Congratulations on conceiving! Pregnancy is an exciting and transformative time, and alongside some of the beautiful changes happening in your body, there are some not so welcome changes – including insomnia! As sleep plays a vital role in overall well-being, finding safe and effective remedies to promote a restful nights sleep is crucial for expectant mothers. Here we explore five safe and natural remedies that can help manage insomnia during pregnancy, supporting both mum and baby.
What causes insomnia during pregnancy?
Insomnia can be caused by a variety of factors, including physiological, hormonal, and emotional changes. Here are some common causes of insomnia during pregnancy:
Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly increased levels of progesterone, can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle and contribute to insomnia. Hormonal shifts can affect the body’s ability to relax and fall asleep, leading to difficulty in maintaining a restful sleep throughout the night.
Physical Discomfort: The physical changes that occur during pregnancy, such as weight gain, growing belly, back pain, frequent urination, and increased heartburn, can make it challenging for mums to find a comfortable sleeping position. Discomfort and bodily changes can lead to frequent awakenings during the night, disrupting the sleep pattern.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS): Some pregnant women may experience Restless Legs Syndrome, a condition characterised by uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them. RLS can worsen at night, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Anxiety and Stress: Pregnancy brings about a range of emotions, and anxiety or stress related to pregnancy, upcoming childbirth, or other life changes can contribute to insomnia. Racing thoughts, worries, and increased levels of stress hormones can make it challenging to relax and fall asleep.
Frequent Urination and Night-time Awakenings: Increased blood volume and pressure on the bladder as the uterus grows can lead to more frequent trips to the bathroom during the night. Disrupted sleep due to frequent bathroom trips visits can make it challenging to maintain a consistent sleep pattern.
Leg Cramps: Some pregnant women may experience leg cramps, especially during the later stages of pregnancy. These sudden, painful muscle contractions can occur at night and interrupt sleep.
Nasal Congestion and Disrupted Breathing: Hormonal changes and increased blood flow can cause nasal congestion and difficulty breathing through the nose. This can lead to snoring, sleep disruptions, and overall discomfort during sleep.
Are these issues resonating for you? Let’s have a look into what our Shift Lead Naturopath Katherine recommends.
Natural sleep remedies for pregnancy induced insomnia
Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that plays a crucial role in promoting relaxation and supporting healthy sleep. It helps calm the nervous system and regulates neurotransmitters involved in sleep. Magnesium supplements such as magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate are often recommended as they are well-absorbed forms of magnesium.
Chamomile: Chamomile is a gentle herb known for its calming properties to help you feel sleepy. It has been traditionally used as a sleep aid, to promote relaxation and improve the quality of your sleep. Chamomile tea or chamomile supplements, when used in moderation and under professional guidance, may help support restful sleep during pregnancy.
Valerian Root: Valerian root is a herb that has been used for centuries to promote relaxation and improve sleep. It may help alleviate mild insomnia symptoms. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using valerian root during pregnancy, as its safety and dosage need to be assessed on an individual basis.
Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that your body makes to regulate sleep-wake cycles. It can also be taken as a supplement to support deep sleep. However, the use of melatonin during pregnancy should be discussed with your naturopath, as more research is needed to determine its safety and appropriate dosage during the first trimester of pregnancy.
L-theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that has calming effects on the brain. It may help promote relaxation and reduce anxiety, and potentially help you sleep. It’s advisable to consult with your naturopath before using L-theanine during pregnancy.
Lemon balm: Lemon Balm is part of the mint family and had been used alternative medicine as far back as the Middle Ages. It may improve appetite, ease pain and discomfort from indigestion, reduce anxiety and irritability, and promote sleep.
It is important to note that each person and pregnancy is unique, and the use of any herbal supplement should be discussed with a qualified naturopath. Our naturopaths provide personalised guidance, consider your specific health needs and the stage of your pregnancy, and ensure the safe and appropriate dosage of the sleep supplements mentioned and other herbs. Our naturopaths will never encourage you to orally induce essential oils, only the herbs recommended and prescribed from our dispensary. Book a call with one of our naturopaths today.
(2) Relaxation techniques to reduce pregnancy insomnia
Meditation is a powerful practice that can calm the mind and relax the body. By focusing on the present moment and engaging in deep breathing and relaxation exercises together, expectant mothers can reduce stress and anxiety, promoting a state of deep relaxation conducive to sleep. Choose a quiet and comfortable space, close your eyes, and bring your attention to your breath. Allow thoughts to pass without judgment and gently guide your focus back to the breath. Practice for a few minutes each day, gradually increasing the duration as desired.
Engaging in a quiet and enjoyable activity before bed, such as reading, can help shift the mind away from daily worries and promote relaxation. Choose books or magazines that uplift and inspire, steering clear of stimulating or suspenseful content. If you have trouble falling asleep, set aside dedicated time each evening to unwind with a good book, allowing your mind to enter a peaceful and serene state.
Acupuncture is an ancient practice that involves the gentle insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to restore balance, promote overall well-being and assist individuals who have trouble sleeping. It has been used for centuries to address various other health problems and concerns. Book with Georgie, our Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner, to enjoy a peaceful, soothing experience.
Massage is a nurturing and therapeutic technique that can significantly reduce stress, relieve muscle tension, and induce relaxation. Consider seeking the services of a certified prenatal massage therapist who specialises in working with women who are pregnant. They will be able to provide a safe and tailored massage experience that addresses your unique needs and promotes better sleep. The gentle touch, soothing strokes, and release of tension during the massage can help calm the body and mind, allowing for a more peaceful sleep.
At-home Foot Spa
Creating your own at home foot spa infused with magnesium-rich Epsom salts can be incredibly soothing for expectant mothers struggling with insomnia. Magnesium is known to promote relaxation and improve the quality of your sleep. As there is mixed information about the safety of a warm bath for pregnant women, you can still receive the benefits of magnesium without the risk factor. Fill a large bowl or container with warm water and dissolve a cup of Epsom salts into it. Submerge your feet and soak for 20 minutes, allowing the warm water and magnesium to relax your muscles, ease tension, and prepare your body and mind for a restful night’s sleep.
(3) Treating illnesses and disruptive symptoms
Reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into the oesophagus, causing heartburn and discomfort. Pregnancy hormones can relax the muscles of the digestive system, including the lower oesophageal sphincter, allowing acid to escape more easily. The growing uterus can also exert pressure on the stomach, contributing to reflux symptoms. Acid reflux during pregnancy can cause heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest or throat, especially when lying down. These symptoms can worsen at night, making it challenging to fall into and maintain a deep sleep, thereby impacting sleep quality. Some women may only experience reflux in the first trimester, whilst others will be impacted all the way through their second and third trimester.
IBS is a digestive disorder characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, changes in bowel habits, and gastrointestinal discomfort. For pregnant women with IBS, these symptoms can worsen due to hormonal changes, increased pressure on the abdomen, and dietary modifications. The discomfort and pain associated with IBS can make it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position, leading to sleep disturbances. Frequent trips to the bathroom due to bowel irregularities can also interrupt sleep patterns, further impacting sleep quality.
During pregnancy, changes in hormone levels and the growing belly can cause muscle soreness and discomfort, particularly in the back, hips, and pelvic region. The additional weight and changes in posture can strain muscles and joints, leading to aches and pains. The discomfort can make it challenging to find a comfortable sleeping position, and you may toss and turn throughout the night, seeking relief. Muscle soreness can interrupt the sleep cycle, preventing deep and restorative sleep.
(4) Sleep Hygiene
Limit screen use
The blue light emitted by electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Limiting screen time in the evening, ideally for at least an hour before bed, can help signal to the brain that it’s time to wind down. Engage in relaxing activities such as reading a book, practicing gentle stretching, or listening to calming music instead.
Sleep in a cool environment
Maintaining a cool and comfortable sleeping environment can promote better sleep during pregnancy. Set the thermostat to a temperature that allows for optimal comfort, typically between 60-67°F (15-19°C). Use breathable bedding and sleepwear, ensuring they are appropriate for the current season. Cool temperatures can help regulate body heat and prevent discomfort that might disrupt sleep.
Turn off your phone
Distractions and notifications from phones can disrupt sleep and prevent the mind from fully relaxing. Consider turning off or silencing your phone during sleep hours to minimize interruptions. This will help create a tranquil environment conducive to restful sleep. If using the phone as an alarm is necessary, switch it to airplane mode or enable the “Do Not Disturb” feature to limit disruptions.
Use white noise
White noise, such as the sound of a fan, a dedicated white noise machine, or smartphone apps that generate calming sounds, can be beneficial for drowning out background noise and creating a soothing sleep environment. White noise can help mask sleep disturbances, disruptive sounds, promote relaxation, and assist staying asleep. Experiment with different white noise options to find the most soothing sound for you.
Experimenting with different sleep positions, such as elevating the upper body slightly using pillows, can help reduce symptoms and provide relief from pregnancy caused acid reflux. Sleeping on the left side can also improve digestion and alleviate pressure on major blood vessels, promoting better blood flow to the placenta.
(5) Develop a routine
Establishing a consistent sleep routine is crucial for regulating the body’s internal clock and promoting better sleep quality. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Creating a consistent sleep schedule helps train your body to recognise sleep cues and establish a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
It can also be helpful to create intentional rituals for the morning and evening. If you are unable to cut out coffee altogether, make space in your morning, get some fresh air, and truly enjoy your cuppa. It is important to avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening, so make sure you enjoy it as early in the day as possible. During the day, scheduling enough gentle physical activity, like tai chi or yoga, so that you body will be ready for more shut eye come bed time. For your evening, create a wind-down ritual incorporating multiple senses. This may include taking your magnesium supplement, drinking herbal teas, listening to soothing music, diffusing some lavender oil or using a spray with lavender essential oil on an eye mask. Doing this each night in the same order, just as you would for your newborn’s night time routine, you are telling your body it’s time for shut eye.
Working with your naturopath to assist with insomnia
Managing your insomnia whilst pregnant is crucial for the overall well-being of expectant mothers. By implementing these natural remedies, including establishing a soothing bedtime routine, optimising the sleep environment, practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques, considering safe herbal remedies, and adopting good sleep hygiene, pregnant women can enhance their sleep quality to make sure they are getting enough sleep. However, it’s important to consult with one of our qualified naturopaths who are experienced in prenatal care to ensure the safety and suitability of any natural remedies during pregnancy. It’s also important to note that this isn’t a light switch cure, it may take a few nights of implementing this advice before seeing big changes in your sleep issues.
Call our team today to book your pregnancy care appointment 07 3367 0337 or book online here.
Working with complementary and integrative health practitioners
At Shift we take a team approach when it comes to chronic insomnia. Alongside your care with our naturopaths, we may recommend:
Nutrition Consultations for insomnia
It is important to follow a well-balanced and nutritious diet to support the expecting mother and the growing baby, whilst avoiding trigger foods that may exacerbate symptoms of IBS, reflux and insomnia. Book a consultation with Monica our Nutritionist who is well versed in prenatal nutrition.
Acupuncture Appointments for insomnia
Acupuncture sessions can help regulate the body’s energy flow, alleviate anxiety, promote relaxation, decrease sleep problems and symptoms of gastrointestinal issues. To get a better nights sleep, book an Acupuncture appointment with our Shift Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Georgie.
Hypnotherapy Appointments for insomnia
Hypnotherapy looks to the unconscious causes of insomnia, such as stress, anxiety, fears, or negative thoughts around the current pressures and life changes surrounding their pregnancy. Hypnotherapy can help many women reframe their mindset and empower their inner resources to promote a sense of calmness and help you sleep. Book a session with our Hypnotherapist, Gary, here.