How to Sleep Better During Your Third Trimester

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on August 24, 2022
3 min read

Your third trimester is usually the hardest time during pregnancy to get good sleep. Many women wake up during the night and then have trouble keeping their eyes open during the day.

If you usually get 8 hours of shut-eye, you may need 10 when you’re pregnant to feel rested. But if you’re too busy to squeeze in 10 hours, aim for 8 hours of sleep at night and nap during the day.

Here are some causes of sleepless nights and what to about them.

Back and muscle aches are common side effects of pregnancy. Your ligaments around your pelvic bones soften and your joints loosen to get your body ready to give birth. This can make your back feel sore.

Weight gain also can affect your posture and lead to pain that may keep you up at night. For relief, you can try to:

  • Stand and sit straight, and keep good posture.
  • Wear low-heeled shoes with good arch support.
  • Lift items with your legs, not your back.
  • Sleep on your side.
  • Use a heat pack, ice pack, or massage your back.
  • Exercise gently.

When your belly grows, your uterus gets pressed up against your diaphragm. That causes some women to snore. Also, about three out of 10 pregnant women start snoring because of a stuffy nose from swollen nasal veins.

Snoring, in turn, is linked to high blood pressure. In serious cases, you may get sleep apnea, which is when you stop breathing for brief periods while you sleep. This can affect your health and your baby’s health. So talk to your doctor if you snore. They may want to check your urine protein levels and your blood pressure.

About 15% of women get restless legs syndrome (RLS) during their pregnancy. Your calf, foot, or upper leg may feel uncomfortable so that you get an urge to move or shake them. RLS can awaken you many times during the night. A lack of iron in your diet may be one cause.

Leg cramps are another common complaint during the third. Some doctors think they stem from too much phosphorous and not enough calcium in your blood.

It may help to stay away from carbonated drinks, which are associated with cramps. Straighten your leg and flex your foot to shake off the cramps. Try it before you go to bed. If you have restless legs, ask your doctor if you need to test your iron levels.

You’ll be at your largest during your final trimester. Sleeping on your left side may allow for more restful nights. This will also direct your blood flow to your baby, uterus, and kidneys. A pregnancy pillow, which is made for your body shape when you’re pregnant, may help.

You may get this in the evenings during your third trimester. Eat smaller meals and chew slower to help prevent the pain. Avoid carbonated drinks, and stay away from fatty, spicy, and acidic foods that cause heartburn.

Your growing baby puts a lot of pressure on your bladder. You may go to the bathroom a lot during the night. Cut back on drinking fluids in the afternoon and later. Lean forward when you’re on the toilet to empty your bladder completely.