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One of the first things experienced parents like to tell you when discovering you are expecting a baby for the first time, is that you can say goodbye to sleep. Although there is truth to that statement, it is also true that loss of sleep can occur long before your baby arrives.

Around 80% of pregnant women experience insomnia at some point. Women suffer from insomnia significantly more during the 3rd trimester. Understanding Insomnia during pregnancy and how to address it could result in some much-needed relief. Coping with insomnia and restlessness during pregnancy can be extremely exhausting and frustrating.

Pregnant Khloe Kardashian recently shared a screenshot about pregnancy-related insomnia on Twitter and joked about how she already feels prepared for the sleepless nights. “The things no one tells you hehe. At least I’ll be good at the no sleep thing.”

A new study led by the University of Granada reveals that 64% of women suffer from insomnia during the 3rd trimester, which is 10 times more than those suffering from insomnia prior to pregnancy, (6%). The research study was recently published in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. Insomnia during pregnancy was monitored throughout all three trimesters of 486 healthy pregnant women, who participated in the study. The results showed that 44% suffered from insomnia in the first trimester which increased to 46% in the second trimester, the third trimester, however, increased to 64%. These are high figures, which according to the authors of the research, justify the need for a “systematic approach to this problem.”

The study warns that health systems need to address these problems systematically. Not only does insomnia during pregnancy affect the quality of life of the pregnant woman, it is also a risk factor for pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, depression, gestational diabetes mellitus, preterm birth and unplanned cesarean sections.

Dr Maria del Carmen Amezcua Prieto, one of the researchers behind the study explains that: ‘”Although it is well known that pre-existing sleep problems worsen and new issues frequently arise during pregnancy, there is a tendency to assume that difficulties related to getting to sleep and maintaining restorative sleep are characteristic phenomena of pregnancy and that they must be endured.” However, Dr Amezcua Prieto points out that: “This probably occurs because the health system does not give importance to the issue during the monitoring of pregnancies, to the point where the World Health Organization (WHO) does not even address the issue of sleep in its guidelines on providing care to pregnant women.”

The study also made note that indulging in regular moderate or intense physical exercise during pregnancy can protect you from pregnancy-related insomnia. There are also some tweaks you can make to your diet to help towards a better nights sleep. A glass of warm milk is known to be a sleep supporter and is one of the safest sleep inducers. Milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that converts into serotonin which is known to induce calming effects in the brain. Nutritionist Dr Anju Sood says: “Milk surely helps. Milk is complete food, other than iron it has all essential nutrients. It also has protein and sleep promoting hormones that help induce sleep.”

Pregnancy-related Insomnia can be managed with non-pharmacologic therapy and pharmacologic therapy, although many physicians are hesitant to prescribe drugs for the management of insomnia in pregnancy for various reasons.

Behavioral therapy is the leading nonpharmacologic modality for insomnia. This includes sleep hygiene which you can learn and put into practice. Dark environments help along with the avoidance of all triggers for arousal. Napping only before noon is advised and exercising at least 4 hours before your usual bedtime. Limiting fluid after 5pm helps too as it reduces the chances of having to visit the bathroom too often during the night.

Stimulus control is another technique which involves keeping the bed for sleep only and in case of insomnia, getting out of bed to do some mild activity until you feel sleepy.

Sleep restriction refers to charting the actual time spent in sleep and then a shorter time in bed is prescribed for restricted sleep. This is thought to help correct circadian cycle shifts and improve the efficiency of sleep. Once you are actually asleep for 85% or more of the time spent in bed, the bed time can be shifted back in increments of 15-30 minutes.

Relaxing techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, abdominal breathing or just focusing on relaxing thoughts can help you to get in the right frame of mind.

The intervention of Cognitive therapy aims at recognising catastrophic thinking in relation to insomnia. It encourages you to develop the right thoughts about the amount of sleep you actually need, this is done by using data gathered through research and your actual sleeping requirements in the past in order to function properly.

As you can see, pregnancy-related insomnia can be a serious state of affairs and is still a subject being studied. If you are a part of the high percentage of women affected by this problematic issue, it is important to apply the necessary techniques to help you get as much sleep as you possibly can. If you are consistently struggling with the issue and find it is affecting you quality of life, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.

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