How can you treat insomnia during pregnancy

Complaints during pregnancy: sleep disorders and insomnia

Many pregnant women feel the need to sleep more than they did before pregnancy. But it is not uncommon for them to have problems sleeping: some people fall asleep poorly in the evening, others wake up at night and then cannot go back to sleep straight away or sleep restlessly. Often they feel unrested and tired during the day.

How does this happen?

Many pregnant women wake up again and again at night because of the frequent need to urinate. Heartburn, calf cramps or “restless legs” (restless legs syndrome) are also often responsible for interruptions in sleep.

Another reason for interrupted sleep is the growing belly: pregnant women often find it difficult to sleep comfortably and wake up when they have to change their position. In addition, the unborn child's sleep-wake phases are shorter than the maternal one. The baby is therefore sometimes active just when the woman wants to sleep. It is also possible that pregnant women lie awake during the night when thoughts of the upcoming birth or the time after arise. All of this is normal.

Sleep disorders and insomnia can also be the result of stress or be related to an anxiety disorder or depression. Not feeling well rested in the morning or being very tired during the day can, in rare cases, be due to nocturnal pauses in breathing, which can occur when you snore heavily.

What to do?

The following tips can help improve your sleep:

  • Eat only a light meal in the evening and avoid caffeinated drinks. Let the day end as calmly as possible and only go to bed when you are tired.
  • Make sure the bedroom is well ventilated and cool (around 18 degrees Celsius).
  • Get some pillows: lying on your left side with a pillow between your knees, under your stomach, and behind your back is what many pregnant women find comfortable. Back pain then also occurs less frequently. In addition, a warming pad in the lower back can promote sleep.
  • If you lie down and can't sleep, don't force yourself to lie down. Get up, take a warm bath, or do something relaxing like knitting or reading.
  • Organize your daily routine actively, with regular exercise to get tired. If you are tired during the day, a short nap can be very relaxing - just not too late in the afternoon, otherwise you might get tired late in the evening.
  • Exercise regularly - this can improve sleep over the long term.

If the sleep disorder is caused by psychological stress such as stress, relaxation techniques such as autogenic training or mindfulness exercises can be helpful. Acupuncture, massage or yoga can also help with sleep disorders or insomnia.

There are over-the-counter medicines for nervous-induced sleep disorders, most of which contain valerian, hops, lemon balm or passion flower. However, only preparations without alcohol should be used during pregnancy. Always seek advice from your doctor before taking any medication.

When to go to the doctor?

If your sleep does not get better despite these measures, it is best to contact your doctor. In severe cases, there are well-tested drugs that can be used on a short-term basis.

If you have an uncomfortable feeling in your legs while lying down, such as tingling, vibrating or burning, which improves when you move (restless legs syndrome), medical advice is also useful.

In some cases, there may be pauses in breathing when you snore heavily. If these breathing pauses last longer than ten seconds, an impairment of the oxygen supply is possible. If you suspect that you are experiencing nocturnal pauses in breathing, you may be referred to a practice that specializes in sleep disorders if necessary.

If you cannot sleep at night because you are very worried, afraid or feeling very depressed, it is important to speak to your doctor or midwife about this. They can help you further and, for example, suggest further offers of help.