Pregnancy and Sleep

Medical Disclaimer: The following content should not be used as medical advice or as a recommendation for any specific supplement or medication. It is important to consult your health care provider prior to starting a new medication or altering your current dosage.

Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but it can also come with some unexpected and potentially uncomfortable symptoms. Whether you are dealing with nausea, frequent urination, fatigue, or other common experiences during pregnancy, being pregnant isn’t always easy.

Pregnancy can also affect your sleep. If you are pregnant and having trouble falling asleep or you find that nighttime symptoms are keeping you up, we have some tips that may be helpful. Learn more about how pregnancy affects sleep, common sleep challenges during pregnancy, and tips for sleeping better while pregnant.

The Importance of Sleep During Pregnancy

Sleep affects nearly every cell and tissue in the body and sleeping well is especially important during pregnancy. In fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that good sleep hygiene is one of the best ways for a pregnant person to promote a healthy and full-term birth.

Pregnant people who do not get enough high-quality sleep may be at a higher risk for needing a cesarean section or having a premature baby. Sleep deprivation during pregnancy is also linked to parental depression, gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure during pregnancy.

How Sleep Can Change in Pregnancy

Sleep quality changes throughout the course of a pregnancy as the body adapts to supporting a growing fetus. During early pregnancy, the body begins producing more blood cells and boosts the production of progesterone, which can cause a person to feel more tired or fatigued as soon as one week after becoming pregnant.

In the second trimester, some people experience an increase in energy and feelings of well-being. For others, swelling, itching, or lower back pain may begin or worsen and interfere with getting quality rest.

During the third trimester, it may become difficult to sleep as the baby grows larger and the body continues to undergo significant changes. It’s common for people to sleep lighter and to wake up more often in late pregnancy, sometimes caused by trouble finding a comfortable position or symptoms like heartburn and nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Sleep Challenges During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, you’ll likely face a variety of sleep challenges. Learning about these challenges, and tips for overcoming them, may help you get a better night’s sleep.

  • Trouble getting comfortable: During the course of a pregnancy, it may become increasingly difficult to find a comfortable position for sleep. This discomfort may peak in the third trimester as the baby is getting larger.
  • Stress or anxiety: Pregnancy can be a stressful time, and pregnant people may find that anxiety, worry, or stress make it difficult to sleep. Pregnant people also commonly experience regular nightmares or vivid dreams.
  • Nighttime urination: Almost all pregnant people experience an increased need to urinate both at night and during the day. Getting up at night to use the bathroom often begins during the first trimester and gets worse during the third trimester.
  • Heartburn: Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are common during pregnancy and can flare up at night, making it difficult to sleep.
  • Lower back pain: More than half of pregnant people experience pain in the lower back, which can be caused by natural changes in joints and muscles during pregnancy. Pain may worsen at night, making it more difficult to relax and fall asleep.
  • Nasal congestion: Pregnant people may also deal with increased nasal congestion, making it more likely for pregnant people to snore.

While many of these sleep challenges are common during pregnancy, sometimes sleep troubles can reach the level of a sleep disorder. Talking to your doctor about sleep difficulties is important, as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea are more common in people who are pregnant.

Best Position to Sleep in During Pregnancy

Experts generally recommend side-sleeping with the legs bent. Side-sleeping is usually the most comfortable position and allows the heart to pump more easily. When possible, it may be beneficial to sleep on your left side as it improves blood flow to the internal organs and fetus. Experts also recommend that pregnant people avoid sleeping on their back.

To get into a comfortable sleep position, you may find it helpful to place a pillow under your belly or between your legs. Sleeping with a rolled-up blanket or pillow against the small of your back may also reduce discomfort.

Tips for Better Sleep in Pregnancy

Sleeping during pregnancy may not always be easy, but there are several tips that can help you feel more comfortable and sleep better. Consider talking to your doctor about which of these tips are right for you.

Stick to Your Sleep Schedule

One useful way to achieve a better night’s sleep during pregnancy is to stick to a regular sleep schedule. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day can reduce disruptions to your body’s circadian rhythm.

Make Your Bedroom a Sanctuary

Protect your sleep by making sure that your bedroom is a peaceful and relaxing environment that is conducive to sleep. Gather any pillows, blankets, and other cushions that may be needed for comfort and keep the bedroom dark, cool, and comfortable.

Limit Your Caffeine Intake

Consider having a conversation with your doctor about caffeine. In general, be cautious about consuming too much caffeine. Caffeine is passed to your fetus and can keep you up at night. If you do consume caffeine, make sure to stop all caffeine intake at noon.

Cut Back on Liquids Before Bed

It’s important to drink ample fluids during the day, but drinking too close to bedtime may leave you getting up at night more often to use the bathroom. To reduce disruptions to your sleep, consider reducing your fluid intake a few hours before bedtime.

Nap at the Right Time

Naps can be a helpful way for you to get the sleep you need, especially if pregnancy-related symptoms make it hard to sleep at night. But naps may also make it more difficult to sleep at bedtime, so time your naps well and try not to take naps too late in the afternoon.

Enjoy Some Physical Activity

Gentle exercise offers a plethora of benefits during pregnancy, from reducing low back pain to improving nighttime sleep. A doctor can help you find an exercise program that is safe and effective for you.

Find Activities That Help You To Relax

Finding time to unwind and relax before bed is another strategy for better sleep during pregnancy. Everyone is different, so try a few relaxation tips and see what works best for you:

  • Dim the lights
  • Turn off the computer and TV
  • Take a warm bath
  • Sip a warm beverage, like milk or non-caffeinated tea 
  • Read a magazine or book
  • Listen to relaxing music

Talking to Your Doctor About Sleep During Pregnancy

One of the most important ways to promote better sleep and a healthy pregnancy is to talk to your doctor. If you are having consistent trouble sleeping or begin experiencing a new or unexpected symptom, a doctor can evaluate your symptoms and recommend treatment if needed.

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