I felt like a zombie during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Before I was pregnant, I was a hardcore caffeine fanatic. But when I found out I was pregnant, I cut way, way back on that.
The lack of caffeine, coupled with the natural exhaustion of pregnancy, got to me quickly.
So I did what I do best — I researched the problem until I came up with some workable solutions. Although I still missed caffeine, I was able to function and feel fine throughout the rest of my pregnancy. And you’ll deal with it fine with these tips I found too.
Why It Matters
Everyone needs sleep — without it, our moods, concentration, and health all plummet. But when you’re pregnant, you need your rest more than ever. You’re growing a new life inside you, and that’s physically and emotionally draining.
But when you’re sleeping for two, does that mean you need twice as much as sleep as usual? How would you ever get anything done?
Some professionals recommend women get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every night during pregnancy. Even then, some women won’t feel like this is nearly enough.
Higher levels of sleep while pregnant helps fight system-wide inflammation in the body. That inflammation is believed to be the cause for undesirable pregnancy events like preterm delivery and postpartum depression (2).
Pregnancy can hurt your sleep in multiple ways.
- Worries can keep you up at night.
- Morning sickness can make you miss out on shut-eye.
- The frequent urge to pee can interrupt sleep.
- Finding a comfortable position can be difficult.
- In later pregnancy, back and pelvic pain can keep you up.
- You might wake yourself up by snoring because some women begin to snore during pregnancy because of weight gain.
The Benefits of Sleep and Rest During Pregnancy
Although it can be a challenge getting good sleep while pregnant, the benefits are big if you can manage it. Here are some of the benefits you’ll see:
- It can reduce stress: You’re going to have stress in spades as an expectant mother. You’re going to have a lot to juggle — aches, worries, doctor’s appointments, preparing for your baby and more. Sleep will help you relax and feel calmer.
- It can help your baby gain the proper amount of weight: Moms who had less sleep when they were pregnant — both regarding quality and quantity — tended to have babies with lower birth weights. While you don’t want to set a world’s record for the heaviest baby, you also want to make sure it’s at a healthy weight.
- It may help you obtain a full-term delivery: When a woman isn’t getting enough sleep, she tends to have increased inflammatory responses that can lead to preterm birth. Making sleep a priority can be enough to calm or avoid that inflammatory response, to begin with.
- You’ll have less depression: The link between lack of sleep and depression is strong — whether you’re pregnant or not (3). But add your changing lifestyle and body to the concerns about your baby’s health and depression can easily creep in if you’re feeling overtired.
- A healthier immune system: A good night’s sleep can give your immune system a boost. That can help moms-to-be fight off any viruses or bacteria they are exposed to (4). The ability to fight off illnesses is going to keep both you and your baby healthier during your pregnancy.
- You’ll have less pressure on your cervix: During pregnancy, the cervix stays closed, so your baby stays in. Relaxing and resting will help your cervix stay in place.
- There will be better circulation of blood to the uterus: More blood to the uterus means a better supply of oxygen and nutrients to your baby.
- It helps fight high blood pressure: High blood pressure can strike during any pregnancy, and because the consequences can be severe, you have to take it seriously. One of the most common orders a doctor will give a woman who has high blood pressure is bed rest. That’s because resting helps ease the pressure from the heart.
- You’ll have more energy: You’ll likely feel tired during pregnancy — it’s bound to happen at some point. But you don’t have to feel exhausted for the full nine months. With enough sleep you might find, especially during the second trimester, that you feel downright energetic.
- It may help keep placenta previa at bay: Placenta previa is when the placenta blocks part of the uterus, which is a dangerous situation for both a mother and her baby (5). To combat this condition, your doctor will order plenty of rest for you.
How Does Good Sleep During Pregnancy Affect Childbirth?
Childbirth is the one part of having a baby that every mother would gladly pass on. While it’s wonderful to feel our babies kicking in our bellies, labor pains are much less welcome.
But moms who make great sleep a priority during pregnancy will also find it can help the childbirth process as well.
Moms who are well rested going into the delivery room will have a greater pain tolerance (6). They also tend to have quicker labors, which moms everywhere should welcome with open arms.
In addition, they’ll have greater concentration to focus on anything that goes wrong in case they have to make a big decision quickly.
With my first child I was lacking a tremendous amount of sleep. I stayed awake through the whole labor process despite having an epidural. I pushed for an hour and a half. With my second child I was well rested and got a full night’s sleep since I had an epidural in and ended up pushing for 20 min
Editor's Note:Jennifer Schlette, MSN, RN
15 Common Sleep Problems For Pregnant Women
Women face a lot of sleep issues when they’re pregnant. And it’s not like some women only get one — most will suffer from several before they’re being wheeled into the delivery room.
Here are 15 of the most common.
Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB)
What it is: It’s a range of breathing problems which could be as simple as snoring or as complicated as obstructive sleep apnea.
When it kicks in: It usually shows up toward the later part of the second trimester and stays until delivery.
Possible causes: There are several possible causes, including obesity, face or throat changes, the extra hormones you have during pregnancy, smoking, and not getting enough sleep.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: It can increase the odds you’ll have high blood pressure in pregnancy, preeclampsia, depression, and gestational diabetes.
What you can do about it: You can watch your weight to ensure you don’t gain too much during pregnancy. You can also skip the caffeine, take a morning nap, use saline washes in your nose to help with nasal congestion, or use breathing strips. Also, remember not to sleep on your back (7).
Restless Leg Syndrome
What it is: Restless leg syndrome is when you feel the need to move your legs because they have burning, tingling, or crawling feelings. As many as 16 percent of pregnant women suffer from this (8). It can also happen to your arms and hands too.
When it kicks in: Whenever you’re at rest, and the worst of it hits between the 7th and 8th months of pregnancy. It tends to vanish within a month or so after delivery.
Possible causes: Scientists haven’t pinpointed its cause yet.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: While it is nothing to be worried about, restless leg syndrome can make you lose sleep during pregnancy.
What you can do about it: Stay away from caffeine, stretch your legs, and don’t lay down until you’re ready to go to sleep (9).
What it is: Leg cramps are when your calf or foot, or possibly both, seize up from a muscle contraction. They can be enormously painful.
When it kicks in: Usually at night, mainly in the second and third trimesters.
Possible causes: No one really knows for certain why they happen.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: It won’t hurt your baby, but it can sure cause you a lot of discomfort. When they happen at night, they can make you lose sleep.
What you can do about it: Stretching your calf muscles several times a day may help. Activity, such as talking walks, might help too — but remember to wear comfortable shoes. You can also try wearing compression socks to see if they help. Make sure you’re drinking enough water and eating magnesium-rich foods, like bananas, nuts, and whole grains (10).
What it is: It’s a disorder where people have difficulty controlling their periods of sleep and wakefulness. People who suffer from this may be extremely sleepy during the day and can’t stop themselves from falling asleep.
When it kicks in: Women who have narcolepsy will find it remains with them throughout their pregnancy and gets worse in about one-third of the cases.
Possible causes: Narcolepsy is believed to be caused when a person has too little hypocretin, which is a brain chemical that controls sleep.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: Narcolepsy can be quite dangerous for pregnant women and their babies. The medications used to help with narcolepsy may not be safe for fetuses. And even daily tasks like driving may present a danger. Never stop your medication without speaking to your doctor.
What you can do about it: If you find you can’t regulate your narcolepsy while pregnant, or you’re one of the unlucky ones who has worsening symptoms, you may need to be placed on medical leave until you have your baby. That way you’ll be able to get the sleep you need.
What it is: Insomnia is not getting enough sleep or having a poor quality of sleep. It’s a common pregnancy-related ailment, affecting almost 80 percent of expectant moms (11).
When it kicks in: Insomnia can happen in any or all trimesters of your pregnancy.
Possible causes: There are many reasons you might by plagued by insomnia, including hormones, unsettling dreams, nerves, anxiety, frequent bathroom breaks, heartburn, and back and pelvic pain, as well as general discomfort.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: Insomnia can make you feel tired all the time, stressed out, and anxious. Plus, not having enough sleep can impact your immune system as well, making you susceptible to minor illnesses.
What you can do about it: Daily exercise can help, as can trying out different positions while sleeping. Warm baths and massages can also do the trick. Try some relaxation techniques and make sure the temperature is comfortable for you.
What it is: Heartburn is a burning feeling you can get in your chest and even throat from acid bubbling up into the esophagus.
When it kicks in: It can start at any point, but for many women, it’s worse in the second and third trimesters.
Possible causes: With your growing baby taking up more of your stomach, the acid can get forced up into your esophagus. Also, progesterone, a pregnancy hormone, is a suspected culprit as well. Progesterone is known to slow your gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to heartburn.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: It can be painful and may keep you up at night.
What you can do about it: There are several things you can do to combat heartburn:
- Try eating mini meals instead of bigger ones.
- Eat slowly because it may stop you from overeating.
- Don’t recline back after meals, which means you shouldn’t go to bed right after eating.
- Avoid tight clothing.
- Stay away from foods that give you worse heartburn.
- Prop your head and chest up at night.
What it is: It’s not just your imagination — you will have to pee more during pregnancy.
When it kicks in: You’ll notice it the worst during the first four months. And you’ll also notice it more during the last trimester.
Possible causes: In late pregnancy, your fetus will put pressure on your bladder, causing you to pee more. In early pregnancy, you can thank the extra blood flow which causes your kidneys to produce more urine.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: You’re going to need to know where the bathrooms are wherever you go in late pregnancy. In addition, your sleep is going to be interrupted by frequent nighttime bathroom breaks.
What you can do about it: Staying away from soda, tea, and coffee should help some. In the hour before bed, drink a few sips of water, but not a whole glass — unless you’re dehydrated, then you should drink up and worry about the bathroom later.
What it is: This is when you start to snore during pregnancy, even if you’ve never been a snorer before.
When it kicks in: Second or third trimester as you begin to gain weight.
Possible causes: Gaining weight is one cause. Another cause is beyond your control. With extra blood circulating while you’re pregnant, it can cause the blood vessels in your nose to swell, causing extra nasal congestion. Pregnancy hormones also can lead to more nasal congestion.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: You might wake yourself up by snoring.
What you can do about it: Don’t gain more weight than your doctor recommends, and use saline nasal washes or breathing strips while sleeping.
What it is: This is one of the most fun times during pregnancy — when you get to feel your baby move. But feeling your baby kick you repeatedly while you’re trying to sleep will keep you up at night.
When it kicks in: You should first feel your baby move between the 16th and 25th week of your pregnancy. After that, you’ll feel it happening multiple times a day, every day.
Possible causes: Baby movement is totally normal and is the sign of a healthy pregnancy.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: You might have such an active baby at night that you’ll lose sleep whenever you feel them kick hard or do somersaults in your belly.
What you can do about it: There’s not much you can do, other than use it as a chance to reassure yourself your baby is doing just fine in there.
What it is: We all know what stress is. And pregnancy is a happy time for most women, but it definitely comes with a lot of stress at times.
When it kicks in: You may find yourself stressed out from the moment you find out you’re pregnant until the time you hold your beautiful baby in your arms.
Possible causes: You might be stressed because of your worries, doctor visits, your job, money, the strain of eating healthy, minor illnesses, and even over your changing body.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: Stress can be really hard on you and your baby. It can make you more likely to have a premature baby or a baby that weighs less than 5 and a half pounds (12).
What can you do about it: Talk to a friend or professional about your stress. Remove as much from your schedule as you feel you need to. Keep up with regular exercise and relaxation activities, like yoga.
What it is: Night waking is when you wake up during the night while you’re pregnant. And be prepared for it to happen more than once per night. A majority of women wake up at least five times a night during their pregnancy (13).
When it kicks in: This happens mostly in the third trimester.
Possible causes: You might find yourself waking from aches and pains, being unable to find a comfortable position, from your baby kicking, or frequent bathroom breaks.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: It can impact you severely because you’re not getting the sleep cycles you need. You’ll feel tremendously tired and grumpy from frequent night waking.
What you can do about it: Experiment with body pillows to help take some of the strain off of your lower back. Another thing that might help is laying off the liquids an hour before bedtime.
Discomfort With Body Changes
What it is: Some women are bothered by body changes during pregnancy in two ways — they can be physically uncomfortable and they can worry about their appearance as well.
When it kicks in: The third trimester can be the hardest time for body changes.
Possible causes: As your body keeps growing, you’re going to have a whole new set of aches and pains to worry about. And watching that skin stretching can have you wondering how many stretch marks you’ll have to contend with after pregnancy.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: The physical pain from the body changes can make you lose sleep at night and may make you feel like not moving around at all. The worry about how you’ll look during and after pregnancy will lead to unnecessary stress.
What you can do about it: When you’re worried about your appearance, realize it will all be worth it when you’re holding your precious baby. As for the aches and pains, look for a body pillow or ask your partner to do his share by giving you a massage.
What it is: It’s the sensation you’re going to throw up, and sometimes you actually do while you’re pregnant.
When it kicks in: The first trimester is the worst when it comes to nausea because of morning sickness.
Possible causes: It’s caused by increasing hormones.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: It can make it difficult to sleep and eat.
What you can do about it: Eat small meals, eat crackers if you can’t tolerate anything else, try to nap whenever you can, and drink fluids before or after meals to prevent being overfull. Open windows to get fresh, cool air if you need it. Ginger can also be great for nausea. If nausea persists and it is severely impacting your life despite these remedies, you should talk to your doctor because you may need to be started on medication.
What it is: Pregnancy can cause all kinds of aches and stabbing pains in your back, particularly the lower back.
When it kicks in: Back pain usually strikes women during the second half of their pregnancies.
Possible causes: There are several reasons you’ll have back pain, including muscle separation, hormones, extra weight, and changes in your posture.
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: You’re going to find it a lot harder to sleep when your back pain is at its worst.
What you can do about it: To fight back pain, get regular exercise, work on your posture, and use hot or cold compresses as needed. Some women also like to have chiropractic care while pregnant.
What it is: These are the strange, vivid dreams you have while you’re pregnant — they can range from nightmares to sex dreams.
When it kicks in: They can happen at any time during your pregnancy.
Possible causes: While doctors can’t say for certain what causes these weird dreams to manifest, it may be a response to your rapidly-changing body and the stresses you’re facing. But it may also be because you spend more time in rapid eye movement sleep because of your changing sleep patterns (14).
How could it possibly affect your pregnancy: You may wonder what the heck is going on after some downright bizarre dreams. But don’t worry — this is totally normal. Some dreams may be so unsettling you’ll have a hard time getting back to sleep.
What you can do about it: Buckle up and enjoy the ride. Hopefully, you’ll have only a few nightmares and more of the vivid sex dreams.
Here are some common pregnancy dreams and what they mean:
- Sex dreams: These are one of the most common types of dreams women have while pregnant — they likely may feature men other than their partners. It may be because of additional blood flow to your breasts and groin during pregnancy, as well as the increase in estrogen levels.
- Gender reveal dreams: If you dream about finding out which gender your baby is, it’s just because you’re thinking about it in real life too. It may also be because you secretly want one gender or the other.
- Childbirth dreams: Childbirth is going to be on your mind, so it stands to reason you’ll dream about it as well. It may be because you’re worried about it or you can’t wait to finally meet your baby (15).
- Forgetting your baby dreams: Being a parent will be a huge responsibility and that can manifest in your dreams if you have dreams about forgetting your baby somewhere. You just might be worried you aren’t ready to be a parent.
Tips to Help You Sleep During Pregnancy
So now that you know all the things that can interfere with sleep during pregnancy and why they happen, it’s time to give you some workable tips to help you catch some much-needed zzzz’s.
1. Create a Solid Nighttime Routine
When your baby is born you’ll understand the power of a good nighttime routine for your child — it can be soothing and can signal to their body and mind that it’s time to sleep. A nighttime routine is good for you as well.
Your nighttime routine might be taking a warm shower to relax your muscles and ease tension, sipping on a cup of tea, and having a snack while you let your mind unwind with your favorite television show.
2. Activities That Can Help You Fall Asleep Faster
The key to picking an activity that will help you fall asleep is to not make it super exciting. You don’t want to watch a movie you’ve been dying to see for months.
You should find something that might naturally be snooze-inducing, like reading some boring scientific journals or watching an old black and white movie you don’t think will hold your interest.
Another thing you could do is take a warm shower while you’re listening to relaxing music.
3. Try These Foods and Drinks To Help You Sleep Better
When looking for a way to sleep better, don’t ignore your food and drink choices. Some act like a magic sleeping potion. And when you eat several for dinner before bed, it’s even better.
Here are some great choices:
- Soy products.
- Tart cherry juice, and as a side perk, it can be great at relieving aches and pains — runners use it for that purpose.
- Whole grains.
- Warm milk.
4. Avoid or Cut Back On These Things
There are certain things you should stay away from if you’re trying to fall peacefully to sleep at bedtime.
Too many drinks in the hour or two before bed will have you racing to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Unless you relish the idea of taking more night time bathroom breaks than your grandma, limit the after-dinner drinks and try to get most of your hydration during the day and early evening.
Electronics are too stimulating for many people. Whether you’re playing that hard-to-reach level of Candy Crush or you’re catching up on your work emails, it’s too easy to get sucked into electronic devices and all the drama that can come with them.
Napping while pregnant
Naps are a great idea for pregnant women because they can help make up for some of the sleep they don’t get at night. But the key to napping is to not let it work against your night sleep schedule.
The last thing you want to do is nap so long you suffer from insomnia at night. So if you’re taking an afternoon nap, you should keep it short enough it won’t interfere with your bedtime.
Even when you’re napping in the morning, shorter might be better. A 20-minute nap is enough to recharge your batteries without making you feel overtired (16).
But if you’ve had a few terrible nights of sleep in a row, you may want to pencil in a longer nap during the morning if you can. It should still be far enough away from your bedtime that it won’t sabotage your upcoming night of sleep.
5. Get a Bedtime Massage
Nothing can feel as good on tired, sore muscles as a massage. And the best kind of massage is one you don’t have to pay for.
If you can talk your partner into giving you a rubdown each night, you’ll feel much more relaxed and sleepy. With some shea butter, you’ll almost be able to close your eyes and picture you’re at a spa.
Here are some great areas to focus on:
- Belly, but make sure to use a gentle touch.
- Lower back.
- Lower legs.
6. Use Pregnancy Pillows
Pregnancy pillows are oversized pillows made to be used by pregnant women who are looking for a more comfortable position.
There is a wide variety of pillows shapes — U-shape, total body pillows, inflatable pillows, and wedges.
Here is what each one can do:
- Total body pillows: These are best for when you have a large number of aches and pains spread throughout your body.
- U-shaped: These are good for back sleepers who are trying to learn to sleep on their sides. They can prop you up on your side.
- Inflatable pillows: This is the biggest pillow you can find and stomach sleepers seem to love this kind.
- Wedges: When you don’t want to share your bed with a big pillow, but you need some extra support for your belly or your back, you can opt for a wedge.
- C-shaped: If you don’t have as much room in your bed, you can go with this shape. This kind is best for plus-size women (17).
Pregnancy pillows can help you find a comfortable position so you can sleep peacefully througprhout the night with less tossing and turning.
If you’re using a wedge, get in your desired position and place it wherever you need support. If you’re using a bigger pillow, it might be easiest to put the pillow in place and then climb onto it, adjusting it as you figure out which position feels best.
You can wrap it around your head and neck, legs, and belly however it feels best.
7. Make Your Bedroom More Conducive For Sleeping
If your bedroom is a place that feels relaxing to you, you might be better able to sleep there.
Here are some ideas to help you turn your room into a place that will lull you to sleep.
- Find the right temperature: You’ll sleep better in a cooler room. Consider turning your thermostat down to 68 degrees or lower.
- Keep the lights down: Put up blinds or shades over your windows to block out any street lights or the sun in the morning.
- Consider white noise: Sometimes white noise, like from a fan, can be enough to relax you into going to sleep. If you love the sound of the ocean, consider a machine that makes wave sounds.
- Get comfy sheets and blankets: Pregnancy is a great time to upgrade to that thread count you’ve always wanted for sheets. With all you’re going through, you deserve a little pampering.
8. Wear a Belly Band
Some women swear by the comfort a belly band provides. It can help with pelvic, hip, and back pain.
Some women like to sleep with it, but others feel that’s too much and would rather sleep without it. By controlling your pain throughout the day — a belly band can help you sleep at night even if you don’t wear it at bedtime. It will help keep your daily aches and pains at bay.
If you don’t like wearing it in bed, find your most comfortable pajamas and slip between the sheets.
10. Apps to Help You Sleep Better
Sleep apps can play relaxing sounds or music when you sleep. Others can track and analyze your sleep patterns.
There are even adult coloring book apps meant to help you fight your anxiety so you can sleep.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to apps — you can find ones that use hypnotherapy and meditation recordings.
Best Sleeping Position for Pregnant Women?
When I was pregnant, I was almost scared to switch positions while I was uncomfortable in bed. It sometimes seemed like every position was worse than the last before. But I’d keep trying and eventually I’d find one I could tolerate for a while.
Let’s look at all the popular sleeping positions and how they stack up during pregnancy.
On Your Back
Back sleeping may have been your go-to position before you got pregnant, but unfortunately, you’re going to have to stop doing it, at least until your baby is delivered.
Which trimester it’s safe for: You can continue to sleep on your back until you reach 20 weeks, although it might be a good idea to wean yourself off of it a couple of weeks early to make sure you’re ready when the time comes.
Advantages: While you should avoid this position in the second half of your pregnancy, some women have a hard time remembering not to roll onto their backs in the middle of the night because it does feel pretty comfy.
Disadvantages: It can aggravate back pain and hemorrhoids.
Risks: Your blood vessels will be negatively impacted by the pressure of your abdomen when you’re in this position, which means you could lessen the flow of blood to your baby. But if you wake up on your back, don’t panic. You would feel sick and out of breath before your baby felt the effects of it (source).
On Your Stomach
Stomach sleeping may present a challenge for moms-to-be as their growing bellies get in the way.
Which trimester it’s safe for: This position is safe for any trimester, but it will get increasingly uncomfortable as your pregnancy moves along.
Advantages: If you like this position, you may be able to continue it even in late pregnancy — there’s a chance you might not have to find an alternative. By using a donut-shaped pregnancy pillow, you’ll be able to extend the amount of time you can sleep like this.
Disadvantages: At about midway through your pregnancy, it really starts to get uncomfortable. You might end up with back pain that might have you scrambling for a new position.
Risks: There really aren’t any risks — it’s safe to keep doing it as long as it feels comfortable for you.
On Your Side
This is the best sleeping position for pregnant women.
Which trimester it’s safe for: This is safe for any trimester.
Advantages: It’s regarded as the most comfortable position when you’re pregnant. Pillows can also be used to offer support anywhere you need it in this position.
Disadvantages: While no position ever feels terrific in late pregnancy, there are no disadvantages to this one.
Risks: There are no risks to sleeping in this position.
The Bottom Line
While I won’t lie and say I slept like a baby after I incorporated some of these tips when I was pregnant, I did sleep a lot better as I grew a baby — something I thought had been impossible a few weeks before I did my research.
Once my baby was born and I had to contend with late-night feedings, it was another story — but I enjoyed my small victory while it lasted.