Are sleeping pills safe in pregnancy

Pregnant women often find it difficult to get a good night’s rest. This is due to the increased hormonal levels, nausea, restless legs, kicks from the unborn child and difficulty finding a comfortable sleeping position. While sleeping pills may pose as a solution, they are discouraged by doctors due to safety reasons. Are Ambien and pregnancy compatible? Pregnant women are advised to consult with their doctors before using prescription, non-prescription or herbal sleeping aides. Luckily, there are a few effective measures that can be taken to help you sleep better during pregnancy.

Is It Safe to Take Sleeping Pills During Pregnancy?

Sleeping pills like Ambien and pregnancy aren't always dangerous together. Taking sleeping pills is considered safe during pregnancy only when it is approved by the doctor and when it is used in a short duration of time. Below are more things you should know and consider:

1. Types of Sleeping Pills

There are different types of sleeping pills and the FDA has categorized these drugs from Class A, B, C, D or X. Class A drugs are proven as safe drugs to use while pregnant but unfortunately, there are no sleeping pills in the classification. That said, there are Class B pills and these include prescription drugs such as Ambien and non-prescription drugs such as Benadryl which come with no known side effects in animal studies, but there harms in humans are unknown. Doctors may prescribe these Class B drugs for severe sleep disorders and sleep disturbances. While most prescription sleeping pills are considered harmless, Class C medications such as Sonata, Lunesta and Rozerem have been linked to harmful side effects making them unsafe for pregnant women and the baby as well.

2. Temporary or Long-term Use?

Sleeping medication for expectant mothers is recommended for short term use only particularly during travel and for women with sleep disorders or severe insomnia. Sleeping pills can lead to overdependence and as a result are not for long term use. When approved, the pregnant women will be required to take the smallest dose for a limited duration of time.

3. Warnings

As mentioned, sleeping pills could lead to dependency and when taken throughout pregnancy, the newborn also may become used to their effect and suffer from withdrawal after delivery. Medications such as Luminal and Phenobarbital which are classified as Barbiturates are particularly addictive and studies suggest that they could also lower the IQ of the baby and cause jaundice when used for extended durations.

Watch a video for more from a professional:

Remedies for Better Sleep During Pregnancy

Besides using sleeping pills during pregnancy like Ambien, there are many natural remdies to improve sleep/ combat insomnia when pregnant. 

1. Use a Pillow Correctly

Pillows can help create a comfortable environment for sleep. You can tuck one pillow in between your legs to provide lower back support and under the tummy to make sleeping on the side comfortable. There are a good number of pillows made specifically for pregnant women and these include: full-length body pillows and single/double pregnancy wedge pillows.

2. Eat Wisely Before Bed

Your food affects the quality of sleep you get, when you eat is equally important.

  • It is recommended that you avoid hearty meals before bed time and spicy meals as well as these could cause indigestion and heartburns.
  • A glass of warm milk could help soothe you before sleep since it is associated with calm.
  • You also could opt for a light snack such as a turkey sandwich or banana as they contain tryptophan which is a natural sleep inducing amino acid. A high protein snack could help as a bedtime snack.
  • Other foods that help regulate blood sugar levels include: beans on toast, scrambled eggs and a peanut butter sandwich.

3. Do Yoga and Stretching

Yoga and stretching are great ways to help you relax, tone and stay flexible. The breathing techniques are calming and you will find various comfortable poses even while pregnant. Many health clubs and gyms have yoga and stretching classes specially designed for pregnant women.

Watch a video that shows stretch exercises to improve sleeping:

4. Have a Massage

A massage can help ease the tension in your muscles and this is a great way to wind down as you prepare to sleep. Massage also can help ease labor and you can ask your partner for a neck, foot or hand massage. If you decide to go to a professional masseuse, ensure that they are experienced in working with expectant mothers.

5. Practice Deep Breathing

Deep breathing also eases tension in the muscles and lowers the heart rate helping you fall sleep better. Choose a comfortable position preferably lying down and breathe in slowly expanding your lungs then breathe out completely. Repeat the exercise, pausing in between inhaling and exhaling.

6. Practice Aromatherapy with Caution

Aromatherapy oils help in relaxation but should be used with caution when pregnant. It’s recommended that you use these essential oils after your first trimester and if you do use them in the first trimester, seek the advice of a registered aroma therapist.

7. Say No to Smoking and Alcohol

Nicotine and alcohol not only make it difficult for you to sleep well, they are harmful to the baby. Nicotine is a stimulant and could lead to restlessness. Alcohol on the other hand naturally makes one drowsy but is deceptive as it disrupts sleep patterns.

8. Precautions on Taking Herbal Remedies

Pregnant women may assume that herbal remedies are much safer but these are risky and maybe even more risky than pills. Some natural ingredients such as passion flower, melatonin, Siberian ginseng and valerian are known to be unsafe for pregnant women. It’s important to note that he herbal remedies such as teas are not clinically proven and most health professionals recommend that you avoid them while pregnant and nursing.

9. More Tips

  • Heartburns can be avoided by steering clear of spicy meals, eating lighter and earlier so as to digest meals before bed.
  • Also avoid eating foods with stimulants late in the afternoon. Slow down on your fluids in the evening to reduce night bathroom breaks and have a bedtime routine such as soaking in a tub before sleeping or listening to soothing music.
  • Sleeping the same time every day also helps.