As the body changes throughout pregnancy, sleep disturbances and poor quality sleep become increasingly common. The second trimester brings about physical changes such as body aches and pains, swelling of the legs, and numbness or tingling that can all affect sleep.
We explore how sleep can change during the second trimester of pregnancy and break down strategies for getting better sleep during this period of growth.
The Importance of Sleep During Your Second Trimester
Sleep is vital throughout pregnancy, including the second trimester, because it plays a role in the growth and development of the fetus.
Pregnancy is typically 40 weeks long or a little over nine months and is grouped into three trimesters: first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester. The second trimester is week 13 through week 28 of pregnancy.
Not getting enough quality sleep during this time can affect a pregnant person, their fetus, and delivery. Research suggests that short sleep duration during pregnancy may increase the length of childbirth and the rate of cesarean births (c-sections). Low-quality sleep is also linked to preterm birth, a condition where a fetus is born before 37 weeks.
Lack of sleep is also associated with developing high blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy. Other research suggests that long-term sleep deprivation during pregnancy can contribute to excessive fatigue and depression in the birthing parent.
Throughout the duration of a pregnancy, the body undergoes a lot of physical and hormonal changes to accommodate a growing fetus. If you experience changes in sleep that affect your waking hours, consult with your health care provider for strategies to improve your sleep at night.
Sleep Changes During the Second Trimester
Changes in sleep behaviors during the second trimester can vary from person to person. For many, their sleep quality worsens and the amount of time they spend sleeping decreases during the second trimester.
Several potential sleep changes can occur during the second trimester.
- Development of sleep disorders: Sleep disorders can arise in any trimester. As people advance into their second and third trimesters, the likelihood of developing sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless legs syndrome (RLS) increases.
- Nighttime awakenings: Waking up at night is a common problem during pregnancy. Needing to urinate at night, nausea, vomiting, body pain, and other discomforts can all disrupt sleep.
- Disturbing dreams: Pregnant people report having disturbing dreams more often than non-pregnant people. However, research suggests that parasomnia behaviors such as sleepwalking and nightmares may decrease as pregnancy progresses.
Tips to Sleep Better During the Second Trimester
It’s typical to experience sleep problems during pregnancy, but inadequate sleep during your pregnancy can impact you and your growing fetus. Fortunately, there are several strategies that may help improve your sleep.
Check For Untreated Sleep Disorders
Because pregnant people can develop a sleep disorder as their pregnancy progresses, it’s important to talk with a health care provider about any sleep problems that interfere with your daily life.
More than two-thirds of pregnant people experience insomnia by the end of their pregnancy. Insomnia during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk of postpartum depression, a mental health condition that can occur after childbirth.Shop the Best Mattresses of 2023
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can also develop during pregnancy. The symptoms of sleep apnea, such as choking or gasping for air during sleep, are associated with an increased risk of unplanned c-section, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes.
Pregnancy is also a risk factor for developing restless legs syndrome (RLS), a sleep disorder that causes an irresistible need to move the legs.
A health care provider will review your medical history, ask questions about your sleep, and may order a sleep study to learn more about your sleep problems. If you are diagnosed with a sleep disorder during pregnancy, your health care provider will talk with you about your treatment options.
Sleep on Your Left Side
During the first trimester, pregnant people can generally sleep in whatever position they find most comfortable. Starting the second trimester, experts recommend pregnant people should sleep on their side with their knees bent.
Use Pillows and Other Bedding For Support
As your body and abdomen grow and change during the second trimester, aches and pains often develop. Lying down for sleep may become uncomfortable. You can use a pillow or rolled-up blanket to support your body by placing it at your back, between your knees, or under your abdomen.
Other types of bedding, including mattress toppers and pregnancy pillows, may help people sleep more comfortably during pregnancy.
Watch Your Fluid Intake Near Bedtime
Frequent urination and other problems with controlling the bladder can arise because a fetus can push down on the bladder and pelvic muscles. For some, waking up to use the bathroom at night is a common cause of sleep disruptions during pregnancy.
To avoid middle-of-the-night bathroom trips, avoid drinking a lot of water close to bedtime. Instead, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and fluids throughout the day.
Regular physical activity during pregnancy offers many benefits, including reducing daytime tiredness and facilitating better sleep at night. People who exercise while pregnant also maintain healthy heart and lung function, experience improved mood, and may find it helps them prepare for childbirth.
Be sure to speak with a doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you were not physically active before getting pregnant. As you work gentle exercise into your prenatal routine, it’s best to avoid exercising within 2 to 3 hours of your bedtime. Exercising too close to bedtime can interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Healthy sleep habits, also called sleep hygiene, may help improve sleep problems during pregnancy. Examples of sleep hygiene practices that may help you get better sleep during the second trimester include:
- Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule across the week
- Ensuring the sleep environment is dark and quiet at night
- Adopting relaxing bedtime rituals such as reading, journaling, or meditation
- Avoiding lying in bed awake for more than 20 minutes
- Turning off technology an hour before bedtime
- Taking naps to recoup lost sleep
Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep During the Second Trimester
You can sleep on your stomach during pregnancy. However, as the fetus grows larger later in the second trimester, the sleep position simply becomes too uncomfortable for sleeping. Experts recommend side sleeping rather than back sleeping later on in pregnancy.
Common sleep disorders during pregnancy are insomnia and restless legs syndrome. Other sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea can also develop during pregnancy.
Disrupted sleep is common during pregnancy, but you should aim to sleep at least 7 hours a night. If you’re experiencing persistent sleep issues, reach out to a doctor for evaluation and treatment recommendations.