Managing Sleeping During Pregnancy: Tips for Pregnant Women

Medically reviewed by
 Dr. Nayantara Santhi

Dr. Nayantara Santhi

Dr. Nayantara Santhi holds an academic position at Northumbria University. After completing her Ph.D. at Northeastern University (Boston, MA), she joined the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School as a post-doctoral fellow to research how sleep and circadian rhythmicity influence our cognitive functioning.

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By Rosie Osmun Certified Sleep Coach

Last Updated On December 13th, 2023
Managing Sleeping During Pregnancy: Tips for Pregnant Women

Key Takeaways

  • The Importance of Quality Sleep in Pregnancy: The first trimester of pregnancy is a critical period for both the mother and child, but it often brings sleep disturbances due to physical discomfort. Quality rest is essential for the well-being of both mother and child.
  • Lifestyle Changes for Better Sleep: Adopting a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and engaging in moderate exercise can significantly improve sleep during pregnancy. Avoiding caffeine and implementing a consistent bedtime routine are also important factors.
  • Optimal Sleeping Positions and Support: Sleeping on the side is recommended for pregnant women to prevent pressure on the heart and liver. Using support pillows and finding a comfortable mattress can further enhance sleep quality. Additionally, managing stress levels is crucial for better sleep during pregnancy.

For a woman, the journey to motherhood starts on day one of her pregnancy. As the pregnancy progresses the first three months, or the first trimester, is a critical period to both the pregnant woman and child. The mother’s body is exerting double the effort to support herself and her unborn, thus she’s more likely to feel fatigued and sleepy.

During those first three months, many pregnant women begin experiencing sleeping problems. The discomforts that come with her condition often cause interrupted sleep and interfere with her usual sleep at night, and tend to become progressively bothersome to rest. Her growing abdomen makes it a comfortable sleeping position more uncomfortable to sleep on her back and stomach, pressure on the bladder often forces her out of bed several times, while heartburn also disrupts a good night’s sleep.

Getting quality rest is important to both mother and child, and thankfully there are a few ways to ease discomfort and encourage better sleep. Here are a few helpful tips to sleep better at night designed specifically for pregnancy.

Changing Lifestyle Habits That Cause Trouble Sleeping

As pregnancy progresses, it often means changing some of your lifestyle habits. Your  caffeine kick and late-night sodas have to go, at least for now.

There is some debate about whether drinking coffee can cause health hazards to an unborn child. Nonetheless, how caffeine works, and what it means for sleep (regardless of amount) is understood to disrupt sleep, so swapping out coffee and tea for herbal, caffeine-free alternatives can have multiple benefits.

It is also important to eat a balanced diet. Remember that you are feeding another life inside you. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that an expectant mother should consume an adequate amount of calcium, potassium (such as a banana before bed), folic acid, iron, and protein every day.

It is also important to eat a balanced diet. Remember that you are feeding another life inside you.

These nutrients are essential for both the pregnant woman and baby’s health, and can also ensure eating for better sleep at night. Eating meals at least a couple of hours before going to bed and choosing mild evening snacks may also help prevent indigestion.

Engage in Moderate Exercise

The National Institutes of Health states that balancing exercise and sleep during pregnancy can help reduce the discomforts of pregnancy such as muscle pain, leg cramps and swelling. It can also improve sleep. Walking and water aerobics can do wonders to your health as well as your baby’s.

However, it is imperative that you speak to your doctor before engaging in any physical activity to know the safe level of exercise for you.

Find Comfortable Sleeping Positions on Your Side

For a comfortable sleep, you should know the perfect pregnancy sleeping positions for you. Doctors generally recommend that pregnant women sleep on their side (see some of the best pillows for side sleepers here) to keep the baby’s weight from applying pressure to her heart’s inferior vena cava. This vein carries blood back to the heart from the legs.

While there is no right side to sleep on, some caregivers advise sleeping positions on the left side Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source to keep the mother’s weight from pushing down on her liver.

Hydrate During the Day

Generally, a mother should drink eight to 12 glasses of water each day. There are several ways hydration can affect sleep. This can avert the negative impact of dehydration. Lack of water can lead to low amniotic fluid, reducing support for the baby inside the womb.

Dehydration can also cause overheating and cause night sweats in women as a pregnant woman’s body is not able to get rid of body heat as easily. A sleep position on your stomach during pregnancy is challenging, even more so when your body is as warm as a furnace.

Drink up plenty of pure water throughout the daytime to stay hydrated for good sleep. But avoid too much liquid near bedtime to lessen frequent bathroom trips throughout the good night’s sleep. And if you do experience night sweats, we recommend breathable bedding.

Get a Comfy Bed and Lots of Pillows

Get quality sleep by giving your body all the support it needs when in a side sleeping position. Since your torso becomes heavier, your lower body may suffer from muscle pains and leg cramps. Finding the best mattress for side sleepers, one that provides good support and plenty of cushioning is ideal.

When you feel the onset of a heartburn episode, lie sleeping on your back on a sofa bed with your chest slightly elevated, use a few pillows, or a wedge pillow to support your back and keep your upper body elevated. This will help keep the acid out of your esophagus.

To sleep comfortably for side sleepers, place a pillow between your legs and on your back to support your hips. Experts recommend pregnancy wedge pillows of various shapes and sizes to customize sleeping position, support and comfort for your unique needs.

Acquire a Bedtime Routine For a Good Night’s Sleep

Pregnancy sleeping troubles may not be new to you, and following bedtime routines of sleep experts, consistent bedtime routine is helpful for good rest at any stage of life.

Researchers at Warwick Medical School warn that about 150 million adults are suffering from sleeping problems across the developing world. Sleep plays a vital role in supercharging productivity. A sleep-deprived person lacks the physical energy and mental capacity to function well during the day.

One effective tactic is to develop a relaxing bedtime routine, especially one that doesn’t involve any electronic screens. The light from these devices suppresses the evening rise in melatonin in your system leading to delayed sleep.

The struggles are worse for expectant mothers due to the biological changes they go through. A good ritual involves relaxing things like baths, breathing exercises, or reading a book. An hour before your scheduled bedtime, turn off your smartphone and TV and start winding down for bed.

Dr. Nayantara Santhi advises, “Our brains are naturally wired to sleep in darkness and be awake in light. Being careful about our use of digital devices in bed can go a long way in promoting good sleep.”

It’s also good to try lifestyle changes like an improved bedtime routine before you look into supplements, as there are questions of whether or not it is safe for melatonin while pregnant.

Cut Your Anxiety and Stress Levels

Every guide to sleeping for mother and baby includes stress management tips. The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that stress Verified Source American Psychological Association (APA) Collaborative organization for psychologists across the country. View source may be keeping adults and teens awake at bedtime.

In a recent study, APA researchers found that many Americans feel that “their stress increases when the length and quality of their sleep decreases.” Hack your stress hormones by doing stretches, clearing your mind and being mindful of your emotions.

Pregnancy is a momentous part of many women’s lives. The nine-month gestation period is delicate as several things can put the mother’s health, as well as her child’s, at risk.

Paying attention to the basics like eating a balanced diet, getting moderate physical activity, managing her stress levels, and getting quality sleep each night help provide the foundation for a healthy pregnancy, and they all work hand in hand for wellness.

What Sleep Difficulties

After giving birth, new mothers commonly face a myriad of sleep difficulties that stem from the physical and emotional tolls of childbirth. One prominent challenge is the irregular sleep patterns of newborns, characterized by frequent waking and feeding throughout the night. This can disrupt the mother’s ability to achieve sustained and restful sleep, leading to cumulative fatigue.

For those who undergo a Cesarean section (C-section), additional hurdles arise. Recovering from abdominal surgery introduces discomfort and limits comfortable sleep positions, making it challenging to find a suitable arrangement that supports both rest and recovery. Pain management and limiting movements become crucial aspects of sleeping after a C-section.

Hormonal fluctuations further complicate the sleep equation. The abrupt changes in hormones, particularly the decrease in progesterone and estrogen levels, can contribute to mood swings and heightened emotional sensitivity, affecting both falling asleep and staying asleep.

Additionally, the stressors associated with the new responsibilities of caring for a newborn, combined with the anxieties and uncertainties that often accompany motherhood, can lead to heightened mental alertness during the night, making it harder for mothers to achieve the deep, restorative sleep they need.

Navigating these sleep difficulties requires patience, self-care, and support. Establishing a consistent sleep routine, seeking assistance with nighttime care duties, and prioritizing rest when possible can aid in mitigating the sleep challenges faced by new mothers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it healthy for a pregnant woman to sleep all day?

There are health risks of sleeping too much when pregnant. A US study found that uninterrupted sleep for more than nine hours per night during pregnancy may increase the risk of stillbirth. As blood pressure drops during sleep, prolonged periods of undisturbed sleep during pregnancy have been linked to stillbirth.

Why do I sleep better when pregnant?

Rising levels of progesterone, Verified Source Cleveland Clinic Ranked #2 hospital by U.S. News & World Report and one of the largest academic medical centers in America. The Cleveland Clinic serves patients from all over the world. View source which is essential for pregnancy support but can make you feel more exhausted and uncomfortable, have a significant impact on sleep in the first trimester. Additionally, you can experience a change in your body clock, which might lead you to need an earlier bedtime. Your blood pressure and blood sugar levels drop during the first trimester, which may make you feel tired.

What happens if I don’t sleep well while pregnant?

Sleep deprivation and insomnia is more than just a hassle. According to recent studies, women who don’t get enough sleep throughout their pregnancies may be more likely to experience complications. Some more common problems include preeclampsia or high blood pressure.

How many hours of sleep is healthy for a pregnant woman?

Most doctors recomment 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. Verified Source Mayo Clinic Ranked #1 hospital by U.S. News & World Report and one of the most trusted medical institutions in the world. The staff is committed to integrated patient care, education, and research. View source A pregnant woman needs to be careful with sleeping as both too little and too much sleep can lead to complications with the mother or the baby. Be sure to get the proper amount of sleep.

Does the baby sleep in the womb when the mother sleeps?

Poor childhood sleep is associated with the mothers poor sleep Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source during pregnancy. Also, from what we can determine, babies sleep the majority of the time while they are inside the womb. They spend nearly 95% of their time sleeping during many weeks of the third trimester of pregnancy. Sleep during the early stages of fetal development is less understood.

What do babies do in the womb all day?

Fetuses spend the most of their time resting, just like babies do. Your baby does really sleep 90 to 95 percent of the day Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source during the most of the pregnancy. Due to their developing brains, some of these hours are spent in deep sleep, some in REM sleep, and some in an undetermined condition.


In the journey to motherhood, the first trimester stands as a critical period, demanding heightened effort and care from both mother and child when trying to fall asleep. However, it’s during these initial months that many women grapple with trying to fall asleep and find proper sleep positions, a result of the discomforts that accompany pregnancy. Ensuring quality rest is paramount for the well-being of both mother and child.

The adoption of lifestyle changes, from balanced nutrition to moderate exercise, forms a cornerstone in this endeavor. Additionally, adopting the best sleeping position, support pillows and routines tailored to pregnancy can significantly alleviate discomfort.

By heeding these practices, expectant mothers can lay a strong foundation for a healthy and thriving pregnancy, where wellness, nourishment, and rejuvenating sleep converge for the betterment of both lives.

About the author

Rosie Osmun, a Certified Sleep Science Coach, brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the health and wellness industry. With a degree in Political Science and Government from Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Rosie's academic achievements provide a solid foundation for her work in sleep and wellness. With over 13 years of experience in the beauty, health, sleep, and wellness industries, Rosie has developed a comprehensive understanding of the science of sleep and its influence on overall health and wellbeing. Her commitment to enhancing sleep quality is reflected in her practical, evidence-based advice and tips. As a regular contributor to the Amerisleep blog, Rosie specializes in reducing back pain while sleeping, optimizing dinners for better sleep, and improving productivity in the mornings. Her articles showcase her fascination with the science of sleep and her dedication to researching and writing about beds. Rosie's contributions to a variety of publications, including Forbes, Bustle, and Healthline, as well as her regular contributions to the Amerisleep blog, underscore her authority in her field. These platforms, recognizing her expertise, rely on her to provide accurate and pertinent information to their readers. Additionally, Rosie's work has been featured in reputable publications like Byrdie, Lifehacker, Men's Journal, EatingWell, and Medical Daily, further solidifying her expertise in the field.

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