Insomnia in pregnancy, causes and remedies

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Marie-Ange Demory
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Remember the times when you fell asleep right away? Now, when you are pregnant, sleeping eight to nine consecutive hours may seem like a distant dream. If it's not the nagging pressure on your bladder that keeps you awake, then it's back pain or leg cramps, or the inability to feel comfortable in a bed that once rocked you gently before falling asleep.

And what makes theinsomnia in pregnancy even more difficult to manage? Surely to know that right now is the time when you need sleep the most. Once the baby arrives, a good night's sleep will be even more difficult to find. Let's discover the causes and remedies of insomnia in pregnancy.

In this article

  • Insomnia in pregnancy, the causes
  • Insomnia in pregnancy, possible complications
  • Insomnia in pregnancy, the remedies
Read also: Pregnancy from A to Z

Insomnia in pregnancy, the causes

Are you pregnant? Know that there are many factors that can cause you to lose sleep, including:

  1. Backache. As the baby bump grows, the back muscles work harder and become sore as a result. In addition, the ligaments become loosened thanks to the hormones of pregnancy and, as a result, the chances of your back hurting increase. 
  2. Breast pain. Your breasts might hurt during pregnancy.
  3. Swelling. Pregnancy hormones slow digestion, making you feel bloated.
  4. Stomach ache. These same hormones also relax the muscles of the digestive tract, making it easier for stomach acids to move up into the esophagus and causing a burning sensation.
  5. Flushes. Some pregnant women have hot flashes: they suddenly feel hot in the chest, face and neck.
  6. Leg cramps and restless legs. Changes in circulation and the baby's pressure on the nerves and muscles can cause leg cramps. You may also experience a "peculiar sensation" in the legs known as restless legs syndrome.
  7. Back and forth from the bathroom. Having to go to the bathroom during the night often happens when you are pregnant and can keep you awake at night.
  8. Vivid dreams. When you are pregnant, it is normal to dream intensely.
  9. Nausea or vomiting. You may feel nauseous or throw up during the night.
  10. Shortness of breath. The growing uterus is also putting pressure on the diaphragm, which is located just below the lungs. This pressure can make it difficult to catch your breath.
  11. Snore. The extra pressure, due to the growth of the girth, can also lead you to snore more. Changes like these can also briefly block breathing repeatedly during sleep (sleep apnea).
  12. Anxiety. You have many things to think about right now with the baby on the way. The thoughts and worries running through your head can prevent you from sleeping.
Read also: The 40 weeks of pregnancy

Insomnia in pregnancy, possible complications

It is important to address and try to resolve insomnia in pregnancy. The body needs rest right now to take care of the growing baby. Insomnia in pregnancy or even theobstructive sleep apnea (OSAS) in pregnant women may have complications from smoking, obesity, age, or a possible problematic history.

This could increase the chances of having a premature birth, a longer labor, or a cesarean delivery.

Untreated sleep apnea can also lead to pregnancy complications, such as high blood pressure and difficulty sleeping after birth. It may also make you more vulnerable to depression after giving birth.

Read also: Fatigue in pregnancy

Insomnia in pregnancy, remedies

Treating insomnia is a little more difficult if you are pregnant, but it's not impossible. Many sleep medications are not considered safe for pregnant women. But be aware that some lifestyle changes can improve sleep. It is advisable to follow some recommendations. 

  1. Limit caffeinated drinks. They make it harder for the body to absorb the iron that you and your baby need.
  2. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and stop drinking a couple of hours before bed so that you don't have to wake up to go to the bathroom.
  3. Leave the light screens. Watching social media on your phone or television on your tablet can keep you awake at night
  4. Eat smaller meals more often and don't dine too late.
  5. Consider the idea of avoid heartburn triggers, such as chocolate and fatty or spicy foods.
  6. Go out and walk for about 30 minutes a day. Exercise helps you sleep better. Just don't exercise 4 hours before bed as it can keep you awake.
  7. Take a warm bath or ask your partner for a massage to relax.
  8. Talk about your concerns. You can talk to your partner, friend or therapist. Talking to someone can help you get rid of anxieties.
  9. Keep the "quiet" bedroom, dark and cool at night.
  10. Follow one routine before bedtime.
  11. Leave a window open. Fresh air can be soporific. And if the weather isn't cooperating and an open window risks letting in a flood (or desert temperature), try to cool the room with an air conditioner or fan.
  12. Make love. If you're in the mood, make love. Or at least ask your partner for a massage - both are relaxing.
  13. Relaxation exercises. Try some relaxation exercises (visualization, meditation, deep breathing, maybe even yoga). If you are not familiar with these practices, the same effect is achieved, amazingly… by counting sheep, thanks to the monotony of visualizing animals jumping over the fence. You can download a sleep or meditation app to your phone.
  14. Leave a night light on in the bathroom. Since you will have to go there frequently during the night, turning on the normal lamp you have in the toilet (and which is much more powerful than a night light) could wake you up completely and make it difficult for you to get back to sleep. So opt for a smaller lamp.

If you've tried these tips and still can't fall asleep, see your doctor. Treatment may be needed for a specific problem or perhaps for restless legs syndrome.


  1. If you have restless legs syndrome, take a lot of folic acid and iron from prenatal vitamins and from foods such as wholemeal bread and cereals.
  2. If you are overweight or snore, your doctor may check you for sleep apnea. You may need a special mask that provides constant air pressure to keep the airways open. This helps you breathe easier at night.
  3. If you have heartburn, try over-the-counter antacids. If possible, raise the headboard a few inches so that the acid flows back down rather than up into the esophagus. Also, avoid spicy or acidic foods that could trigger heartburn and don't eat a large meal before bed. If you are hungry, have a light snack, such as wholemeal crackers and cheese or an apple.
  4. If you suffer from anxiety, talk to your doctor, which may direct you to additional sources of support.

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Read also: Insomnia in pregnancy, 9 tips to fight it

  • wellness in pregnancy
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