Natural Remedies for Insomnia During Pregnancy
Sleep disturbances are common during pregnancy and can leave you with a lot of frustration, yawning, and unanswered questions. What’s causing your insomnia during pregnancy, and is there anything you can do about it? Let’s see what the research has to say.
Is Insomnia a Sign of Pregnancy?
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can be characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting good quality sleep.  Insomnia may be short-term or long-term, lasting from a few days to multiple months. Short-term insomnia can sometimes be explained by a change in environment or schedule, while long-term insomnia can be a bit harder to explain.  Insomnia is commonly seen during pregnancy, sometimes referred to as pregnancy insomnia. According to a 2015 study, an overwhelming majority (97%) of pregnant women reported having symptoms of disrupted sleep, with about a third of women identifying themselves as having a sleep disorder.  When symptoms are classified by a healthcare provider, up to 73% of women are thought to display some degree of insomnia during pregnancy.  While sleep disturbances can occur at any point during pregnancy, the highest rate is often seen in the third trimester. Read about pregnancy and back sleeping →
When Does Pregnancy Insomnia Start?
It’s not unusual to experience some sleep disturbances or insomnia at any point during pregnancy, however it is more common to experience these disturbances during the third trimester. One study reported that the rate of sleep disturbances in the first trimester is 13%, 19% in the second trimester, and 66% in the third trimester. 
What Causes Insomnia During Pregnancy?
There are many factors that can contribute to disrupted sleep during pregnancy, including :
- Morning sickness
- Urinary frequency
- Cramping or backache
- Fetal movements
- Leg tinglings or restless leg syndrome
- Shortness of breath
We also know that hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and oxytocin can disrupt sleep and promote wakefulness. Estrogen and progesterone tend to increase throughout pregnancy with rapid increases during the first trimester of pregnancy, and oxytocin tends to increase when nearing labor. [2-3] These hormones interfere with the amount of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep as well as sleep-related hormones and receptors in the brain.
Research has also shown us that some people are more susceptible to insomnia than others. Some risk factors associated with an increase in sleep disturbances include depression, smoking, anxiety, stress, obesity, prior history of snoring, family history of sleep disturbances, deficiency in folate, and more.  Learn more about why you can’t sleep during pregnancy →
Natural Remedies for Insomnia
Treating insomnia during pregnancy can be difficult as many sleep aids are not pregnancy-safe. Many people suffering from pregnancy insomnia may want to opt for natural remedies to decrease the risk of adverse fetal effects. [2-3] Fortunately there are some methods that may be useful for supporting sleep during pregnancy.
Improving Sleep Hygiene
Good sleep habits are often referred to as sleep hygiene. Incorporating some of these habits can be helpful for getting a good night’s sleep. Some ways to improve sleep hygiene include :
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule- go to bed around the same time and wake up around the same time every day
- Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep
- Avoid eating large meals or drinking caffeine before bedtime
- Try to keep a dark, relaxing, cool bedroom
- Reduce fluid intake before bed to avoid getting up to pee
Magnesium is an important mineral for our bodies, aiding in blood pressure regulation, energy production, muscle function, and more. Some research also suggests that magnesium may have a positive effect on sleep quality. Studies show that taking magnesium was associated with decreased daytime sleepiness, snoring, and improved sleep duration.  Magnesium can also be useful for promoting relaxation and muscle cramps, a common symptom associated with pregnancy.  Try Magnesium Plus Drink Mix for a pregnancy-safe and tasty way to promote relaxation, healthy magnesium levels, and bone health.
Stimulus control therapy is another method for improving sleep habits in people with insomnia or other sleep disturbances.  With stimulus control, the goal is to decrease the amount of stimuli associated with your bed or bedroom. Some examples of stimulus control techniques include [2,3,7]:
- Prioritize your bedroom/bed for sleeping and sex only. Avoid eating in bed, using screens in bed, working in bed, etc.
- Try to only be in bed when sleepy. If you’re having trouble sleeping, get up and complete a small task. When you’re awake for long periods of time, try to get out of bed.
The goal of stimulus control therapy is to associate your bed or bedroom with sleep only. You essentially want to train your body so that getting into bed triggers you to feel sleepy and get a good night’s rest. It may also be helpful to establish a standard bedtime routine, such as putting on relaxing music while brushing your teeth, getting in your pajamas, etc.
Therapy and Meditation
It may seem like overkill to seek out therapy for insomnia, but the truth is that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to help many people suffering from sleep disturbances. CBT is considered the most effective long-term treatment for people with chronic insomnia.  Therapy can be useful for addressing any thoughts or behaviors that are making it hard for you to sleep well. CBT can also provide techniques and tools for reducing stress, relaxing, and prioritizing sleep management.  Even if you’re not ready to commit to therapy yet, meditating can be very relaxing and calming. If you are having any anxiety or find yourself overthinking a lot before bedtime, trying different meditation and breathing techniques may help you to relax.
Exercise is a wonderful way to support healthy sleep. Doing some sort of physical activity regularly has been shown to improve sleep quality or duration.  Some research suggests that the best time to exercise is about 4 to 6 hours before going to bed.  You should always check with your healthcare provider first to find pregnancy-safe exercises.
Take Your Prenatal Vitamin
While this isn’t the case for all sleep disturbances, some data shows that a deficiency in iron or folate can lead to restless leg syndrome (RLS) and may make it difficult to fall asleep or relax.  Your healthcare provider can help you identify any true deficiencies, but taking a prenatal vitamin is an easy way to promote healthy vitamin and mineral levels during pregnancy. Try to find a prenatal vitamin that meets or exceeds nutritional guidelines for pregnant people, such as the Natalist Prenatal Daily Packets. There are also standalone folate or iron supplements available if you need additional supplementation. As always, speak to your healthcare provider before trying any new supplements.
I do want to add that some of these methods may be easier said than done, especially if you’re battling other pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness, fatigue during the day, increased urination, etc. Your bed may feel like a safe haven during the day and attempting to stay away from your bed until you’re actually ready to go to sleep may be difficult for you. I encourage you to address any other symptoms or concerns you have that may make it easier to improve your sleep. Reduce morning sickness with anti-nausea gummies, take short naps when you need them, and speak to your provider about your insomnia.
Natalist Products for Relaxation During Pregnancy
It’s not easy to manage what feels like a million pregnancy symptoms, especially having to do so running on little or no sleep. Insomnia can be difficult to manage during pregnancy, but there are a handful of natural remedies that may help improve your sleep. Support your overall health by exercising, eating a balanced diet, and taking your prenatal vitamins, and do what you can to encourage a healthy relationship with your bed and nighttime routine. Crossing our fingers for you to have a good night’s rest!
- Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. NIH. January 2011. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/resources/your-guide-healthy-sleep
- Reichner CA. Insomnia and sleep deficiency in pregnancy. Obstet Med. 2015;8(4):168-171. doi:10.1177/1753495X15600572
- Hashmi AM, Bhatia SK, Bhatia SK, Khawaja IS. Insomnia during pregnancy: Diagnosis and Rational Interventions. Pak J Med Sci. 2016;32(4):1030-1037. doi:10.12669/pjms.324.10421
- Hershner, S. Shaikh, I. Healthy Sleep Habits. AASM Sleep education. August 2020. https://sleepeducation.org/healthy-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits/
- Arab A, Rafie N, Amani R, Shirani F. The Role of Magnesium in Sleep Health: a Systematic Review of Available Literature. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2023;201(1):121-128. doi:10.1007/s12011-022-03162-1
- Blancquaert L, Vervaet C, Derave W. Predicting and Testing Bioavailability of Magnesium Supplements. Nutrients. 2019;11(7):1663. Published 2019 Jul 20. doi:10.3390/nu11071663
- Bootzin, R. Perlis, M. Stimulus Control Therapy. Behavioral Treatments for Sleep Disorders. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-381522-4.00002-X
- Dolezal BA, Neufeld EV, Boland DM, Martin JL, Cooper CB. Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review [published correction appears in Adv Prev Med. 2017;2017:5979510]. Adv Prev Med. 2017;2017:1364387. doi:10.1155/2017/1364387