Insomnia During Pregnancy - Eight Out of Ten Women Suffer Sleep Loss While Pregnant

Most pregnant women are anxious about their babies' arrival. Losing some sleep to perfectly reasonable concerns about pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood is normal, and experienced by about 80 per cent of all women during pregnancy. Certain causes of sleep loss or insomnia during pregnancy, however, can be treated without resorting to sleeping pills that could possibly harm the developing child.

Morning Sickness that Strikes at Night

During the first trimester, nearly all women suffer the nausea and vomiting of a condition given the misnomer "morning" sickness. Morning sickness actually can strike any time of day or night. Surveys have found that up to 89 percent of pregnant women experience nausea and up to 57 percent of pregnant women experience vomiting, usually during the ninth through fourteenth weeks of pregnancy. Especially severe nausea and vomiting is known as hyperemesis gravidarum, hyperemesis referring to "hyper-vomiting" and gravidarum referring to pregnancy.

Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy is not a psychosomatic illness. Increased production of estrogen during the first trimester of pregnancy makes the esophagus, stomach, and small bowel more sensitive to chemical cues that could be associated with contaminated food. Supersensitivity to food protects the embryo from potential exposure to mutagenic chemicals. As the embryo matures, the mother's sensitivity to food gradually returns to normal, almost always by the twentieth week of pregnancy.

The medical community is beginning to agree that multivitamin supplements, vitamin B6, and ginger are safe and effective for controlling nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Vitamin B6 (30 mg a day is enough) prevents nausea but not vomiting, while ginger is more effective for vomiting than nausea. Multiple vitamin and mineral supplements replace nutrients lost through vomiting.

What are the best foods for morning sickness? Ginger, and foods that are rich in pyridoxine, which is also known as vitamin B6. These include bananas, avocados, barley, brown rice, brown rice, chicken, chickpeas, salmon, mangoes, rice, and turkey.

Needing to Get Up at Night to Go to the Bathroom

Especially during their third trimester, most pregnant women need to get up at night to go the bathroom. The solution, paradoxically, may be to drink more water during the day.

Pregnancy is a time that pressure on the bladder can give bacteria a chance to take hold in its lining. Drinking enough water to keep the bladder flushed will reduce the risk of bladder infections that can cause urine retention, dribbling, and a frequent need to go at all days of the day and night.

It also helps to drink cranberry or blueberry juice, but adding sugar to sweeten them just provides food for the bacteria the tannins in the juices are intended to get rid of. Women who just can't stand the taste of unsweetened cranberry juice can use cranberry juice extract tablets and capsules to stop bladder infections.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Another common problem among women during pregnancy, especially women who also have sleep apnea, is restless legs disorder. This is a condition in which:

  • Strange, uncomfortable sensations build up in the calves of one or both legs., and in some women, also in the backs of one or both arms.
  • The only way to relieve the sensation is to move the affected area stops the sensation.
  • The sensation occurs at any time of day or night but increases during the evening just before it is time to go to bed.
  • The need to move the body to relieve the sensation interferes with getting to sleep or staying asleep.

Restless legs syndrome gets to be a major problem when women try to stay up late to get so tired it won't happen. Inevitably, the odd sensation starts anyway, and the result is ever-increasing fatigue. Many of the drugs physicians prescribe for restless legs syndrome aren't advised during pregnancy, and they don't work, anyway.

The real problem with restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder may be avoiding it by staying up later and later in an attempt to get so tired and sleepy that maybe the twitches and kicks just won't happen. Unfortunately, this strategy seldom works, and the result is ever increasing fatigue. Even worse, sometimes physicians prescribe sedatives that don't stop the symptoms, but do cause daytime fatigue.

Fortunately, there are nutritional interventions that usually reduce the severity of the symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Ask your doctor to run a blood test for iron levels. If your blood test shows an iron deficiency-and only if your blood test shows an iron deficiency-then taking an iron supplement may help.

The reason is it not a good idea to take iron supplements unless you know you are deficient is the possibility of an iron overload disease called hemochromatosis. In Europe, Australia, and North America, about 1 per cent of the population has one or more genes for hereditary hemochromatosis, which can cause a variety of problems later in life if you get too much iron.

Many people who have restless legs syndrome report improvement after taking their daily requirements of vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, and magnesium also help. As long as you don't take too much vitamin C or magnesium, both of which can cause stomach upset when overdose, you may get relief from periodic limb movement disorder and better sleep for just a few pennies a day.

You may also be interested in Insomnia in Children.

Written By Robert S. Rister
Robert Rister is the author of Healing without Medication and many other books that have been translated into eight languages. He is a chemist, a formulator of natural products, and a writer of consumer guides to getting the greatest value from natural health care.

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