Sleep Care

Sleep Aids During Pregnancy

A Growing Trend With Unknown Risks

Pregnant women are losing it — sleep that is. In fact, with so many physical changes happening in their bodies, it should come as no surprise that eight out of ten pregnant women have insomnia and other sleep problems during pregnancy. Additionally, their sleep disruption can be severe especially because certain sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea are more common during pregnancy. Other issues also contribute to sleep loss including everything from the inability to get comfortable and itchiness to depression and anxiety issues.

The problem then arises in how to treat insomnia, anxiety and other sleep issues during pregnancy. For years, pregnancy experts have warned against using sleep aids and other drugs to treat insomnia. However, a recent study published in the journal of Clinical Therapeutics, found that 63.5 percent of pregnant women in British Columbia have filled at least one prescription known to be risky during pregnancy. Most often, these medicines were designed to treat anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Moreover, because pregnant women are typically excluded from clinical trials, there is very little evidence on the risks and benefits of many of the most commonly used drugs during pregnancy. As a result, researchers feel that because prescription drug use is on the rise, more research is needed to help pregnant women and their doctors make informed decisions — especially when treating insomnia.

Natural Sleep Remedies

In the meantime, what’s a woman to do? Most experts still recommend more natural methods to induce sleep. Ideas include:

* Develop a soothing ritual before bed like taking a warm bath, having a cup of chamomile tea or listening to quiet music.

* Make sure the bedroom is a comfortable temperature for sleeping. Additionally, the room should be dark and free of electronics like computers, cell phones and televisions.

* Use plenty of pillows to help promote comfort and keep bed sheets clean and fresh.

* Get up and go into another room if you are not asleep after 20 minutes. Read a book or listen to music until you feel drowsy and then get back into bed.

* Don’t worry about missing sleep because anxiety will only put off sleep even longer.

* Don’t take any over-the-counter sleep medications or supplements without talking with your doctor first.

* Contact a doctor if you think you think you have serious disorder.

Medications

According to John Larsen, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and genetics at George Washington University, there really is no sleeping aid for pregnant women that is suggested for long-term use. There are some medications that can be used on occasion. But for the most part, in the United States, sleep aids are rarely prescribed for pregnant women.

According to Larsen, doxylamine (like Unisom Sleep Tab) is the most commonly prescribed short-term sleep aid for pregnant women. Meanwhile other reports indicate that doctors will suggest low doses of an antihistamine like Benadryl to aid with sleep because they have not been associated with an increase in congenital malformation.

One report indicated that Ativan (lorazepam) and Klonopin (clonazepam) sometimes can be useful. The report stated that even though initial reports suggested that there may be an increased risk of cleft lip or palate, more recent reports estimated the risk at 0.7 percent.

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Additionally, the author of the report argues that because the risk of malformation is confined to the first trimester when the lip and palate are formed, these medications taken later in pregnancy may carry a lower risk. Still, there is little research to support this assumption.

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(zolpidem) is commonly prescribed to women, there is little data regarding its reproductive safety and in general most physicians try to avoid their use during pregnancy.

Overall when deciding how to deal with insomnia, most experts urge pregnant women to look at the whole picture. Very often insomnia is brought on by the pregnancy. Therefore, in nine months, you will not need sleep aids to assist you. It may be best for you and your unborn baby to rely on natural remedies rather than taking chances with medications where there is little research to support their safety.

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