Why You Can’t Sleep When Pregnant – And What You Can Do About It

Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting – and exhausting – times in life. Physical and emotional changes can leave expecting moms wondering how to catch the precious ZZZs they need. Whether it’s finding ways to get comfortable in bed or figuring out how to stay asleep once you’re there, relief is possible.

Pregnant Pillow

It’s normal to be tired
First, know that it’s normal to be tired. You are growing a human, after all! While adults need recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night, pregnant women may need a few more hours or a few naps during the day to keep up.
Fatigue during pregnancy may be due to high levels of progesterone, a hormone necessary to maintain pregnancy, as well as frequent awakenings during the night thanks to discomfort or needing to go to the bathroom. In a study analyzing over 11,000 expecting moms, researchers found that 46% of pregnant women experience poor sleep quality. Tracking women through their pregnancies showed that sleep quality declines from the second to third trimesters. So if you feel like you’re not sleeping well, you’re not alone!
Quick tips for better sleep
As the body changes to accommodate the developing baby, common sleep stealers include heartburn, discomfort lying down, needing to use the bathroom, and insomnia. Fortunately, there are a few techniques to help improve the quality of your ZZZs:
  • Put sleep on the top of your priority list and schedule some time to take a nap during the day. Getting some extra sleep can keep you from developing a sleep debt.
  • Stay hydrated during the day but limit the amount of liquids you consume before bedtime to avoid unnecessary trips to the bathroom.
  • The best position for sleeping while pregnant is on your left side. This allows for optimal blood flow to your uterus and kidneys. Keep your legs and knees bent, preferably with a pillow between your knees.
  • For back pain or to support your growing belly, invest in a pregnancy body pillow that offers all-around support.
  • If you experience heartburn, try sleeping at a slight angle with your back and shoulders propped up by a pillow.
  • When you have to use the restroom at night, make sure to have a nightlight on in the bathroom – it will help you get back to sleep a lot quicker vs. turning on a bright light, which will make it harder to return to your restful state.
  • For insomnia, try getting out of bed instead of tossing and turning. Go do something in another room like reading or listening to music until you are sleepy enough to return to bed.
  • Download the free SleepScore App. It provides you with a starting point to understand how well you’re sleeping and provide ideas for sleeping better.

day woman rested

If you still experience issues after trying these tips, there’s a chance you could be experiencing an underlying sleep issue. Be sure to talk to your ob/gyn or primary care doctor about your sleep issues. You need all the quality sleep you can get before your little one enters the big world!

References:

“How much sleep do I need?” National Institutes of Health. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sleep/conditioninfo/how-much

“Sleep positions during pregnancy.” American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/sleeping-positions-during-pregnancy/

Sedov, I.D., Cameron, E.E., Madigan, S., Tomfohr-Madsen, L.M. (2018). Sleep Quality during pregnancy: A meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 38, 168-176.   

“Pregnancy and Sleep”. National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/pregnancy-and-sleep.

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