Sleep Soundly During Pregnancy (cont.)
Restless legs syndrome is another sleep problem that may be brought on by pregnancy. People with this problem describe having an unpleasant "creepy crawly" sensation in their legs that only goes away when they move them. It's worst when the sufferer is relaxed, so it disturbs sleep. Lauren Broch, PhD, a sleep specialist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, says restless legs syndrome during pregnancy may be related to iron deficiency, but that's not known for sure. "I don't think we understand it yet," she says.
Taking folate supplements may help restless legs syndrome, Broch says. Doctors urge all women to take folate during pregnancy to prevent birth defects, too.
Prescription sleep aids are out of the question for pregnant women, unfortunately. Over-the-counter sleep aids like Sominex and Nytol, and the allergy remedy Benadryl (all of which contain the same active ingredient, diphenhydramine) may be safe in the later stages of pregnancy but Broch says she does not generally recommend them. Diphenhydramine stays in the body for about 12 hours, which can make you feel drowsy and sedated all morning if you take it late at night. And like all medications (including vitamins and herbal supplements), these over-the-counter drugs should be approved by your doctor before taking.
Exercise is a good substitute for sedatives. Exercise during the day -- not right before you go to bed -- and you will sleep better for it.
Originally published Sept. 2, 2002.
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