Sleeping and pregnancy

It’s common to feel unusually tired when you’re pregnant, and it can be very frustrating if you can’t get to sleep.

Later in pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester more women report that they are having difficulty sleeping, with frequent night time wakings. This is usually caused by discomfort caused by the large bump, being too hot and by the need to go to the toilet more because the baby and womb are pressing on the bladder.

Tips for better sleep in pregnancy

Here are some tips for better sleep in the third trimester:

  • When you’re lying on your side, it may be more comfortable to sleep with a pillow supporting your bump and a pillow between your knees.
  • Get some exercise during the day or just increase your level of activity (it doesn’t have to be an organised exercise class). A swim or walk would be ideal. But don’t leave it too late, exercise produces adrenalin, which will not help you sleep.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, energy drinks) in the evening
  • Don’t smoke and don’t drink alcohol. All of those things can harm your baby and they can stop you sleeping as well.
  • Try some relaxation exercises before you go to bed. Look online for an app or music that will help with relaxation.
  • Try not to stress about sleeplessness when you’re in bed – worrying about it can make it even harder to go to sleep. Lack of sleep is almost inevitable in pregnancy. If it’s possible, try napping at other times of the day.
  • Use these tips to manage anxiety if worrying about things is preventing you from sleeping.
  • Try to stay away from screens (television, phone, computer, tablet) for the hour before bed. There is research that they affect sleep and prevent you from calming down .
  • Have a routine before bedtime, perhaps a warm bath or a few pages of a book or magazine.
  • A yoga routine or class (always tell the instructor you are pregnant) may have a calming effect.

If you are in the third trimester of pregnancy go to sleep on your side. Research shows that this is safer for your baby.

Insomnia and pregnancy

It is not unusual to have insomnia in pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. Reasons for this can include anxiety at the impending birth, worry about work, money or childcare or physical discomfort during the night. You may also be a habitual insomniac.

There is no easy solution and sleeping tablets may not be safe in pregnancy. But it is important not to let the fact that you are not sleeping make you even more anxious. If it becomes an obsession, it will affect your emotional health. Use the tips above to do what you can to sleep. If you are having periods of sleeplessness sometimes accepting them can be more relaxing. They are unlikely to affect you or your baby in the long term.

If you find you are having some nights where you are falling asleep close to morning time only to be woken up by the alarm clock, see if you can rearrange your day. If you work, talk to your manager to see whether you can change your hours. If you have other children, is there someone who can help with childcare in the morning?

If you cannot get any sleep at all in pregnancy, talk to your doctor or midwife.

Is there a 'wrong' sleeping position in pregnancy?

In the third trimester, yes, sleeping on your back increases your risk of stillbirth. In the third trimester the advice is to sleep on your side because this is safer for baby. This includes night sleep and day time naps.

Read more about safe sleep positions in pregnancy.

Other resources

Sources

Last reviewed on February 1st, 2015. Next review date February 1st, 2018.

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