Most mums-to-be have heard tales from veteran parents about how they're never going to sleep again once baby arrives, but what most pregnant women don't know is that the lack of sleep actually starts while they're pregnant.
Yep, pregnancy insomnia is a real thing and unfortunately it can start at any point during those magical nine months.
Like many pregnancy-related symptoms, insomnia can be chalked up to hormonal changes. That said, even for the most even-keeled of pregnancies, things like heartburn, increased trips to the bathroom, discomfort (who can sleep with that big belly?!), and, of course, prebaby jitters can all contribute.
For many women, pregnancy insomnia hits hardest in the third trimester when getting comfortable is akin to a Herculean feat, but again, it can happen at any point — and there's no set period for when it ends.
If you're surprised at how little sleep you've been getting during your pregnancy, you're not alone. Unlike morning sickness and swollen feet, insomnia isn't one of the more commonly-talked about symptoms of pregnancy.
Take heart in knowing, though, that there are few things you can do to alleviate the lack of sleep you're getting — and that, eventually, it will end.
Here are six things no one tells you about pregnancy insomnia.
1. Pregnancy insomnia doesn't necessarily mean you can't fall asleep
That said, it may mean you can't stay asleep. For many women, falling asleep may be as easy as it's always been for them — but they might find themselves waking up in the middle of the night without the ability to roll over and drift back.
"I have no problem falling asleep, but I have trouble staying asleep," What to Expect mum nibarra11 says. "This entire week I've been waking up in the middle of the night and I just lay there with my eyes closed. Then I doze in and out. I have migraines now and I think it's because I'm not getting enough sleep!"
Tossing and turning? If you find yourself wide awake after 20 minutes, get out of bed and read or try to accomplish something small around the house.
2. A consistent routine can be helpful
Having a set drill you go through every night could be the golden ticket for a good night's sleep. Not only is it soothing, it may help send cues to your body that it's time for some shut-eye.
"I make sure to eat less acidic food before bed to avoid heartburn and use lots of pillow to support my belly," says WTE user M4M4EK. "But having a bedtime routine is key. I wind down, put the lights low, and put away any distractions." M4M4EK also incorporates meditation into her nightly routine on occasion, which can be extremely helpful in calming nerves.
In addition to reducing pregnancy stress, meditation and relaxation techniques can help lower blood pressure and give you a more positive outlook. Mom-to-be shananagins86 also recommends meditation, as well as avoiding devices and sugar close to bedtime and having a small stretching routine and foot massage before hitting the hay. Count us in!
3. Try not to worry too much
Yes, it's easier said than done, but lying in bed worrying about not sleeping is a guaranteed way to make things worse. "I had severe insomnia with my last pregnancy. I tried everything imaginable, and nothing worked.
For me, a consistent bedtime routine was the best bet," notes SMDJTD. "Worrying about not sleeping always makes thing worse. My strategy is just to lie in bed and not worry about not sleeping if doesn't come right away. I just try to think calm, pleasant thoughts, and focus on how comfy my bed feels.
I simply relax and tell myself that if I can't sleep, I'll just enjoy resting. After months and months and months, I'm finally falling asleep within 15-30 minutes of hitting the pillow most nights."
4. Exercise can be a lifesaver
Even though exercise may be the last thing you're interested in right now, the benefits of exercising during pregnancy are plentiful. Not only will it release endorphins — which will help even out your ever-changing moods and emotions — it will give you a boost of energy during the day and may help you sleep at night.
"I tend to have insomnia more frequently on days I don't exercise," notes Leesey262. "Not that pregnant women need something else to do...but a good workout usually ensures I'll sleep better at night!"
5. Be mindful of your daytime habits
Few things can be more tempting than a 4 p.m. nap when you're pregnant, but keep in mind that if you indulge in this seductive option, you may wind up paying for it later. "Cutting out all naps helped me massively!" ldobs85 says.
"It was hard at the beginning to do because I was so tired, but I sleep really well through the nights again." On the same token, avoiding caffeine and sweets — which, yes, are very alluring during pregnancy — could help you fall asleep easier at night, as well.
6. The tricks that work for baby may work for you, too
For Immortalkundera, using techniques parents often implement for baby's bedtime works during pregnancy as well. "I always use a white noise machine at night," she says.
"Additionally, I keep the room cold, stop eating/drinking two hours before bed, and use blackout curtains. I also get to bed as soon as I feel a bit sleepy. And every time I wake up, I tell myself that it's OK to be awake and try not to stress about it."