yoga.

4. Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT

A model of CBT therapy known as CBT for insomniaTrusted Source can help people manage their thoughts and feelings about sleep and sleeping while changing their behavior.

CBT for insomnia can treat people with severe sleep deprivation get better sleep. It can help a person:

  • understand their insomnia
  • talk through emotions that play a role in insomnia
  • make healthful changes that reduce insomnia

CBT may be particularly helpful for those facing anxiety or depression.

5. Physical activity

The physical demands of pregnancy alongside steady weight gain can make it difficult to keep active.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there are many benefits to exercise during pregnancy. These include:

Gentle exercise can also help with insomnia. Any exercise during pregnancy should come with the recommendation of a doctor.

2016 studyTrusted Source from the Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences suggests around 30 minutes a day at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.

Some conditions may make it unsafe to exercise during pregnancy, so people should consult a doctor before starting any new workout routine.

SHOP PURPLE

Takeaway

Insomnia during the early and late stages of pregnancy is common and does not usually mean anything is wrong.

The 2018 study of 486 pregnancies found that insomnia occurs after pregnancy in 33.2 percent of cases. Living with a newborn may, in part, account for many of the sleep challenges people face after a baby is born.

With proper treatment and lifestyle changes, such as exercise and therapy, a person may be able to overcome insomnia during pregnancy. A doctor may also be able to help identify causes and help people find solutions.

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