5 Tips to Help You Sleep Better During Pregnancy
Pregnancy can disrupt your sleep pattern in various ways. Learn what’s interfering with your sleep and our suggestions to help you sleep better.
How does pregnancy affect sleep?
There are a host of factors that can disrupt sleep during pregnancy. Some are morphological, while others are hormonal or psychological.
As your baby grows and your belly gets bigger, various sources of discomfort can adversely affect your sleep, including the following:
- Frequent urge to urinate as the uterus begins to press against the bladder
- Back pain or leg cramps
- Difficulty finding a comfortable sleeping position
- Baby being active when you try to sleep
- Breathing difficulties or snoring due to the uterus exerting pressure on the diaphragm
- Gastroesophageal reflux, often worse at night when you’re lying down
Pregnancy causes various hormonal disruptions that can affect your usual sleep cycle. In the early days of pregnancy, progesterone secretion promotes sleep, which can make you drowsy during the day. Towards the end of pregnancy, your body begins to produce prolactin, which is essential for breastfeeding. This hormone is thought to cause sleep splitting which, while it prepares you to wake up at night to feed your newborn, does little to help you get a good night’s rest before the baby comes!
It's normal to feel anxiety and stress at times when you’re pregnant. For example, moms-to-be may worry whether their fetus is developing properly, especially at the beginning of their pregnancy, when the risk of miscarriage is higher. Towards the end of pregnancy, women may also worry whether they’ll be good mothers or be fearful about childbirth. These concerns can lead to nightmares or keep you awake for hours.
How can I improve my sleep quality during pregnancy?
- Keep up good sleep habits
- Sleep on your side and use a pillow or cushion
- Exercise regularly
- Eat Healthy and Stay Hydrated
- Consult a Specialist If You Have Concerns
No. 1 — Keep Up Good Sleep Habits
Good sleep habits are key at every stage of life, including when you’re pregnant.
- Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day.
- Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleeping (cool temperature, quiet, and as few light sources as possible)
- Turn off all screens at least one hour before bedtime.
- Do a relaxing activity before bed, e.g., read a book, listen to music, take a bath, or do some gentle relaxation exercises.
- Avoid drinking coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages in the afternoon and evening.
If you feel the need to nap, take one in the early afternoon (before 3 p.m.) and set an alarm so you don’t sleep for too long (20 minutes maximum), to avoid disrupting your sleep at night.
No. 2 — Sleep on Your Side and Use a Pillow or Cushion
Pregnant women are advised to avoid lying on their backs, especially from week 24 of pregnancy onwards, as the expanding uterus can compress blood vessels that transport nutrients and oxygen to the baby. Back sleeping is also often associated with digestion problems and back pain.
It is recommended that pregnant women sleep on their side. According to some experts, sleeping on your left side is preferable, as it allows blood to flow better to the baby and to the mother’s vital organs, and it is thought to reduce swelling of the legs and ankles.
To keep your body in a comfortable position, try sleeping with a pregnancy pillow or placing a regular pillow between your knees or under your belly.
No. 3 — Exercise Regularly
Physical activity stimulates the release of hormones that promote relaxation and sleep. It can also help prevent excess weight gain and relieve stress that can disturb your sleep.
Physical activity is safe for women experiencing a normal pregnancy. However, as your pregnancy progresses, it is recommended that you adapt the type of activity and intensity, to avoid the risk of injury. It’s best to avoid activities with a risk of impact or falling. Aquatic exercises are often popular among pregnant women since you don’t feel the weight of your belly as much when you’re in the water.
No. 4 — Eat Healthy and Stay Hydrated
Avoid eating large dinners that are high in fat or spicy, as this can lead to digestion problems, heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux, which can disrupt your sleep. It's also best to wait a few hours after eating before lying down.
If you experience heartburn or reflux, try using pillows or a maternity cushion to elevate your upper body.
It is important to stay hydrated, notably to reduce the risk of leg cramps. However, it’s best to limit your intake of liquids in the evening, so you don’t have to keep getting up at night to go to the bathroom.
No. 5 — Consult a Specialist If You Have Concerns
If your worrying is keeping you up at night, it’s best to talk to someone who can give you good advice.
- A health professional can answer your questions about pregnancy, childbirth, your health, and that of your baby.
- A psychologist can help you control your emotions and concerns about becoming a mom.
- A financial advisor can help ease your worries about financial matters.
Navigating the ups and downs of pregnancy—and motherhood—is easier when you’re surrounded by the right people. Of course, your partner, family, and friends can be there for you, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have an extensive support network. If you’re in that situation, why not reach out to your local community organizations. They’re there to help!
If you suffered from chronic insomnia even before you got pregnant, you may have developed a form of sleep-related performance anxiety. Try consulting a health professional to learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. It's a proven method that helps improve sleep by correcting negative perceptions of sleep and reducing excessive worrying.
Your pharmacist is always there for you during your pregnancy.
Your pharmacist is available to answer any questions you may have about taking medications, natural products, or vitamins during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and to offer advice on how to ease certain pregnancy-related symptoms like sleep disorders, nausea, heartburn, or reflux. Some pharmacies offer private consultations with a pharmacist who can assess your personal situation.
The pharmacy services presented in this section are offered by pharmacist owners who are affiliated with Proxim. The pharmacists are solely responsible for the professional activities carried out during the practice of pharmacy.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.