Trouble Sleeping During Pregnancy

A general perception is that sleepless nights start with the newborn, but many of us pregnant women know better than that. It’s not just the crying baby that keeps you wake up all night. Getting good sleep becomes a dream in pregnancy too. Too many factors contribute to lack of sleep, restlessness, or insomnia in pregnancy.

Each trimester has its problems that keep you awake at nights wondering how and when you will sleep like a baby throughout night without having to wake up from time to time due to some unexplainable pain, hunger, or a bathroom visit. Let’s go through each trimester and see how sleep is affected by different factors

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is poor sleep quality or inadequate sleep. The characteristics of insomnia are.

  • Difficulty falling asleep.
  • Difficulty staying asleep.
  • Waking up frequently.
  • Lack of deep sleep.
  • Unrefreshing sleep.

Trouble Sleeping During Pregnancy First Trimester

The first trimester is the phase of bewilderment and coping with new changes. Especially for first time pregnant women, each day is a new challenge and excitement is on its peak. Insomnia or other sleep-related issues are more frequent in the first and last trimester.

Sometimes you are sleepy all day, and at times you have difficulty staying asleep at night. A lot is happening in your body, and many factors can contribute to poor sleep. Some of the reasons for insomnia in the first trimester are listed below.

Excessive sleepiness during the day

In early pregnancy, you are always feeling drained and tired. That would lead to more naps in the day. The surge of progesterone in the body may also contribute towards this sleepiness at day. Progesterone is the pregnancy hormone and is essential for health and sustenance of pregnancy. High progesterone levels may cause fatigue and day time naps. These naps can cause you to get less deep sleep at night, and you either feel difficulty in getting sleep or staying asleep.


Discomfort is another major cause of insomnia in the first trimester. Your body is constantly at work. Even when you are resting, it keeps pumping blood and doing other things to make sure your baby stays healthy and safe in the womb. So discomfort is an obvious reason for lack of proper sleep in the first trimester.  Changes like tender breasts also add to this discomfort and make sleeping on the stomach a challenge.

Urinary frequency

One of the common problems throughout pregnancy is more frequent bathroom visits. Progesterone is responsible for the inhibitory effect on smooth muscle influences that need to urinate. As your body grows, the uterus compresses the bladder leaving little room for it, resulting in more frequent urinating at short intervals.


Nausea is another reason for the lack of deep sleep at night. The morning sickness is not limited to mornings; in fact, it can hit you any time of the day or night, especially when you have an empty stomach.

Restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a common condition throughout pregnancy. Women with the restless syndrome may feel their condition become worse in pregnancy and pregnancy can cause restless syndrome on its own right. Lack of vitamin and minerals and insomnia can aggravate the restless leg syndrome, and it’s like a loop cycle; lack of sleep cause restless legs and restless legs keeps you awake all night. Restless leg syndrome can also cause you to stay awake and uncomfortable.

Trouble Sleeping During Pregnancy Second Trimester

The second trimester comes as a relief for women. With morning sickness subsiding by now, you are getting more used to of these new changes in your body. Though your body starts growing at this stage, it is still not huge enough to cause trouble. But insomnia can hit you at this stage of pregnancy too. Some women start having insomnia symptoms in this trimester. Some of the common causes of lack of sleep in the second trimester are.


As your uterus starts growing, the diaphragm becomes restricted and cause shallow breathing. It also displaces the intestine and esophageal sphincter, causing reflux and complaints of more heartburn.

Trouble Sleeping During Pregnancy Third Trimester

The third semester is the most uncomfortable as far as sleep is concerned. With your grown belly and huge structure, a good night’s sleep becomes a challenge. Even lying down in some positions becomes difficult like you may experience bit breathless while laying straight on your back. Some of the causes of insomnia in the third trimester are explained here.

Ache and discomfort

As you usher into your last trimester, your body becomes exhausted coping up with your daily routines. The muscles aches and back pains are the common complains of women at this stage. Your pelvic bone is loosening, preparing your body for birth, and your joints are becoming soft. These condition makes walking, sleeping, or sitting uncomfortably for most of the women.

Difficult to have a comfortable sleeping position

With bulging belly, many women fail to find a comfortable position for sleeping. Sleeping on the stomach is certainly not an option anymore. Even lying straight becomes tiring, and you are catching your breath most of the time. The left side is most recommended for better blood flow to the baby, but it may not be a position you are very comfortable with. Even changing from one position to the other becomes difficult with all that weight you have put on.

Leg cramps

Leg cramps make it difficult to stay asleep. You often wake up at the middle of the night with the excruciating pain in the leg. Leg cramps are because of the excess of phosphorous and shortage of calcium circulating in your body.

Restless leg syndrome

Besides the painful spasms at night, Restless legs become worse in this last trimester. The itchy feeling in legs and inability to keep them in one position keep disrupting your sleep. Moving legs stop the symptoms temporarily, but it disturbs your sleep.

Bathroom Trips

As your belly grows, the bathroom visits become more frequent. Your uterus has taken most of the place in your belly, accommodating your little one. That leaves little room for bladder, and the extra pressure makes you urinate even more often than in the first two trimesters.

Baby’s kicks

Though cute, it may seem, but baby becomes more active in the belly, and the kicks and movements also contribute to awake you from time to time, especially if you are a light sleeper

Effect of lack of sleep in pregnancy

The amount of sleep you get effect yours and baby’s health in pregnancy. Lack of sleep can not only put you at risk of many chronic mental and physical diseases but may even impact your delivery and labor. Let’s see how it affects the mother and the unborn baby.

Maternal complications because of lack of sleep

Poor sleep patterns at night put you at adverse health risks. It can cause some serious health complications.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder and causes your breathing to stop during pregnancy repeatedly. It may pause your breathing for a few seconds, and this disruption of breathing during sleep can lead to some serious health conditions like

  • Hypertension
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Preeclampsia
  • Pulmonary hypertension

High blood pressure and preeclampsia are both very serious health condition for the expecting mother and baby. It can even lead you to preterm labor and early birth. The pauses in breathing caused by sleep apnea can cause a surge in blood pressure. Breath disruption during sleep can also compromise the blood flow to the baby during sleep. Lack of blood flow or oxygen can restrict fetal growth.

Impact on Baby

Insufficient sleep may reduce the number of growth hormones released. This may lead to growth problems in the baby. The disruption of breathing due to sleep apnea is also very harmful to the baby. Blood flow to the fetus is also at its peak in sleep. So the lack of sleep or disruption of sleep and sleep apnea may affect the growth and development of your unborn baby.

Job Performance

If you are a working woman, it can affect your performance at work. The lack of good sleep can make you feel edgy and unable to concentrate on work. It can affect your learning and cognitive functioning too.

Social relationships

Lack of sleep can leave some very deep effects on pregnant women. It makes them feel more tired at day time, and they may become irritable. This irritability and lack of freshness can impact their social relationships as well.

How to improve your sleep during pregnancy

Drink more fluids in the day time

Taking an adequate amount of liquids is very important for the pregnant woman. Take much of these fluids at day time and cut down right before bed to prevent frequent urination. If you take a glass of milk right before sleep, then it’s better to shift it to some other part of the day, or you would be up all night for bathroom trips.

Get some Exercise

We know its really difficult with this weight and backaches, but still, even a walk before sleep will circulate more blood and reduce cramps during sleep. You can also try some relaxation techniques for releasing tension from your body and mind during night time.

Try not to think too much

Though pregnancy is the time of lots of excitements and apprehensions try not to think much right before sleep. Keep your head clear and don’t let any unnecessary tensions to disturb your sleep. You can keep a notepad at the side of your bed and before sleeping, write it all down. Writing makes you feel relaxed and also helps you look at things more logically. Try to talk to your partner all your fears or anxieties, so you take a light head to bed.

Set a bedtime routine

This is very important throughout pregnancy. Make a bedtime routine and try to follow it strictly. Going through the same routine daily keeps your body attuned to this routine and falls asleep easily as a habit. An example of a sleep routine is

  • Set a time for bed.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Take a warm cup of any caffeine-free tea with a teaspoon of honey.
  • Read a few pages of a pleasant book.
  • Get a neck or shoulder massage, and brush your hairs.

Following the same routine helps your body take signals that its time to sleep.

Use as many pillows as you like

Keep a stack of pillows ready for you on the bed and feel free to use as many as you like. You can put some behind your back for support. Place it under or between your knees and one underbelly is also a good idea. Get as much comfortable as you want. Your partner can sleep somewhere else for a few weeks so you can have all bed to yourself.

Pregnancy pillows    

Pregnancy pillows are excellent for getting comfortable at the bed. These pillows are designed specifically to help an expecting mother get as much comfortable as she can. They support your back, legs, belly, and you can snug them tightly for a good night’s sleep. So invest in those pregnancy pillows for a good night’s sleep. We will be recommending a few in our last section. (Jump to the pillows section here)

Keep your heartburn in check

You can do that by not taking spicy foods or foods that are acidic. Taking meal 2-3 hours before sleep also helps you control heartburn while sleeping. You can have a few bland snacks at your bedside to avoid an empty stomach. Especially in the first trimester, the empty stomach may feel you nauseated.

Take a small nap during the day

If you are not getting enough sleep at night, try to snatch a small nap at day. It will also give a break to your tired body. Don’t indulge in long naps; they would make you feel more tired and also affect your nighttime sleep.

Don’t eat sugary or spicy food before bed

Taking sugar and more carbs before bed may make your baby more active at night. So avoid spicy foods or sugary items before bedtime. Eat a well-balanced diet. Having all the required nutrients will help you feel satisfied and help you to better cope up with pregnancy issues.

Keep your room comfortable

Turn off the lights and have no screens in your bedroom. Use of mobile or tablets may also keep you awake late at night. So refrain from checking your social news feed and no late night shows at all. Light from TV or cell phone’s screen suppress the levels of melatonin.

Use of humidifier

If the weather is dry, you can make use of a humidifier to keep the atmosphere of the room healthy and pleasant. Less humidity is when the air around you lacks the required water content and becomes dry. Dry weather can worsen your problems, especially if you are suffering from sleep apnea. A humidifier helps you maintain the optimal moisture level in the air, and thus, you can breathe more comfortably.

Get out of bed if you can’t sleep

If you are unable to sleep, don’t keep lying waiting. Get out of bed and try to divert your mind with something else. Walk through rooms, get some healthy snack, try to keep your mind stress free and then try to go back to sleep.

Have some essential oil scent in your room

Some essential oils like lavender are sleep inducing and make you drowsy. Pour a drop or two on a piece of cloth and keep it nearby. You can also make use of special scented candles or other such things for having the therapeutic effects of essential oil in your room. It can help you get to relax and get better sleep.

Best Sleeping position in Pregnancy

Best sleeping position in pregnancy is to sleep on sides.

Sleeping on the left side is recommended as it increases the flow of blood and other nutrients in the placenta to your baby. You can also switch sides when tired of staying in one position. Lift your upper part of the body with the help of pillows if you experience heartburn at night.

Sleep positions to avoid

Sleeping on your stomach becomes difficult and is not recommended during pregnancy. Sleeping on the back also becomes difficult as your pregnancy progress. It can cause backache, low blood pressure and a decreased flow of blood to your heart. This is because of your abdomen resting on major blood vessels.

Are sleep aids safe during pregnancy?

Sleep aids should be your last resort. Not all sleeping pills are safe to be used in pregnancy, and you should never choose one over the counter to get some sleep. If you are always having sleep troubles, then discuss it with your doctor, and he may prescribe you one if he thinks you need them.

If you are unable to sleep because of some issues like heartburn, leg cramps, or Restless leg syndrome, your doctor may like to prescribe something to deal with these issues. Sometimes doctors recommend magnesium supplements for leg cramps or restless leg syndrome. So seeking medical advice is essential before you try any over the counter medications.

Pregnancy Pillow

Pregnancy pillows are extremely useful, especially in the last trimester. It can be used to stay comfortable in bed. The support to back, legs, and belly makes you feel relaxed and get good night’s sleep.

Some Recommended Pregnancy Pillows

Queen Rose Pregnancy Pillow is designed to meet the unique and demanding needs of pregnant women. The pillow provides support, relieves pain, and give optimal rest to your tired body in sleep. The flexible pillow can be changed in any shape to support you while reading, watching television, or even after delivery for nursing.
The wide surface at the top provides support to your head entirely. It allows you to achieve optimal sleep position and improve blood circulation. A removable zipper allows you to make it softer as per your preference. Pillow cover is made of 100% cotton and is removable and washable.

​This c-shaped pillow allows maximum comfort in pregnancy. Its design wraps around your entire body to support your head, back, legs, and belly. The flexible pillow can be used as a support while sitting too. Polyfill pillow provides your body balance in sitting or lying positions.
The pillow cover has a zipper for removing the cover. The cover can be machine washed easily. The double seam stitches are all way around, and there is no chance of ripping it with time.

This one is another great option from PharMeDoc. The detachable pillow offers customized support and can be adjusted to any sleeping position. The pillow can be used long after delivery and stay helpful in nursing too.
The u-shaped pillow provides perfect balance and comfort to hips, belly, legs, back, and head. The pillow has polyfill blend inside that stays soft with increased support density. The pillow cover is easy to remove and wash.

This u-shaped pillow creates a belly support position for reading, watching TV, or even nursing. The pillow helps your back and spine in a neutral position. It is ideal for sciatica to relieve leg swelling and back pain. You can set the pillow in any position to get the maximum comfort. It is flexible enough to fit your needs.
Its 100% velvet cover is hypoallergenic and stays soft on the body. Its premium polyester filling retains its fluffiness for better performance and longer use.

Proper sleep is essential for staying physically and mentally healthy. Pregnancy is a difficult time, and a lot of factors can compromise the quality of sleep. Poor sleep, lack of sleep, or insomnia can affect the quality of your life.  You can do a lot by following a bedtime routine and taking care of your diet. Yoga and other relaxation techniques can also help you stay calm and tension free. Don’t take lack of sleep or insomnia lightly, and if nothing works, consult your health care practitioner

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