How can I get more sleep in pregnancy?

It’s common to feel unusually tired when you’re pregnant, especially in the first 12 weeks. Here's some tips for getting a better night's sleep.

Later in your pregnancy, you may have trouble sleeping because:

  • you feel uncomfortable due to a large baby bump
  • you’re too hot (caused by hormonal changes and an increase blood supply)
  • you need to go to the toilet often because of the pressure on your bladder.

Having problems sleeping won’t harm you or the baby, but it can make day-to-day life a bit more difficult.

Tips for better sleep in pregnancy

1. There is no easy solution and sleeping tablets may not be safe in pregnancy. Here are some tips for better sleep:

2. 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. Some women have found pregnancy pillows helpful.

3. Try to stay active  during the day, even if you feel tired. Yoga, a swim  or walk  would be ideal, just try not to leave it till the evening. Find out more about what kind of exercise you can do in pregnancy.

4. Avoid caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, energy drinks) in the evening. Remember that in pregnancy you should have no more than 200mg of caffeine a day.

5. Don’t smoke and don’t drink alcohol. These things can harm your baby and they can stop you sleeping as well.

6. Try some relaxation exercises before you go to bed. Have a look for a relaxation app or find some relaxing music. Some women have found hypnobirthing helpful in reducing stress and helping them sleep.

“My husband and I were taught some breathing exercises at our hypnobirthing class. I often get quite panicky and these helped calm me.” Stephanie

7. Try not to stress about sleeplessness when you’re in bed. Worrying about it can make it even harder to go to sleep. If it’s possible, try napping at other times of the day.

8. 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.

9. Have a routine before bedtime, perhaps a warm bath or a few pages of a book or magazine.

10. If 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.

Sleep and your mental health

You may have trouble sleeping because you’re anxious about giving birth, work, money, childcare or physical discomfort during the night. You may have always had insomnia.

But it is important not to let the fact that you are not sleeping make you even more anxious. If you are having periods of sleeplessness sometimes accepting it can be more relaxing. Remember that sleeplessness will not harm you or the baby.

Sometimes, sleeplessness can be a sign of depression or anxiety. There’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed if you’re feeling low. Mental health problems  are common in pregnancy so you’re not alone.

Mental health problems can be treated with the right help and support, so tell your midwife or doctor if you feel low, depressed or anxious for most of the time for more than two weeks.

Safe sleeping positions for your baby

Research has shown  that in the third trimester  (after 28 weeks of pregnancy) going to sleep on your back increases your risk of stillbirth. So, our advice is to go to sleep on your side in the third trimester.

Try not to be anxious about this. If your pregnancy is uncomplicated your risk of stillbirth is low. Going to sleep on your side will make it even lower.

Don’t worry if you wake up on your back, just settle back to sleep on your side.

Read more about safe sleep positions in pregnancy.
 

Other resources

Sources

NHS Choices Common health problems in pregnancy https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/common-pregnancy-problems/#feeling-hot (Page last reviewed: 01/02/2018 Next review due: 01/02/2021)

NHS Choices Tiredness in pregnancy https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/tiredness-sleep-pregnant/ (Page last reviewed: 05/01/2018 Next review due: 05/01/2021)

NHS Choices 10 tips to beat insomnia https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/10-tips-to-beat-insomnia/ (Page last reviewed: 10/07/2016 Next review due: 10/07/2019)

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (February 2017) Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/information/maternalmental-healthwomens-voices.pdf

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Last reviewed on December 6th, 2018. Next review date December 6th, 2021.

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