For many women pregnancy is a time of great joy and excitement, but also a time of changing hormonal levels leading to severe sleep problems and fatigue. Almost 80% of women report severe sleep disturbances, especially during the 1st and 3rd trimesters. Rising progesterone levels may partly account for excessive daytime sleepiness, especially in the 1st trimester.
Many women suffer insomnia symptoms due to emotions of anxiety , depression and worries about labor and delivery, relationship stress, and trying to maintain a constant work load despite frequent feelings of physical discomfort and nausea. Almost 1/4th of women studied also suffered symptoms of restless leg syndrome (RLS) and heartburn, also known as gastroesopyageal reflux disease (GERD). Almost ½ of pregnant women experience GERD constantly during their pregnancy.
Treatment for insomnia during pregnancy is complicated by the fact that drugs and sleep medications can harm a developing fetus. Sleep meds are not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing. GERD symptoms, however, can be treated with over –the –counter antacids.
Severe insomnia problems are also a problem for the new parents after birth and can lead to depression, anxiety, and relationship problems if not dealt with. Relaxation methods and nonmedocation sleep aids can be very beneficial to take advantage of those windows of sleep opportunities while trying to keep up with the challenges of caring for a demanding newborn.
Helpful ways to improve sleep include:
- Exercise if possible for 20-30 min/day
- Sleep on your left side to enhance blood flow to the fetus
- Drink plenty of fluids; water and juice
- Learn relaxation methods such as mild yoga and meditation
- Use a natural sleep aid.
Source: National Sleep Foundation, 2015