There seems to be some unwritten rule that, as soon as you tell folks you're expecting, the proper response is for people to tell you how you'll never sleep again. Sure, even a total parenting newbie knows that babies aren't really known for their chill bedtime routine, but you might be surprised to know that plenty of women can experience difficulty sleeping long before their little one arrives. If you've found yourself counting sheep (unsuccessfully), then it's a good idea to learn about some of the things a pregnant woman should never do to cure insomnia — no matter how intense the exhaustion is.
To be clear, the physical, emotional, and mental toll a consistent lack of sleep can have on you — pregnant or otherwise — is no joke. In fact, I remember being pregnant, crying deliriously after my fourth night in a row of insomnia, because I simply couldn't function on less than three total hours of sleep a night. If your rest and wake cycle feels seriously out of sync, then you should definitely not hesitate to reach out to your physician for answers and solutions that best fit your specific needs. But if you're more or less just frustrated by this latest (and not greatest) pregnancy symptom, then you should check out these things a pregnant woman should never do to cure insomnia to make sure you don't commit one of these sleep sins.
1. Use Pre-Pregnancy Prescriptions
This was one I was particularly surprised to learn after an interview with family physician Dr. James W. Brown. Apparently, even if you were given medicine by a doctor at one point, pregnant women should not take prescription medicine they received prior to their pregnancy. Sure, you are still you, but a prescription sleep aid that worked for you a few months ago might not be safe for you or your little one now. Play it safe and bring a list of medications to your next OB-GYN visit to see if there are any you should discontinue.
2. Ignore Classifications
Before you grab an over-the-counter drug for insomnia, you should check to see its category. Did you know that there is a whole system to rank the risk and safety of medicine for pregnant women? In a recent report released by The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its official website, "the FDA categorized the risks of taking a drug during pregnancy under a five-letter system: A, B, C, D and X." Basically, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services noted on its Chemical Hazards Emergency Medical Management (CHEMM) site, on one end of the spectrum, Category A medicines are considered safe for mother and baby whereas Category X drugs, on the other end, have known risks. Though the FDA announced a more detailed drug labeling method for pregnant women and mothers, there may still be drugs and medical practices which have yet to update their classification system. Until then, you should check with your local pharmacist or doctor to verify you are taking medications from the correct category.
3. Fixate On Finding A Solution
If you have a problem, then there must be a solution, right? As it turns out, that's not such a great approach when it comes to insomnia during pregnancy. In fact, putting all of your energy into solving the sleep puzzle could be counterproductive. "Try not to worry about falling asleep — this only increases anxiety," OB-GYN Dr. Craig A. Salcido tells Romper. "Make a point to focus on activities that can help you relax instead." Getting your mind off of your inability to fall asleep could be your ticket to Snoozeville.
4. Take An Extended Siesta
I'll be the first to admit that I have lived most of my life as a parent by the, "I'll take sleep whenever and wherever I can get it," rule. But, as it turns out, abiding by that motto is a major mistake for pregnant women experiencing insomnia. "Long naps may interfere with your sleeping schedule at night," according to the official site for the American Pregnancy Association (APA). The APA further noted that daytime sleeping is a common culprit when it comes to the cause of a pregnant woman's insomnia. So if you've been snoozing during the day, you may want to consider switching things up since it could actually be making your insomnia worse. That may be hard to do when you're completely exhausted, but it could help to set an alarm so that you don't end up overcommitting to those REM cycles before it's even dinnertime.
5. Eat Whatever, Whenever You Want
As tempting as it may be to cure your insomnia with a midnight snack — food coma, right? — going to bed on a full stomach could backfire. "Don’t drink caffeinated beverages four to six hours before bedtime and avoid spicy foods," sleep expert and founder of Sleep Fitness LLC Dr. Martha Cortés tells Romper. The caffeine thing might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be quite tricky. Did you know that, according to the official website for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of milk chocolate chips has 34 grams of caffeine and a 12-ounce can of soda has 28 grams of caffeine? So your late-night munchies could actually be making you more alert and less sleepy.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.