3 MIN READ | Clinical Psychology

Dennis Relojo-Howell

What Causes Insomnia During Early Pregnancy, and How to Treat It

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Dennis Relojo-Howell, (2021, August 26). What Causes Insomnia During Early Pregnancy, and How to Treat It. Psychreg on Clinical Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/what-causes-insomnia-during-early-pregnancy/
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Insomnia means difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep. This common sleep disorder can also cause you to wake up too early and not be able to head back to sleep. Insomnia can make one feel as if the sleep they got was not restorative.

Insomnia affects up to 60% of Americans. It can impact one’s mood, energy level, health, and work performance.

Insomnia during early pregnancy

Women may experience insomnia during all stages of pregnancy. According to a study carried out in 2018, in 486 pregnant women, 44.2% of them experienced insomnia during their first trimester. Insomnia is more likely to be experienced by people who have sleep problems even before they become pregnant. However, any woman can experience sleep disturbances in pregnancy.

In many cases, insomnia tends to get worse as the pregnancy progresses but can start at any stage. Insomnia in the first trimester is most likely caused by hormonal shifts.

Is insomnia harmful during pregnancy?

Lack of good sleep for one night during pregnancy is not usually a big concern. However, chronic inadequate sleep is linked to gestational diabetes, stress, or even depression. Largely, insomnia is not very harmful to your pregnancy. When it becomes chronic, it needs to get managed or treated by a healthcare professional to avoid the dangers that would come with it.

What causes insomnia during early pregnancy?

Like many other pregnancy-related symptoms, insomnia can be linked to hormonal changes during this time. A wide range of factors that can keep you awake at night include:

  • Frequent trips to the bathroom
  • Heartburn, constipation, or morning sickness that happens during pregnancy
  • Aches and pains
  • Leg cramps or restless leg syndrome
  • Disturbing dreams
  • Hopped-up metabolism
  • Psychological difficulty getting comfortable with a growing belly
  • Pre-birth anxiety

Other causes of insomnia include stress-related causes. Many women feel anxious about labour and delivery or worry about becoming a new mother. Such thoughts can keep a pregnant woman up at night.

How do you treat insomnia during early pregnancy?

  • Clear negative emotional. Persistent worries that keep you up at night, talk about them in an attempt to sort them out outside your sleep hours.
  • Dietary supplements. Pregnant women should not use dietary supplements without their doctor recommending them. Supplements of the naturally occurring melatonin hormone may also help.
  • Eat small and early. Having a big meal, just before bedtime, can keep you from falling and staying asleep. Try to eat a lighter, earlier dinner.
  • Avoid caffeine. Avoid caffeine, especially before bedtime, since it can keep you awake.
  • Relaxation. Relaxation exercises help to calm an anxious mind. Progressive relaxation slowly and steadily relaxes each muscle in the body one at a time, beginning with the toes. Meditation may also help.
  • Workout. Physical demands of pregnancy and steady weight gain can make it difficult to keep active. However, getting some daily pregnancy exercise can make you sleep better at night. Pregnant women should avoid hitting the gym too close to bedtime.
  • Have a bedtime routine. Try as much as possible to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Crafting a routine that includes activities such as; light reading, soothing music, gentle yoga poses or relaxation exercises, a warm bath, prenatal massage.
  • Download a sleep app. Download a sleep app that will help you craft a sleep schedule, help you with a guided meditation to help you sleep and sleep better.
  • Nasal strips. Some women have trouble sleeping due to a pregnancy runny nose, nasal strips may help you breathe more easily at night.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Cognitive-behavioural therapy can help pregnant women manage their thoughts and feelings about sleep while changing their behaviour. CBT for insomnia can be used to treat pregnant women with severe sleep deprivation to get better sleep.
  • Get off the screen. Looking at the screen of your phone, tablet, e-reader, TV, or laptop before bed can mess with your sleep. Your screen’s blue light alters sleepiness and alertness and suppresses levels of melatonin. Turn off your screen at least an hour before bed.

Final thoughts

Insomnia disorder is common during the early and late stages of pregnancy. Bouts of insomnia do not necessarily mean anything is wrong. With proper treatment and lifestyle changes, such as exercise and therapy, a person may be able to overcome insomnia during pregnancy.


Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg. He tweets @dennisr_howell.

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