You’ve woken up to find that you’re pregnant, and now it may seem like you’ll never sleep again! Most people can’t fathom how they will survive these initial disrupted sleep patterns, let alone the sleep changes that will occur once the baby arrives. The “good” news is that nature has a way of making you practice sleep deprivation long before the baby comes. Even better news is that you will get through it.
I like to call this phenomenon of early-pregnancy insomnia “nature’s preparation.” Pregnancy is a time to begin to acclimate to the impending changes in your life once you have a child. Sleep disruption is most typical in the first trimester and the third trimester—and, of course, postpartum—but evolution has craftily made babies quite cute, and made you innately bonded to them, so that when they inevitably wake you up at night, the lack of sleep fades into the background, and you do what needs to be done to love and nurture your little one.
In the meantime, it can be daunting to feel sleep deprived long before your baby is even here to keep you up at night. Although there is no known explanation as to why nature is full of such ironies, we do know that sleep disturbances occur as a result of physiologic, hormonal, and physical changes associated with pregnancy. For instance, the need to consistently get up and urinate certainly can affect sleep. If you already have an existing sleep disorder, pregnancy may also exacerbate that pattern.
Let’s face it. Anyone is bound to be strung out without enough sleep. And severe sleep disruption may warrant going to a specialist for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Having this evaluation prior to birth may help minimize the potential for postpartum depression as well. It’s a good idea to assess the impact your lack of sleep is having on your life and take it from there.
Natural ways to combat insomnia
To help lull you back to sleep in the wee hours, you may want to try:
Meditation and Mindfulness have been shown to help with both falling asleep and waking up. The only thing you can control (usually) is your breathing. So, focusing on your breath can be a great way to connect with safety when you’re feeling out of control. Try a cycle of ten minutes of this quiet breathing once a day.
Eliminate all caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine from the start (this will help with sleeping better and is, of course, important for baby’s health in general).
Acupuncture is quite conducive for helping with pregnancy-related sleep disruption by relaxing the nervous system and promoting gentle endorphin production. We also say in Chinese medicine that the mind is stored in the heart. So, by using Chinese medical theory applied to acupuncture points, acupuncture can address the mixed, heart-based emotions that can be coming up during this time in order to quiet the mind. Try pressing the acupressure point Pericardium 6 on yourself too (You can find this by bending your index finger and placing the bend of your knuckle on the inside of your opposite, inner wrist crease, and where the tip of your finger (not nail) falls, in-between the two main tendons is the point).
A journal can also be a good forum for those active pregnancy dreams, and to help an overactive mind relieve looping thoughts. It can also serve as a nice reflection on your pregnancy journey later on.
A snack before bed can prevent you from hunger in the middle of the night.