Sleep issues are quite common during pregnancy and after childbirth. But just how prevalent are they, and is there a key to getting enough sleep with a newborn?
Research sourced from the Akershus Birth Cohort Study found that 60 percent of surveyed women had insomnia at week 32 of pregnancy, as well as eight weeks after birth. And although insomnia rates dropped, they did remain at a high 41 percent even two years after birth.
From the data, researchers found that average sleep duration was
7 hours and 16 minutes at week 32 of pregnancy
6 hours and 31 minutes eight weeks after birth
6 hours and 52 minutes two years after birth
To some, these sleep durations may not seem all that bad, and perhaps these sleep issues shouldn't be a surprise when we consider all the changes that take place during pregnancy and after childbirth -- not to mention the nighttime feedings and erratic sleep patterns of babies.
But it's important to address any sleep issues that occur during this period since there is a possibility that these sleep issues can become chronic and harder to reverse in the future.
Note: The postpartum period is considered to be the first six weeks or so after childbirth.
Often touted as a natural remedy for stress and insomnia, chamomile tea may be helpful for postpartum women suffering from poor sleep quality, fatigue and depression. One study found that those who drank chamomile tea for two weeks saw improvements in sleep efficiency and fewer symptoms of depression.
Interestingly, the study also found that after four weeks, the effects of chamomile tea were no longer notable. Therefore these results suggest chamomile tea may only be helpful over the short-term.
The aroma of lavender is believed by aromatherapy experts and users alike to have a hypnotic effect and act as a mood stabilizer. Some have even suggested that the aroma of lavender can strengthen the positive feelings a mother has towards her newborn.
Putting these theories to the test, participants in a study from the National Cheng Kung University School of Medicine in Taiwan were asked to drink one cup of lavender tea every day for two weeks. The participants were instructed to drink the tea only after, '… spending time to appreciate and smell the aroma... ' of the tea.
Researchers found that those who smelt and drank the lavender tea felt less fatigue and depression, and showed stronger bonds with their infant.
However, as with the chamomile tea experiment, the effects were no longer noticeable after four weeks.
Acupressure & back massage
The authors of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing argue that the main cause of sleep disruption in postpartum women are hormonal changes and frequent night-time breastfeeding. They set out to determine whether acupressure could help.
The result? It did. Those who received acupressure treatment involving the Shen Men pressure point on the ear (four times a day for 14 days) saw a 36 percent improvement in sleep quality.
A similar Taiwanese study found that a 20-minute back massage each night for five nights significantly improved sleep quality in postpartum women. It's important to note that the massages were administered by a certified massage therapist.
Although sleep disturbances are common during pregnancy and the postpartum period, they should not be taken for granted or ignored.
Sleep is of vital importance to you and your child. If you are struggling with sleep, make sure you speak to your healthcare provider.
Chang, Shao-Min, and Chung-Hey Chen. "Effects of an Intervention with Drinking Chamomile Tea on Sleep Quality and Depression in Sleep Disturbed Postnatal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Journal of Advanced Nursing. October 20, 2015. Accessed April 25, 2016.
Ko, Yi-Li, Shih-Chi Lin, and Pi-Chu Lin. "Effect of Auricular Acupressure for Postpartum Insomnia: An Uncontrolled Clinical Trial." Journal of Clinical Nursing. November 27, 2015. Accessed April 25, 2016.
Ko, Yi-Li., Lee, Hsiu-Jung. "Randomised controlled trial of the effectiveness of using back massage to improve sleep quality among Taiwanese insomnia postpartum women." Midwifery. February 13, 2013. Accessed April 25, 2016.
Sivertsen, Børge., et. al. "Trajectories of Maternal Sleep Problems before and after Childbirth: A Longitudinal Population-based Study." BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. June 2, 2015. Accessed April 25, 2016.
Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free insomnia sleep training. His online course helps those who can't sleep. Over 4,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 97 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.