Pregnancy Sleep

Getting sleep during pregnancy is an interesting predicament, especially as the baby gets larger or in the case of multiples. Pregnant women often struggle to get comfortable due to the baby’s activity, their need to use the washroom regularly, physical issues, and the growing pressure from the uterus. Most women have heard they should try and get at least eight hours of sleep each night, if not more, from their doctors during their prenatal appointments. However, it is not always possible. What can be done to help? There are many options that can help pregnant women sleep more comfortably.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Less Sleep for Most Pregnant Women?

Several things can lead to sleep problems for pregnant women. For those who like to lie on their stomachs or backs, the change in sleep positions can be a difficult one to undertake. It is recommended that all pregnant women sleep on their sides for several reasons once they begin the second trimester. First, the weight of the growing uterus can be painful when sleeping on the back. It can cause backaches, trouble with digestion, and even result in the woman feeling dizzy.

Second, as the baby grows, its weight can also limit blood flow to the uterus itself, as well as the lower extremities. The pressure cuts off the blood flow from the vena cava. This vein returns blood from the lower extremities back to the heart. These circulation issues can not only be painful but also leave the baby struggling to receive the proper amount of blood and nutrients that it needs to grow. Doctors often tell pregnant women that occasionally lying on their backs is fine, but not for extended periods.

Another cause of lost sleep for many pregnant women is the need to use the washroom so regularly. As pregnancy progresses, the growing uterus puts much pressure on the bladder. It can cause women to need to use the washroom every hour or two all day and all night long. If pregnant women are getting their optimal amounts of water, which is roughly around 100 ounces per day, then using the washroom frequently becomes natural.

The foods a woman chooses to eat can also impact her ability to sleep at night. Nearly any food can lead to heartburn toward the end of the pregnancy since the stomach is pushed up to make room for the growing baby. It creates a very acidic environment and can cause issues with heartburn no matter what or how often a woman eats.

Many babies also tend to be more active during the nighttime hours. It is possible that when the mother stops moving around, the baby is no longer rocked into a sleepy state. The calm allows the baby to wake up and move, which often involves kicks and elbows to various ribs and internal organs. It can make sleeping a struggle for many pregnant women, plus it is often a time she wants to connect with her unborn child.

Carrying around a growing baby is also exhausting for the pregnant woman. It can lead to more naps becoming necessary during the day. When a pregnant woman naps during the day, it can make her unable to sleep at night. While taking sleep where she can get it may feel like the right thing to do, it can also impact a woman’s ability to sleep at night and perpetuate the problem.

Aches and pains of varying degrees are common during pregnancy. These issues can lead to trouble sleeping for many pregnant women. It could be that her breasts or back are sore, or that her stomach is in pain due to feeling nauseated. These are normal feelings during pregnancy, but they often interrupt sleep. If it becomes difficult to handle, women should speak with their doctors about how to manage their symptoms. There are ways of being able to decrease soreness or nausea, but they may require medical advice to be sure they are safe to use during pregnancy.

Can Pregnant Women Struggle With Insomnia?

Some pregnant women struggle with insomnia for a short time during their pregnancies, while others have it throughout nearly their entire pregnancy. It can be due to simply not being able to get comfortable, fears or anxiety about the baby or impending birth, or the physical changes that she goes through as the pregnancy progresses. For most women, insomnia passes once the baby is born, if not sooner. However, for others, medical steps may need to be taken to help the mother get as much sleep as possible during pregnancy.

Does Changing Sleeping Positions Help Women Get More Sleep?

The way a pregnant woman sleeps can go a long way toward helping her sleep. However, some people are not used to sleeping on their sides at all before pregnancy. Getting used to these new sleep positions can take time, but it can be done. One thing nearly all pregnant women may want to stock up on is a vast array of small, supple pillows or a professional pregnancy pillow to prop up the different parts of their bodies. It helps provide support as the uterus grows and keep the woman’s body in an ideal position to get the most sleep possible. It can be a pillow under the small of her back, plus one under her belly. There should also be one between her knees, as it helps to keep the spine straighter as she sleeps.

What Is the Best Sleep Position for a Pregnant Woman?

If a pregnant woman can get comfortable lying on her left side, this is how she should sleep. The reason that experts and doctors suggest the left is because it allows for the greatest levels of circulation. The back puts pressure on the vena cava, and lying on the stomach becomes impossible once a baby reaches a certain size, so the side is the only option. While the right side is not a bad option, the left allows for greater circulation and blood flow to the mother’s legs and to the placenta that is feeding the baby.

Learning How to Sleep Well During Pregnancy

Luckily for pregnant women everywhere, there are many ways of getting better sleep. The specific treatment that helps each woman varies, depending on what specifically keeps her awake at night. Here are some of the most effective ways of learning how to sleep well during pregnancy:

  • Limit anything with sugar or caffeine during pregnancy. If the pregnant woman must have her daily cup of coffee, opting for decaf or low-caffeine coffee options are best.
  • Avoid drinking anything 2-3 hours before bedtime each evening, so the bladder is as empty as possible at bedtime.
  • Eat small meals throughout the day, so the last meal is smaller. It can minimize the effects of heartburn, especially in the latter stages of pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women can try and lay still for an hour or so before bed. That way, the baby gets its active time out before her trying to go to sleep.
  • Avoiding naps can help a pregnant woman feel more tired in the evening, but that is not always possible. If a nap is necessary, it should be completed no later than 4-6 hours before bedtime so that the woman can get tired enough for bed at that time.
  • A pregnant woman who stays active sleeps better at night as well. It allows for increased circulation, tired muscles, and an easier delivery over those who are sedentary during pregnancy.
  • Getting into a comfortable position before trying to go to sleep can help. It minimizes tossing and turning and allows for a smoother transition into a sleepy state.
  • Pregnant women who cannot sleep should get up and move around for a while before trying again. By lying in bed, the body can be trained to believe that it does not need to sleep.
  • Making sure to avoid electronic devices, such as computers and smartphones, for one hour before bed can also make falling asleep more likely when a pregnant woman can go to sleep.
  • Keeping the same bedtime routine can lull the body into sleep. It should be at the same basic time each night, with the same basic routine. It helps the body instantly recognize what time it is, and allow it to happen more quickly than without the routine.


Getting a solid number of hours of sleep each night is important, both for the pregnant mother and her developing unborn child. It allows both of their bodies to keep up with all the changes that are taking place. Growing a human being is exhausting, and sleep allows for all parties to be at their best level of functionality possible. By sleeping with the right support, limiting what they drink before bed, and being careful with their diet, pregnant women can go from struggling to sleep to sleeping peacefully in no time.

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