Poor-quality sleep affects nearly 50% of pregnant individuals. Inevitably, newborn infants bring sleepless nights. You may be concerned about how you can maximize your sleep quality now before the little one arrives. Are sleep aid medications an option during pregnancy?
Up to 50% of pregnant individuals report sleeping difficulties.
Many natural, non-pharmacologic remedies promote quality sleep while pregnant.
A few over-the-counter sleep promoting medications are considered safe during pregnancy.
Many commonly prescribed medications to treat insomnia are unsafe during pregnancy.
Collaborating with your healthcare provider regarding sleep aid medications is crucial.
Sleeping difficulties while pregnant
Pregnant persons frequently suffer from pelvic discomfort and uncomfortable positioning during sleep. Other significant sleep disturbances can occur during pregnancy, including insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. Prioritizing sleep and correcting sleep disturbances is beneficial for you and your baby. Several natural remedies can aid in restful sleep while pregnant. However, in extreme cases, medication intervention may be necessary.
Natural sleep remedies during pregnancy
Commonly, medication is not the first line of defense while pregnant. Medication can come with unknown risks and side effects for you or your growing baby. Here are some natural sleep remedies that may help you avoid the use of medication:
- Anxiety coping mechanisms. Stress, anxiety, and depression can negatively impact sleep. If this is the root cause of your sleep difficulties, finding coping mechanisms that work for you will be beneficial for you and your baby.
- Good sleep hygiene. Prioritizing sleep, avoiding technology, caffeine, and heavy meals before bed, exercising during the day, and reading or bathing before bed are beneficial practices that may improve sleep quality.
- Sleep positioning. It can be challenging to get comfortable while pregnant. Pregnancy pillows help you settle into comfortable, supported sleep positions.
- Acupressure. Pregnant patients were asked to wear a compression device over the H7 point for insomnia before bed and to remove it when awakened. The patients reported significant sleep improvement after two weeks.
- Acupuncture. A safe and effective alternative medicine treatment during pregnancy. Studies have shown that acupuncture can increase melatonin circulation — a hormone that plays a role in sleep.
- Magnesium supplementation. In addition to playing a role in decreasing the chance of several pregnancy complications, magnesium can improve sleep and stress levels. It is safe to take up to 350 milligrams during pregnancy.
- Aromatherapy. Essential oils such as orange and lavender are well-studied regarding sleep and relaxation. Remember to discuss the use of essential oils with your obstetrician or midwife. The use of some essential oils is not considered safe during pregnancy.
- Herbal tea. Herbal teas and infusions should be used with caution and under the direction of a healthcare provider. Chamomile tea in moderate amounts may help with pregnancy insomnia.
Can you take sleep medication while pregnant?
Yes, you can. However, you should speak with your obstetrician or midwife before taking over-the-counter medications since some sleep-promoting medications are considered safe during pregnancy, while others are not.
Here's a list of sleep medication which are considered being safe to take during pregnancy:
- Benadryl. Benadryl is an antihistamine that can cause drowsiness and is considered safe during pregnancy.
- Doxylamine. Also known as Unisom is found in over-the-counter sleep aids. It is considered safe during pregnancy and can be used to treat morning sickness as well.
- Melatonin. Proceed with caution and speak with your healthcare provider if you are interested in taking melatonin. The studies of melatonin use in pregnant patients are minimal. While there has been no evidence of a negative impact on developing babies, melatonin supplements are not regulated by the FDA.
Prescription medications listed as unsafe sleep medications during pregnancy may still be prescribed to pregnant patients with other mental health struggles. The appropriate healthcare provider must weigh the risk versus benefits of specific medication consumption during pregnancy.
These are sleep aid medications which are not recommended to use while being pregnant:
- Benzodiazepines. Medications also known as alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and temazepam (Restoril) are commonly prescribed for their sedative effects. While these medications show no link to congenital malformations in infants, they are associated with infant withdrawal symptoms and increased rates of preterm labor, cesarean delivery, and low birth weight babies.
- Zolpidem (Ambien). Studies have shown that Ambien can cause withdrawal symptoms in newborns, especially if taken close to delivery.
- Barbiturates. Medication such as phenobarbital has been associated with congenital defects in infants.
When to seek help for difficulty sleeping
Be sure to communicate any sleeping difficulties you may have with your obstetrician or midwife. Natural remedies for quality sleep are the first line of defense and may take some time to work.
If you are still having difficulties sleeping — or your pregnancy is complicated by other medical conditions such as a mental health disorder, asthma, thyroid disorders, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) — sleep aid medications may be necessary.
Do not hesitate to discuss your sleeping difficulties with your obstetrician or midwife. Together, you can construct a plan for better sleep while pregnant that is safe and effective.
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- Advanced Biomedical Research. Effect of Magnesium Supplement on Pregnancy Outcomes: A Randomized Control Trial.
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- Medeniyet Medical Journal. Frequently Used Herbal Teas During Pregnancy - Short Update.
- Nature and Science of Sleep. Effect of Acupuncture on Pregnancy-Related Insomnia and Melatonin: A Single-Blinded, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.
- Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies. Acupressure on Self-Reported Sleep Quality During Pregnancy.
- Revista brasileria de psiquiatria. Melatonin use during pregnancy and lactation: A scoping review of human studies.
- Mother To Baby Fact Sheets. Zolpidem.
- StatPearls. Barbiturates.