According to Baby Center’s Medical Advisory Board, 8 out of 10 women will experience pregnancy insomnia during their pregnancy. And it’s usually experienced in the third trimester. It’s believed to be caused by a complicated combination of hormones and a number of unhelpful conditions – frequent urination, heartburn, leg cramps, pre-birth anxiety, having a baby the size of a frikkin’ bowling ball bouncing around your innards, etc. etc. etc.
When I started out in this pregnancy I just wanted to sleep all the time. In fact, up till a couple of weeks ago I was being a zombie and sleeping randomly and sporadically throughout the day, like some poster child for narcolepsy. Just four weeks ago I actually fell asleep at 6pm and woke up at 11am the next day… and I felt like I could still sleep some more!
But starting around Week 29 up to now (Week 32) of my pregnancy, I haven’t been able to get to sleep. At all. I wish I could blame the insomnia on some overt discomfort, like heartburn or leg cramps or anxiety. Yes, I have been experiencing those things, almost nightly, but they’re not so bothersome as to be the obvious cause of my sleeplessness. I just… can’t sleep.
I force myself to lay in bed around midnight, wide awake, fidgety and twitchy, trying desperately to ignore the siren call of Facebook, and generally tossing and turning like some cheesy infomercial actress trying to sell a mattress. And when I finally do manage to get to sleep (usually from around 2am to 5am), I end up having the strangest most vivid dreams.
One of my recurring dreams is that my hair has grown really, really long. It’s strong and thick and beautiful and I can’t wait to show Jonathan at his Navy Boot Camp graduation. Then, right before meeting up with Jonathan, something happens to my hair. It gets cut accidentally. Or maliciously. Or I burn it while styling it. Or it just starts falling out. Sometimes I dream it gets moldy or starts mildewing. It’s so strange. And I have this dream, or some variation of it, almost nightly.
I’m not one to put too much stock into dream meanings and symbolism, but the frequency and recurring nature of this dream made me seek out a dream dictionary: “To see hair in your dream signifies sexual virility, seduction, sensuality, vanity, and health. It is indicative of your attitudes. Beautiful hair is a perception of your sex appeal and virility in a positive light. To dream that you are losing your hair or that it is being damaged denotes that you are concerned with the notion of losing your sex appeal and virility. Losing your hair also signifies a lack of strength; you are afraid you do not have the power to succeed in an upcoming task or undertaking. It is indicative of struggling with feelings of being weak and vulnerable.”
Sounds about right. What with being swollen, sweaty, stinky and achey all the time, I feel about as beautiful as a water buffalo. And who wouldn’t be just a mite stressed with an upcoming cross country move and a first child all happening within the same month? So uh, thanks brain, for bombarding me with cryptic clues to what is kind of glaringly obvious?
At any rate, I finally decided to try a holistic approach to this wretched pregnancy insomnia. I found this recipe for Pregnancy Insomnia Herbal Tea in The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book by Jennifer Louden. The basic ingredients you will need are: Lavender, Lemon Grass, Linden and Chamomile.
A recent clinical study investigated anxiolytic effects of lavender and its influence on sleep quality. It was found that lavender showed meaningful efficacy in alleviating anxiety and related sleep disturbances. Lavender relaxes the nervous system and is known to greatly reduce stress via aromatherapy and ingestion in teas. Throughout history it has been used to treat headaches, anxiety and insomnia. Lavender when used in tea adds a floral, slightly sweet flavor and is extremely soothing and relaxing as a bedtime sleep aid.
As a medicinal herb, it is often used to quell anxiety and to combat flus, common colds and nasal congestion. Lemon grass is commonly used in culinary dishes, in pharmaceutical preparations and in skincare products. It contains a high amount of Vitamin A, and is said to help with a clear complexion when ingested and used topically. Lemon grass has a subtle citrus flavor and is commonly used in teas, lending a bright element to herbal concoctions.
Linden is most often used to medicinally to cure colds and coughs. The herbs helps to alleviate a stuffy nose and clear nasal passages, as well as break up mucus from the throat. Various studies have also shown that linden is helpful in reducing stress, having a calming effect and reducing anxiety. When linden is consumed in a tea, it acts as a diaphoretic, which helps to boost the body’s immune system and as a sedative, which helps to combat insomnia!
Chamomile is a pretty, daisy-like herb, best known for its sleep-enhancing properties. Virtually any herbal concoction you find that has, “Insomnia Remedy” or “Sleep Aid” slapped on it, contains chamomile as a primary ingredient. Because chamomile in large quantities can potentially cause uterine contractions, women are generally warned away from this herb during pregnancy. However, many things that are helpful and safe during pregnancy (such as sex and brisk walking) can cause harmless uterine contractions. The amount of chamomile you would consume in a cup of tea is not one that would pose a threat to your pregnancy, and the benefits that chamomile provides – such as its sedative qualities as a sleep aid – make this herb a good source for pregnancy holistic remedies that many doctors recommend.
To make the tea, simply bring water to a boil, then take equal parts of the chamomile, linden, lemon grass and lavender. Allow to steep for 20 minutes. Serve hot with honey and a lemon slice, if desired.
I am very smitten with the flavor of this tea. When I try to make tea mixtures from scratch they usually end up tasting like a muddled flavor clash that I have to choke down for whatever medicinal property I’m after. But this tea is delightful. I won’t say that it magically solved my insomnia problem. But it did lend a noticeable hand in making it less annoying and drawn out. I forced myself into bed around midnight and found myself asleep in an hour and half, instead of the two to three hours of every other night this week. I also slept much more soundly. I still had some pesky hair themed dreams, but they weren’t quite as vivid as the others. But overall, this tea did help enough that I’ll be making it part of my nightly routine.
I mixed up two little mason jar batches so I’ll have them on hand before bedtime for the rest of my pregnancy. Only 8 more weeks to go!