Sleep During Pregnancy

Your Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

The hormonal changes and physical discomfort associated with pregnancy can affect a woman’s quality of sleep.  Each trimester brings its own unique changes, including changes in sleep.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, the following are the most common sleep changes that might occur in each trimester

First Trimester

  • You might wake more frequently to empty your bladder.
  • You might experience disturbed sleep patterns resulting from physical and emotional changes in your life.
  • You might feel very sleepy during some periods of the day as a result of disturbed sleep, and as a side effect of increased levels of the hormone progesterone.

Second Trimester

  • You might feel more sleepy during the day, and have more restful periods of sleep at night than you did during your first trimester.  Progesterone levels are still on the rise, but are rising more slowly than in the previous trimester.
  • You probably will find nighttime urination becoming less urgent as the growing fetus reduces pressure on the bladder by moving above it.
  • Your quality of sleep is still likely worse than it was before pregnancy due to general physical discomfort and emotional factors.

Third Trimester

  • You are likely to experience the most sleep problems during this trimester.
  • You might feel uncomfortable in general as your belly increases in size and your weight increases.
  • Heartburn, leg cramps and sinus congestion are common reasons you might be experiencing disturbed sleep during this trimester.
  • You will probably experience the return of frequent nighttime urination, as the baby’s position changes to put pressure on the bladder once again.

Getting enough sleep during pregnancy

If your sleep disturbances are severe, do not hesitate to ask your doctor to help you find solutions that will work for you.  One or more of the following might help you get the sleep you need during pregnancy:

  • 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 might help bring on sleep.  Foods high in carbohydrates, such as bread or crackers, can promote sleep.  A snack high in protein can keep blood sugar levels up, and could help prevent bad dreams, headaches and hot flashes.
  • Relaxation techniques – Relaxation techniques can help calm your mind and relax your muscles.  These techniques include stretching and yoga, massage and deep breathing.
  • Exercise – Regular exercise during pregnancy promotes your physical and mental health.  Exercise also can aid in helping you sleep more deeply.  Vigorous exercise within four hours of bedtime should be avoided.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medicines – Ideally, all the medicines should be avoided during pregnancy.  Some medicines can hurt the developing baby.  You should never take any medicines – including over-the-counter drugs—without first talking to your doctor.