Women often experience insomnia during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. Reasons include emotional stress, physical discomfort and anxiety about not being able to sleep. I recommend caution with sleep aids, prescription or otherwise, because most haven’t been shown to be safe during pregnancy; however, there are many effective nonpharmacologic ways to improve sleep quality and duration. Start by doing your best not to obsess about it—if you worry about sleep, you’ll probably have an even harder time falling asleep. Although periods of relative sleeplessness can be frustrating, they’re not life-threatening, so try to not fret too much about mild to moderate insomnia damaging your health.
Create and stick to a sleep routine, perhaps taking a relaxing walk or warm bath each evening, and going to bed and rising at set times. Get in some physical activity appropriate to your stage of pregnancy and health every day. Reduce or eliminate caffeine—even when consumed early in the day: It can make falling asleep more difficult. Avoid eating large meals late at night, turn off electronic devices including your computer and television at least 30 minutes before bed and dim the lights as you get ready to sleep. Practice relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, gentle yoga stretches and meditation. Be sure that your environment is conducive to sleep by setting the thermostat to a pleasant, not-too-warm temperature, having comfortable pillows and blankets with which to support your body and making your bedroom dark and noise-free. Regular pregnancy massage therapy can help also, as can listening to relaxing music or mind-body CDs (I recommend ones by Belleruth Naparstek).
Have a question for Dr. Weil?
• Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Answers are not intended to replace advice from your doctor; always consult your caregiver before making any changes in your prenatal routine.