Having Trouble Sleeping While Pregnant

It’s normal to have trouble sleeping at any point during pregnancy, but many expectant women experience insomnia starting in the second to third trimesters, as other pregnancy symptoms increase, and a burgeoning baby belly makes it harder than ever to get comfortable in bed.

While it’s normal to have trouble sleeping at any point during pregnancy, in the second or third trimester, many expectant women experience insomnia as other pregnancy symptoms increase and a burgeoning baby belly makes it harder than ever to get comfortable in bed.

During the second and third trimesters, pregnancy-related insomnia can develop as a result of nausea, morning sickness, and heartburn—all common pregnancy-related problems. Your growing baby can also cause you to toss and turn, which makes it difficult to establish a regular sleep schedule.

It has been said that pregnancy is a time of “firsts,” and one that most women look forward to. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of “lasts.” Many women deal with sleep trouble because their bodies have to adjust to all these physical changes. But despite these changes, there are many things you can do to get a good night’s rest — even if it means trying out some pillows or other products specifically made for pregnant women.

The first trimester of pregnancy may be the most difficult for expectant women, when hormones like estrogen and progesterone are shifting rapidly to prepare your body for baby’s arrival. You may experience fatigue and exhaustion during this time, which can make it hard to fall asleep—but there are plenty of things you can do to help get your zzz’s!

Pregnant and Cant Sleep 3rd Trimester

For a new mom-to-be, experiencing sleep deprivation after the baby is born is a given. But you probably didn’t realize that it could also occur during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Most women experience sleep problems during pregnancy. Pregnant women tend to get more sleep during their first trimesters (hello, early bedtime) but experience a big drop in the quality of their sleep. It turns out that pregnancy can make you feel exhausted all day long. It can also cause insomnia at night.

Here are some of the most common culprits for insomnia during early pregnancy, plus a few tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia means you have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Women can experience insomnia during all stages of pregnancy, but it tends to be more common in the first and third trimesters. Between midnight bathroom breaks, out-of-control hormones, and pregnancy woes such as congestion and heartburn, you might be spending more time out of your bed than in it. The good news: While insomnia might be miserable, it’s not harmful to your baby.

Sheer logistics play a role as well. By the end of a pregnancy, many women have a hard time just getting comfortable enough to sleep well. During the first trimester, you might not have much of a baby belly to accommodate, but there are other issues that can prevent a good night’s sleep.

What causes insomnia during pregnancy?

Expecting? There are many reasons you might be wide awake in the wee hours. These can include:

Other causes of insomnia can be stress-related. You might feel anxious about labor and delivery, or worry about how you’ll balance work with being a new mother. These thoughts can keep you up at night, especially after your third visit to the bathroom.

It can be difficult to distract yourself from these thoughts, but try to remember that worrying isn’t productive. Instead, try writing down all of your concerns on paper. This will give you a chance to consider possible solutions. If there are no solutions, or there is nothing you can do, turn the page in your journal and focus on another worry. This can help empty your mind so you can rest.

Being up front with your partner about your feelings and worries can also help you feel better.

Develop a bedtime routine


One of the best things you can do to manage insomnia while you’re pregnant is to set up good sleep habits.

Begin by trying to go to bed at the same time every night. Start your routine with something relaxing to help you unwind.

Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed. Blue light from the TV, your mobile phone, or tablet can have an impact on your body’s circadian rhythm. Try reading a book instead.

Taking a soothing bath might also make you sleepy. Just be careful that the temperature isn’t too hot — that can be dangerous for your developing baby. This is especially true during early pregnancy.

To be safe, avoid hot tubs.

Diet and exercise

Diet and exercise can have an impact on your sleep.

Drink up


Drink plenty of water throughout the day, but minimize drinking after 7 p.m. Try to avoid caffeine starting in the late afternoon.

Eat to sleep


Eat a healthy dinner, but try to enjoy it slowly to reduce your chances of heartburn. Eating an early dinner can also help, but don’t go to bed hungry. Eat a light snack if you need to eat something late in the evening. Something high in protein can keep your blood sugar levels steady through the night. A warm glass of milk can help you feel sleepy, too.

Learn about more foods and drinks that can improve sleep.



Stay active during the day so you can rest at night.

Comfort is key

Making yourself — and your bedroom — more comfortable can result in better sleep.

Get comfortable


Make yourself comfortable. Lie on your side, tuck a pillow between your knees, and use one under your belly as it gets bigger.

If breast tenderness is bothering you, opt for a comfortable sleep bra that fits properly.

Climate change


Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet for optimal sleeping conditions. Use a nightlight in the bathroom for those midnight visits. The dim light will be less jarring than a bright overhead light.

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Try to relax

Practice ways to feel more relaxed at night.

Distract yourself


If you’re lying in bed and are wide awake, get up and distract yourself with something until you’re feeling tired enough to fall asleep. It’s more effective than lying in bed and staring at the clock.



Practice meditation, or try relaxation techniques and exercises. These methods are often taught in childbirth classes.


For most women, insomnia during the first trimester will pass. If you’re having trouble, try taking naps during the day. But skip any sleep-inducing supplements, medicines, or herbs until you consult with your doctor.

If your insomnia is impacting your ability to function, your doctor may be able to prescribe a sedative that’s safe to take during pregnancy.

Trouble Sleeping Early Pregnancy Sign

For many women, sleep can be evasive during pregnancy. Physical discomfort, changing hormones, and excitement and anxiety about being a new mother lead to a host of sleep problems. In fact, it’s believed that at least 50 percent of pregnant women1 suffer from insomnia.

Sleep is an essential part of prenatal care. If you’re struggling to sleep well during pregnancy, you’re not alone. We’ll discuss common sleep problems for pregnant women, take a look at the best pregnancy sleeping positions, and share advice on how to get the best sleep possible during pregnancy.

Why Does Sleep Change During Pregnancy?

A multitude of factors leads to insomnia during pregnancy2. Beginning in the first trimester, fluctuating hormone levels3 cause generalized discomfort4 and other problems5 that can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. These may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Higher body temperature
  • Frequent nighttime urination
  • Leg cramps

As time wears on, expectant mothers may also experience back pain and have trouble finding a comfortable position to accommodate the growing baby bump, especially when the baby starts to kick at night. Anxiety about the upcoming labor, being a new mother, juggling work and home responsibilities, or other worries may keep your mind racing at night. In the third trimester, many pregnant women experience vivid, disturbing dreams6 that can further impair sleep quality.

While it’s common for most pregnant women to experience at least a few of the above symptoms, sometimes they may be related to a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders can be linked to further problems down the line for mother or baby, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any symptoms.

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Common Sleep Disorders and Problems During Pregnancy

The most common sleep disorders that tend to occur during pregnancy are obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and gastroesophageal reflux disorder.

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Weight gain and nasal congestion lead many women to start snoring7 during pregnancy, which may be a risk factor for high blood pressure. Some women may go on to develop obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep condition characterized by snoring, gasping, and repeated lapses in breathing that disrupt sleep quality. OSA may impede oxygen flow to the fetus8 and increase the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and cesarean sections9. It is thought to affect as many as 1 in 5 women during pregnancy.
  • Restless Legs Syndrome: People with restless legs syndrome (RLS) are plagued by sensations best described as a crawling, tickling, or itching that cause an irrepressible urge to move the legs. This condition can make it difficult to fall asleep, as the symptoms are more severe when the person is at rest. RLS is thought to affect up to one-third of women10 in their third trimester of pregnancy.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder: Otherwise known as heartburn or acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) causes an uncomfortable burning sensation in the esophagus, especially when lying down. It’s a common cause of insomnia in pregnant women across all trimesters11, thought to affect one-quarter of pregnant women in the first trimester and as many as one-half in the third. Long-term GERD may damage the esophagus.

Why Is Sleep so Important During Pregnancy?

Getting quality sleep during pregnancy is important for both mother and baby. For the mother, those sleepless nights end up leading to fatigue and daytime sleepiness. Sleep also plays a major role in memory, learning, appetite, mood, and decision-making – all important when preparing to welcome a newborn baby into your home.

Chronic sleep deprivation takes its toll on the immune system. Some researchers believe this may be part of the reason why a lack of sleep has such a significant impact on maternal and fetal health12. And since sleep helps regulate blood sugar, it’s not surprising that poor sleep during pregnancy appears to be linked to gestational diabetes mellitus13.

Research shows that pregnant women who get too much or not enough sleep in early pregnancy are prone to developing high blood pressure14 in the third trimester. Severe sleep deprivation in early pregnancy may also raise the risk of preeclampsia15, a condition that can lead to preterm delivery and lasting complications for the mother’s heart, kidney, and other organs.

Though more research is needed to control for other variables, poor sleep appears to be a risk factor16 for preterm birth, low birth weight, painful labor, cesarean delivery, and depression. Emerging evidence17 also suggests that poor sleep quality during pregnancy may predict sleep problems and crying in babies once they are born.

Treatment for Sleep Problems During Pregnancy

There are a number of ways to reduce sleep problems while pregnant. Principal strategies include adjustments to sleeping position and sleep hygiene habits. In conjunction with good sleep hygiene, managing pregnancy-related sleep disorders is key to getting better sleep while pregnant.

Certain therapies have proven effective for treating sleep disorders, such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device for OSA, antacids for GERD, or vitamin and mineral supplements for RLS and other conditions. Although there are many theories, the reason for leg cramps and RLS during pregnancy remains unclear. Suggested therapies include vitamin supplementation, heat therapy, and massage but there is no consensus about what is the best treatment.

As certain substances may pose a risk to the developing fetus, pregnant women should always consult with their doctor before taking any medication or herbal remedies to help with sleep.

Best Sleeping Positions for Pregnancy

Sleeping on the left side with the legs slightly curled is considered the best sleeping position in pregnancy. This position facilitates blood flow to the heart, kidneys, and uterus, and improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. Although not as optimal as the left side, sleeping on the right side during pregnancy is also acceptable.

It may be helpful to use a few extra pillows to get comfortable sleeping on your side, especially if you’re not accustomed to this sleeping position. Try tucking in a wedge pillow to support your belly, or adding a thin pillow between the knees to help relieve pressure on the lower back. Some women find it useful to hug a body pillow or place a pillow under the lower back.

As the uterus grows larger, sleeping on the back during pregnancy can cause backache and put pressure on the vena cava. The vena cava is one of the body’s principal veins, so this can interfere with blood flow and cause dizziness. While back sleeping is all right for brief stints, it’s best to avoid it if possible. Most pregnant women find that sleeping on the stomach is impractical once the baby bump reaches a certain size.

Sleep Hygiene for Pregnant Women

Sleep hygiene is more important than ever during pregnancy. In addition to pregnancy sleep aids such as specialized pillows or eye masks, the following habits may help reduce insomnia and improve overall sleep quality:

  • Keep a cool, dark, quiet bedroom and limit the bed to sleeping and sex
  • Prioritize sleep and stick to a consistent bedtime, scheduling naps earlier in the day so they don’t interfere with nighttime sleep
  • Read a book, take a bath, or indulge in another calming activity in preparation for bedtime
  • Use a nightlight to make it easier to get back to sleep after bathroom breaks
  • Avoid caffeine, spicy foods, and heavy meals too close to bedtime to reduce the risk of GERD
  • Avoid taking technology into the bedroom, and turn off screens at least an hour before bed
  • Get regular exercise earlier in the day
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day, but reduce liquid intake before bed to reduce nighttime bathroom breaks
  • If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something else until you feel sleepy
  • Write down thoughts in your journal, or seek help from your partner, friends, doctor, or childbirth classes if you’re feeling stressed
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