pregnancy sleep

Pregnancy brings a lot of surprises, and one of the least welcome for many women is not being able to sleep well and get a good night’s rest. If you’re wondering how to sleep when pregnant, we’re here to help you on this mission! Read on to find out what conditions may disrupt your sleep, what you can do to improve your sleep, and what’s the best sleeping position in pregnancy.

Why Does Sleep Change During Pregnancy?

Many moms-to-be have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep due to the hormonal changes and physical challenges of carrying a baby. It may be frustrating to lie awake wondering how to sleep when pregnant, especially when you’re tired and know that staying well rested is important.

Here's what could be playing out with sleep during your pregnancy. In your first trimester you may actually find yourself sleeping more than usual. As your body works to nurture the growing placenta—the organ that provides nourishment to your baby in the uterus—more blood will be made and your heart will pump faster, leading to more tiredness on your part. It’s more likely that you’ll have trouble sleeping in the later stages of pregnancy when your growing bump and other conditions may keep you from getting the sleep you want and need.

Common Sleep Disruptions During Pregnancy

It’s not unusual to struggle with how to sleep when pregnant, given all the changes and conditions that can affect the way you sleep during pregnancy. Here are some typical sleep disruptions that you may experience, especially in the later months of your pregnancy:

  • A growing baby means a growing baby bump, which can make finding a comfortable sleeping position difficult during your pregnancy. And shifting around during sleep also becomes more difficult when your belly is bigger.

  • An active baby may also wake you up at night and keep you up.

  • Vivid dreams and even nightmares can occur during your pregnancy, causing you to sleep poorly or wake up. These types of dreams are normal when you’re pregnant and may be a way for your subconscious to deal with any fears and doubts about becoming a parent.

  • Stress and anxiety about your baby’s health, becoming a parent, and general nervousness might keep you from getting some much-needed shuteye.

  • An increased heart rate can also disrupt your sleep. During pregnancy, your heart must work harder to pump more blood to the uterus and the rest of your body.

  • An urge to pee can result in frequent waking during the night. If you’re trying to figure out how to sleep when pregnant, your bladder might have something to say about that. Your body is creating more urine during your pregnancy since your kidneys are working harder to filter the increased production of blood. Plus, your growing uterus puts pressure on your bladder as it grows.

  • Shortness of breath can also make it harder for you to get air at night. For one thing, increased levels of pregnancy hormones cause you to breathe more deeply. And later in your pregnancy, your growing uterus may put pressure on your diaphragm, making it harder for you to breathe.

  • Leg cramps and backaches can also keep you up at night, especially in the later months. One potential cause of back pain is the loosening of ligaments caused by a hormone called relaxin; this loosening or “relaxing” helps your body prepare for childbirth. Carrying the extra weight of your baby can also contribute to the aches and pains.

  • Heartburn and constipation can be big disrupters on your journey to learn how to sleep when pregnant. Your entire digestive system slows down during pregnancy, leading to food staying longer in your stomach and your intestines. This can trigger heartburn due to acid reflux, which happens when acids in the stomach back up into the esophagus. These ailments tend to worsen during the later stages of pregnancy when your uterus presses against your stomach and large intestine.

14 Tips for Sleeping Better During Pregnancy

Once you know about common sleep disruptions, and what may be causing your sleep struggles, you can take steps to improve how you sleep when pregnant. Here are 14 tips for getting a good night's sleep during pregnancy:

Do

  1. try to stick to a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same times every day. It may be tempting to work on the nursery late into the night, but your sleep is more important.

  2. create a soothing sleep environment by keeping your bedroom dark and quiet, maintaining a comfortable room temperature, and avoiding the use of any electronic devices.

  3. read a magazine or a book to help you get your mind off things.

  4. keep a notepad by your bedside to jot down any stresses that may be keeping you up or bad dreams that may be waking you up during the night. Putting these troubling thoughts down on paper can help get them out of your mind, and help you get to sleep.

  5. drink a caffeine-free beverage like a glass of warm milk or a mug of hot herbal tea with honey.

  6. eat a small snack. Something high in carbs like cereal with milk, a slice of bread, or crackers can help increase levels of tryptophan, which can help induce sleep. Something high in protein like a tablespoon of peanut butter or low-fat cheese with some crackers can help keep your blood sugar levels high and help prevent bad dreams, headaches, and hot flashes. Who would’ve thought that learning how to sleep when pregnant involves snacking?!

  7. keep active during the day with regular exercise throughout your pregnancy, which can help you fall asleep more quickly.

  8. stretch before bed, focusing on your calf muscles to help avoid leg cramps waking you up in the middle of the night. If you’re woken up by a leg cramp, press your foot against the wall if you’re lying down, or the floor if you’ve stood up.

  9. ensure you’re getting enough calcium and magnesium in your diet. These minerals not only support your baby’s healthy growth but may also help prevent leg cramps.

  10. practice yoga or try a relaxation technique like deep breathing before going to bed to help you unwind. Check with your healthcare provider before attempting prenatal yoga.

  11. take a warm bath before bed to help put you in a calm and relaxed state.

  12. get a massage before bed. Ask your partner for a nice back rub or leg rub or use a neck massager to help you relax.

  13. try to take daytime naps to catch up on lost sleep, especially if your baby is keeping you up by being active in your belly at night.

  14. enroll in a childbirth or parenting class to help allay any anxiety you may be experiencing in becoming a parent, especially if the fears are keeping you awake at night. Check out our birthing classes below!

6 Things to Avoid Before Going to Bed

As you work on how to sleep when pregnant, you’ll want to know what not to do. In addition to our tips above, we’ve included a few don’ts that may help you get a good night’s rest while pregnant.

Don’t

  1. consume caffeinated items like chocolate or caffeinated beverages including soft drinks, coffee, and tea before going to bed. It may make sense to restrict your caffeine consumption to mornings and early afternoons.

  2. drink too much liquid before bedtime as this can contribute to your frequent trips to the bathroom during the night. However, be sure to drink plenty of fluid during the day, as it’s important for the health of both you and your baby.

  3. eat a heavy meal before bedtime. Opt for a larger breakfast and lunch and a smaller dinner.

  4. eat three hours before bedtime, which may help prevent nighttime heartburn.

  5. take over-the-counter sleep aids, including any herbal remedies, as these are generally not recommended for pregnant women. Check with your healthcare provider for other options if you’re still experiencing sleep disruptions even after trying all of the above tips.

  6. exercise before going to bed. Aim to exercise during daytime hours.

The Best Sleeping Position in Pregnancy

Learning how to sleep and how to get more restful sleep when pregnant has a lot to do with sleeping positions. While you’re pregnant, the best sleeping position is on your side. If you’re not a side sleeper already, you may want to start getting used to sleeping on your side during the first trimester of pregnancy, because by the time you’re in your second and third trimesters, you’ll have no choice but to sleep on your side, given how big your belly will be.

Other sleeping positions during your pregnancy just won’t be safe or comfortable.

  • Sleeping on your stomach while pregnant won’t be comfortable at all with a growing baby bump.

  • Sleeping on your back while pregnant can result in your uterus putting pressure on your spine and back muscles. It can also compress a large vein (the inferior vena cava) that carries blood back from your feet and legs to your heart. Pressure on this vein can make you dizzy.

What’s the best way to sleep while pregnant? As your pregnancy progresses, sleeping on your side with one or both knees bent will probably be the most comfortable solution. It may help to use a bunched-up pillow between your legs and a pillow or rolled-up blanket under your abdomen, or to use a full-length body pillow. Packing pillows around yourself can also help you remain on your side throughout the night.

You may like to try sleeping with a pregnancy pillow, which is designed to comfortably support how you sleep while pregnant.

What Side Should You Sleep on When Pregnant?

Medical experts specifically recommend that pregnant women sleep on their left sides. This ensures your uterus doesn’t put pressure on your liver, which is on your right side. Also, circulation is better when you sleep on your left side—there’s better blood flow to your baby, uterus, and kidneys.

Don’t worry about rolling onto your back during the night; it won’t harm your baby. Shifting sleeping positions during the night is normal—just get back onto your side if you awaken and find yourself on your back. By the third trimester, you likely won’t inadvertently shift onto your back as this will nearly be impossible and uncomfortable due to your belly’s size.


The Bottom Line

Figuring out how to sleep when pregnant can be challenging, and you’re not alone in searching for the best ways to improve your sleep. Sleeping while pregnant may be a lot tougher than before you were pregnant, especially if you’re dealing with insomnia, heartburn, leg cramps, and frequent trips to the bathroom. Luckily, there are ways you can improve your sleep while pregnant.

Maintaining a consistent bedtime routine, relaxing, stretching, reading, or even sipping an herbal tea before you turn in can all help you sleep better. Avoiding caffeine, large meals, and vigorous exercise before bed may prevent some of the nighttime disruptions mentioned above. Power naps during the day can help make up for those nights when nothing works.

An important part of how to sleep when pregnant is learning to sleep on your left side. This position will help avoid pressure on your spine, back, circulation, and liver. Using pillows between your knees and under your abdomen can also help you get comfortable and support you in the side-sleeping position.

If you’re still having issues falling asleep or staying asleep, or if you’re waking up too frequently, consult your healthcare provider.

Don’t give up on your quest for a good night's sleep while pregnant. It’s worth it to get as much shuteye as you can right now before you welcome a new baby into your life!


  • Book: Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month, Sixth Edition Paperback – January 1, 2016 by American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (Author)
  • Kids Health: Sleep during pregnancy
  • Mayo Clinic: Sleep during pregnancy
  • Cleveland Clinic: Sleep during pregnancy