Sleep Problems in Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on September 10, 2020
2 min read

The hormonal changes and physical discomforts associated with pregnancy can affect a pregnant woman's quality of sleep. Each trimester of pregnancy brings its own unique sleep challenges. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the following are the most common sleep changes that may occur in each trimester:

  • Frequent waking due to an increased need to go to the bathroom
  • Disruptions in sleep as a result of physical and emotional stress associated with pregnancy
  • Increased daytime sleepiness

Sleep during the second trimester of pregnancy improves for many women, because nighttime urination becomes less of an issue as the growing fetus reduces pressure on the bladder by moving above it. Still, the quality of sleep may remain poor as a result of the growing baby and emotional stress associated with pregnancy.

You are likely to experience the most sleep problems during this trimester as a result of the following:

  • Discomfort due to your growing belly
  • Heartburn, leg cramps, and sinus congestion
  • Frequent nighttime urination returns, because the baby's changing position puts pressure on the bladder once again.

One or more of the following tips may help you get the sleep you need during pregnancy. However, if your sleep disturbances are severe, talk to your doctor.

  • Extra pillows: Pillows can be used to support both the tummy and back. A pillow between the legs can help support the lower back and make sleeping on your side easier. Some specific types of pillows include the wedge-shaped pillow and the full-length body pillow.
  • Nutrition: Drinking a glass of warm milk may help bring on sleep. Foods high in carbohydrates, such as bread or crackers, can also promote sleep. In addition, a snack high in protein can keep blood sugar levels up and could help prevent bad dreams, headaches, and hot flashes.
  • Relaxation techniques: Relaxation can help calm your mind and relax your muscles. These techniques include stretching, yoga, massage, deep breathing and a warm bath or shower before bed.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise during pregnancy promotes physical and mental health. Exercise also can help you sleep more deeply. However, vigorous exercise within four hours of bedtime should be avoided.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications: Ideally, all medications (including over-the-counter medications) should be avoided during pregnancy. Some drugs can hurt the developing baby. However, there are some medications that are considered safe to take during pregnancy and that might help you sleep better. Always talk to your doctor before taking any kinds of drugs. This includes over-the-counter drugs, herbs and dietary supplements.