Insomnia and Pregnancy

Q:  I am in my second trimester of pregnancy and am desperate to sleep better.  I have always been a poor sleeper and over the years have tried many OTC remedies and prescription drugs too.  These are now out of the question and I am at my wit’s end.  My husband is a heavy snorer and that awakens me too.  He thinks if I fix my insomnia then his snoring won’t be an issue.  I just need a good night’s sleep.  Can you help?

A:  You are wise to be wary of drugs that unnaturally force sleep, and especially during pregnancy.  Many experts take the position that sleeping pills only address the symptom of insomnia, not the true root problem that is causing the sleeplessness, and so may potentially do more harm than good.  There are better ways.

It’s a good idea to discuss insomnia with your doctor.  You want to either treat or rule out any potential medical or psychiatric issues that could be causing your sleeplessness.  But don’t be surprised if there are no true medical problems underlying your insomnia.  Most insomnia is primary and lacks a true underlying medical basis.

The most common underlying issues with primary insomnia are some combination of bad sleep habits and excessive worry about the idea of sleep, so that might be a good place to start.  Here’s a number of suggestions, all drug-free and natural, that may help you.

First, try to set a regular sleep-wake schedule.  Especially important is a consistent wake time.  This has the profound effect of both regulating your circadian rhythm and synchronizing it to your homeostatic sleep drive.  Circadian rhythm and sleep drive are two of the most important internal processes that control sleep.

Second, be sure to schedule time for some reasonable exercise every day.  Tire yourself out mentally and physically every day, and you’ll tend to sleep better at night.

Third, try to avoid or at least minimize any caffeinated beverages or foods with caffeine (there are many, including chocolate) after lunch.

Fourth, allow yourself a relaxing wind-down period before bed.  This can be something like a relaxing bath, getting your clothes ready for morning, reading something enjoyable, just whatever you like doing and find relaxing so you can let stress go before bed.  Developing a consistent cool down routine every night helps prepare your mind and body for sleep.  Avoid any sort of stress during this wind-down time.

Think of it like this: your mind and body are like a finely-tuned machine designed to automatically get all the sleep you require. Then relax and let go the worry about sleep.

Worry is a potent fuel for much, if not most, primary insomnia.  There are effective drug-free ways to learn to identify and safely release the negative sleep thoughts that to a large extent fuel insomnia.  The best source of these are contained in cognitive behavioral therapy specifically designed for insomnia (CBTI).

If you’re still not sleeping better after taking some of these conservative actions, then you might look into a good CBTI-based sleep training program.  If you are the self-help type, you will find many sleep training programs online that are accessible and affordable.

Finally, a note about your husband’s heavy snoring:  that is a potential red flag for apnea, a potentially serious condition.  If you notice him stop breathing in his sleep and then suddenly gasp for air, that is a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea.  He might do well with a checkup to either treat or rule this out.

In any case,  don’t just lay there and suffer if you’re awakened by snoring.  Try a white noise machine, earplugs, or even sleeping separately if that’s what it takes for some quality shut eye.  It’s important to you, and to your baby.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, pregnancy, sleep

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