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How to Get Safe and Comfortable Sleep During Pregnancy

In the blissful hours of the night, you can be surrounded by Morpheus’s sweet embrace or left staring at the ceiling wondering just how you’re going to get to sleep. Sleeping while you’re pregnant can be one of the most challenging aspects, especially since how you sleep, how much you sleep, and the quality of sleep will help your baby be strong and you be healthy.

how to help sleep during pregnancy

There are many reasons why you can’t sleep when you’re pregnant. But, how much sleep do you really need? How much sleep is too much during pregnancy?

In this pregnancy sleep guide, we’re not going to talk about the important requirements for how much sleep you should get during your pregnancy. You already know you should be sleeping slightly more of the normal and it should be on a consistent basis. Besides, how much sleep is different for every person. If you normally only sleep 6 hours a night, normal for you might be 7-8 hours. But, if you’re like me, and need 8 hours of sleep at night or more, you might need 10 to 11 hours of sleep to be healthy. 

But, pregnancy affects your sleep in so many different ways. Figuring out just how to sleep comfortably during your pregnancy is very confusing, let alone getting the recommended amount. We’re here to help you with that. Throughout this article, we’re going to talk about various reasons why you can’t sleep, some tips for the generalities of sleep during the different trimesters, and quite a bit on tools and techniques you can use to help you get a better night’s sleep.

When you’re pregnant, you might find yourself sleeping a lot more. You might find yourself sleeping deeper when pregnant or just longer. You are growing another human being and this takes a lot of work and energy. So long as you are not experiencing sleep when you need to be awake and you’re not sleeping more than 2 to 3 hours more than normal, more sleep should be a very normal part of pregnancy.

It’s the general lack of sleep early in your pregnancy and later on that causes the most issues. This is the time when your body is making the most changes. During the first trimester, your baby is growing incredibly fast. During the last trimester, the baby is putting a tremendous load up on your body, demanding nutrients and space. If you can, you should be sleeping a bit longer during the first and third trimester. Nonetheless, we all know insomnia is likely to hit at this time.

how much should i sleep during pregnancy

We want to ease your worries. The lack of sleep you experience during your pregnancy should not affect your baby. Your eating habits will have a much bigger impact. (Hint: eat lots of fruits and vegetables)

Next, we’re going to be talking about several reasons why you can’t sleep, and when it may become necessary to talk to your doctor. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you are sleeping more than normal, it should not interfere with your life nor should you fall asleep when you need to be awake. For example, you should not feel like you need to sleep when you are driving.

If you cannot sleep, this should not happen for extended periods of time. Some women experienced severe insomnia, while some have it mild. If you do experience insomnia, you should feel fairly normal throughout the rest of your day. If you are tired during the rest of your day, this could be a sign something else is happening during the night that could cause a problem.

In either case, be sure to keep in good communication with your doctor about your sleep habits. It is hard to tell how women will react to being pregnant. You may not experience any sleep changes at all, or your sleep habits might change radically. Most women tend to fall in between, with insomnia during the first trimester, deeper sleep during the second, and the belly bump disturbing the third trimester. We have a great article on how your baby will develop here.

Why Can’t You Sleep

Pregnancy sleep problems are very common. During your pregnancy, your hormones are highly variable and sleep does not come easy. During your pregnancy you can have everything from disturbed sleep, restless sleep, struggling to get to sleep, all the way through to excessive sleeping. The only thing we can guarantee you is during your pregnancy you will have changes and you could have all different types of sleep changes.

Having insomnia during your pregnancy is actually very common. Pregnancy insomnia generally starts early in the pregnancy and stops during the second trimester. During the third trimester, insomnia is not as common, however, the size of your stomach and other pains can cause sleep deprivation. Generally, this lack of sleep is not a health concern, nor does it impact your daily life. If you feel you are excessively tired, talk to your doctor.

One of the things that can help you during your pregnancy insomnia is drinking herbal teas * that are both safe for pregnancy and relaxing. We’ll talk about chamomile and peppermint tea later on in the article.

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During the later stages of pregnancy, it may be difficult to sleep because of the back pain. As the weight of your stomach increases, more stress is placed on the back. Thus, the irritation and pain can keep you up at night. It was the same trying to sleep with the hip pain as your hips widen to accommodate childbirth. A warm bath at night will help relax your muscles. Add Epsom salts to help the relaxation. DO NOT USE BATH SALTS. Many of the salts use essential oils and chemicals that are toxic to your baby. Miscarriages have been reported due to regular bath salts.

benefits of epsom salt baths during pregnancy

Shoulder Pain

Because of the strain placed on the back, you may also have trouble sleeping because of shoulder pain during the pregnancy. It’s not uncommon and usually caused as you begin sleeping on your side and you are not used to it. Over time, the pain will decrease. Using the good pillow * that supports your head will help reduce this pain.

Leg Cramps

During all stages of your pregnancy, you may experience leg cramps when sleeping. This is caused by mineral depletion early on and the extra weight and changes in your walking patterns later. An Epsom salt bath helps reduce the cramping and replaces some mineral. Pure essential oils can also help. Visit a certified aromatherapist for a custom blend. Otherwise, stick to lavender oil * – 1 drop per bathtub. Any than this tiny amount more could cause burns.

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Dizziness is also a problem during pregnancy. Your blood pressure changes quite a bit when you were pregnant. It can increase or decrease unexpectedly. While you are sleeping and laying down, your blood pressure tends to decrease. It takes less effort for your heart to move the blood through your body. As the heart beats slightly weaker and slower, the blood vessels will also expand and allow more blood to flow easier. This is usually not a problem for most people.

However, upon standing up, it is more difficult for the blood to get to your brain. This can cause dizziness and disorientation. In mild cases, it will require you to sit back down and take a few deep breaths. Severe cases may cause you to pass out. If you experience dizziness, take your time standing up from either laying position or a seated position and breathe deeply. If you find yourself passing out, talk to your doctor. This could signal an unhealthy drop in your blood pressure. It could also signal problems with your blood sugar, otherwise known as gestational diabetes.

Being Hot

Of the many pregnancy sleep disorders, being hot when you are sleeping is one of the more common problems. As the hormones changing your body to accommodate the growing baby, your blood pressure may rise, your internal temperature may rise, and this leads to the feeling of being warm. It is a similar physiological effect do having alcohol in your system. The teas we mentioned earlier it can be drunk cold or cool and this can help you to feel cooler in order to help you sleep. A cool (not cold) bath at night will help you to get to sleep.

Of course, when you are hot, you also will experience sleep sweats. Many of the women that I have known have found they sweat more often when they are pregnant. During the pregnancy, sweating while they sleep becomes normal and sometimes excessive. Usually, it occurs with being warm. If you find that you are sweating more than normal, be sure to drink more water. This will replace the liquid you are losing. But, if you find that you are soaking your clothes, your bed sheets are wet upon waking up, or that the amount you are sweating is very unusual for you, be sure to talk to your doctor. Aid your body by eating high electrolyte foods, such as bananas and apricots (for the potassium), seaweeds and nori (for iodine), and dark leafy greens (for the magnesium). Usually, you will get enough sodium from other foods, so don’t load up on that. Cravings for pickles and ice cream are usually for potassium and magnesium, not sodium.

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Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a problem. As it becomes more easily diagnosed, you may find you have it during your pregnancy. The general cause of apnea is sleeping with your mouth open. This is most common in people who sleep on their back and their front. Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition and can result in your blood oxygen dropping to a dangerous level. If you believe you may have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor. A sleep test can help diagnose this condition and various methods are available to compensate or reduce it.

Some of the sleeping discomfort during pregnancy begins with the sleep apnea and moves into nighttime heartburn and nausea. This is a result of oxygen making its way to your stomach and the labored breathing causing changes within the esophagus. Pregnancy heartburn and pregnancy night sickness can be mitigated by avoiding food late at night, drinking soothing teas as we mentioned earlier, and allowing yourself to sleep with your head and shoulders elevated slightly above your stomach level.

Nausea and Heartburn

Very often nausea and heartburn occur in the pregnancy as the growing baby pushes the organs into unusual positions. The stomach can become compressed forcing the acid into the esophagus. This may be uncomfortable, but it is usually not dangerous. If you are vomiting during your sleep when you are pregnant or you’re experiencing true stomach pain when sleeping, you do need to talk to your doctor. Neither of these is normal and could indicate additional problems.

Other Discomforts

Some of the more unusual pregnancy sleep changes you will find have to do with inflammation. Carpal tunnel, arthritis, rhinitis, indigestion, dry eyes, and puffiness in your joints usually occur in mild amounts during the early and late stages of the pregnancy. Generally, they should not cause you any excessive difficulty. However, like anything else, if you feel it is excessive, talk to your doctor. The bath with Epsom salts and the high electrolyte foods will aid in reducing the inflammation.

And of course, by the end of your pregnancy sleeping with the pregnancy bump can be quite challenging. We recommend reading a little bit lower about some of the tips and tricks that will help you get to sleep and stay asleep easier. There are certain techniques and tools you can use that will let you sleep deeper and better, even if you’re pregnant with twins or triplets.

Sleep by the Trimester

There are no rules for how women are able to sleep, positions they should sleep, or quality of sleep. Some women may experience the general tendencies that we’re going to describe here, or you may not experience any at all.

For example, I have a cousin-in-law that is experiencing pregnancy with her first child. She has experienced no morning sickness, no pain, and not a single another normal issue that normally comes with pregnancy. She is still exercising, has a trim waist, and only the barest bump to show pregnancy is occurring. However, she sleeps about one hour a day. She has more energy than a two-year-old on a sugar high.

pregnancy and nausea

And we all know women who are just the opposite. I have a friend who during pregnancy with her second child, slept 12 to 14 hours a day. It was a quiet sleep and she was wide awake the rest of the day, she just needed a lot of sleep at night. And then, of course, there are women who just don’t sleep well and can’t wake up all day.

During the first trimester of your pregnancy, sleep should be fairly easy. During early pregnancy, you usually don’t have any issues with the positions you sleep in, nor do you experience many physical changes that will prevent you from sleeping.  Many women who are not aware they are pregnant until their second or third-month experience no issues with sleeping normally.

Many of the women will describe their sleep issues of the first trimester as more restless and unfulfilling. Because of the hormonal changes, sleep tends to be disturbed more often.

During the second trimester of pregnancy, your sleep changes. During the second trimester, women tend to start sleeping deeper and better. As the baby bump grows, you need to become aware of how you sleep so you are not putting uncomfortable pressure on your belly. However, at this point in time, there is very little danger to the baby when you do sleep on your stomach.

Third-trimester sleep tends towards the restless side again. As the baby begins moving more and your belly becomes larger, your ability to sleep in comfortable positions becomes compromised. Moving around and changing position becomes more challenging the larger the baby becomes and the later the pregnancy.

During the third trimester, you want to keep your sleep positions to one side or the other. This helps relieve the pressure on your back and you are not placing uncomfortable pressure on your belly. Generally, doctors recommend sleeping on the left because of it aid blood flow.

Pregnancy Sleep Habits that Help

Sleep Positions

As you start noticing your belly getting bigger, there are certain positions to help you sleep during pregnancy.

During your early pregnancy, it is all right to sleep on your stomach or on your back. Generally, women do not notice any issue or pain comes from sleeping on the stomach or back. In fact, doctors don’t notice any problems with the babies for women who did not know they are pregnant until the second or third month.

It is helpful to get into the habit of sleeping on your side early because as your pregnancy progresses, it is healthier to sleep on your side. Generally, it is better to sleep on your left side. As your pregnancy progresses, sleeping on your left side will help aid nutrients and blood flow to the placenta and baby. Sleeping on your right side will not limit the blood flow or nutrients, but you may feel more constriction on this side.

why sleep on the left side during pregnancy

After about the 20th week, there are certain sleeping positions to avoid. Sleeping on your back later in pregnancy can place an incredible amount of pressure on your organs and back. While not dangerous, it is uncomfortable. As your belly begins to grow, your body will start to tell you when sleeping on your back is no longer beneficial.

You should also avoid sleeping on your stomach once you begin to show the pregnancy or after the week 12th. Sleeping on your stomach puts far too much pressure on the womb and the baby. As the pregnancy progresses, this pressure could slow blood circulation and cause pain to the baby.

If you are having twins or triplets, the timeline for the sleeping positions during your pregnancy is moved up. Your belly will become bigger faster.

Sleep Schedule

When you are pregnant, keeping to a sleeping schedule will help. Your body will become used to certain times of going to sleep and waking up. This will help the hormones in your body and encourage sleep and wakefulness. It will also help regulate other hormones, which can reduce mood swings, curb unhealthy appetite, allow you to move around and exercise better, and give your baby a healthy head start. Anecdotally, mothers notice a normal sleep schedule during pregnancy helps their baby sleep on a similar schedule after being born and wake less at night.

Music During Sleep Time

Listening to music while you sleep can help you during pregnancy. “Everybody knows Mozart makes babies smarter”, which actually hasn’t been proven.  It can help relax your mind so you can sleep better. Without a lot of extra thoughts running through your head, the music can soothe you into a restful sleep.

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Meditation or Prayer

Meditation has a similar effect. Both meditation and prayer can help you sleep during your pregnancy and beyond. They both help stimulate the proper brain waves for a restful sleep and can help quiet extraneous thoughts running through your head.

Pregnancy Yoga

As an extension to meditation, yoga during pregnancy is becoming extremely popular. Many people say yoga helps them sleep and this is especially true when you are pregnant. Many centers and instructors are becoming more proficient at helping pregnant women do yoga properly and safely. Be sure if you start any yoga program, you talk to the instructor to make sure they are experienced and knowledgeable about how yoga affects pregnancy.

Aside from helping you sleep, yoga helps relax the mind and body, keeps you fit and active, improves your breathing and muscle tone, and during labor, certain yoga positions help reduce the pain and encourage proper birthing. Certain classes have been geared towards teaching certain yoga positions that a woman can do right up until the moment of birth. The women who have tried this have found it decreases the time they were in labor, decreased pain, and decrease the stress on the baby.

Exercise during pregnancy is healthy. As you progress, you will need to move from aerobic and cardiovascular exercises to slower, stretch and walking based exercises. Studies have shown exercise can reduce labor pain and times. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting exercise to make sure there are no problems.

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Finally, we’re going to talk about pets. For some people, living without their cat or dog, rabbit or bird would be simply unthinkable. And that’s okay. Women having giving birth to children where the household already contains a cat or a dog for thousands of years.

You simply have to be more aware of the potential danger is your pet may expose to your unborn baby. If you have been sleeping with your pets prior to being pregnant, the sudden change to not having them with you could be enough to cause sleep problems. For some women, having a cat or a dog sleeping across on your feet at night is both comforting and warm.

When you are pregnant, sleeping with cats, ferrets, or other small animal does not pose much of a risk. They may tend to move closer to your belly, as it is warmer and softer. However, these small animals are rarely more than 10 to 15 lb and do not provide much pressure on your belly. If it is uncomfortable, simply move the pets.

What is a risk is many of the smaller animals contain bacteria within their gut, their saliva, and their feces that could cause illness or death during pregnancy. However, if you’ve been around these animals for more than a few weeks, and we know most of you who have these small animals have been around them your entire lives, you have already been exposed to this bacteria and probably have already developed antibodies. Proper breastfeeding will pass on this immunity to your baby. We still recommend reducing your exposure to saliva and feces as much as possible.

Sleeping with larger dogs during your pregnancy poses slightly more risk. I’ve had several dogs during my life and the smallest one was 65 lb. Every single one of them was a klutz and completely lovable. If you have a dog that is larger, be sure to train it well that it does not jump on you. Even a 40-lb dog can exert enough pressure to cause a miscarriage if they jump on you. A well-trained dog poses a very little risk. However, an excited dog or one that is not well trained poses a greater risk. Fortunately, dogs don't really carry bacteria that cause danger but are more prone to picking up ticks and fleas that can pass on illness.

If you do not have pets, we do not recommend acquiring a new pet when you are pregnant. First, a pet requires training and you may not have the energy or the time to do this properly. Second, anytime you get a new pets you expose yourself to new potential illnesses that the animal may be brought into your household. Third, puppies and kittens are very excitable and take much more energy than adult pets. They will wake you in the middle of the night and generally be disruptive. For the first two to five years of their lives, they will be much more work. The combination of a young animal and a baby are often too much for new parents.

Tools to Help You Sleep

Seeking out solutions to help you sleep better during your pregnancy has been a topic ever since women have been pregnant. Simply getting comfortable during your sleep while you’re pregnant can be a challenge. We’re going to talk about some sleep hacks for you to try during your pregnancy and some tools you can use.

Pregnancy Pillows

You can sleep without these tools and hacks, and it is perfectly safe. You don’t need a pillow or special bra like we’re going to discuss. They help improve your sleep when pregnant but are not necessary.

The first of the pregnancy sleeping products we’re going to talk about is the pregnancy pillow. It started off as the simple pillow or balled up the blanket that was placed between the knees or under the belly when you sleep. During your pregnancy, sleeping with a wedge helps lift your pregnant belly so you’re not putting as much pressure on it. Sleeping with it between your knees helps your pregnancy by relieving the pressure on your hips. We have a great article on pregnancy pillows here.

Pregnancy Support Belts

Similar to the wedge, they have pregnancy support belts that can be worn both when you are sleeping and when you are awake. The belts vary in style, but the majority of them sit underneath the stomach and help lift the belly so that there is not as much pressure on the back. They help support you when you’re sleeping during your pregnancy by distributing the weight of your belly. This can help you sleep in various positions much more comfortably and be able to move without waking yourself up.

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Pregnancy Sleeping Bra

Of the various pregnancy friendly sleeping aids, we have to say we like the sleeping bra best. This is a special bra designed to comfortably hold your breasts. Many women experience swelling in their breasts and they tend to become very tender and sensitive. The mere act of having clothes brush against the breast or the nipples can turn into a painful sensation. The bras help reduce at the sensation and provides support for the swelling breasts. Unlike a regular bra, it does not put as much pressure on the shoulders, nor does it constrict as much as a regular bra. As a bonus, many of these bras can convert into breastfeeding bras. And, yes, many of them are designed to allow a woman to exercise and still be comfortable.

Special Chairs

If this isn’t enough support for your sleeping habits that’s during pregnancy, there are other ways to help you sleep. There are specially designed chairs for you to sleep in while pregnant. This help lift the back and support the stomach while being comfortable enough for sleep. They tend to be more costly, but if you can’t sleep, they are well worth the price. Surprisingly, many men are purchasing the chairs as well, since the position helps to reduce indigestion and gastric reflux.

Bad Habits

We want to advise you that there are certain sleep aids that are bad for you during your pregnancy. Using sleeping pills or sleeping medications during pregnancy is strongly advised against. Many of the chemicals that help you sleep can induce a miscarriage. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you want to use one of these sleep remedies to make sure it does not have a negative effect on your baby.

Herbal Teas

While not necessarily a tool, there are certain herbal teas that are both safe for pregnancy and will help you sleep. Chamomile * and peppermint tea * are both very relaxing and safe to use during pregnancy. Both of these are herbs help relax the mind and body but contain no chemicals that will harm the baby. Use caution with nighttime blends, as they often contain Valerian root which can cause discomfort and possible miscarriage for some women.

chamomile tea benefits infographic

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Sleep problems during pregnancy are very common. Generally, women will experience insomnia during the first trimester, a deeper sleep during the second trimester and disturbed sleep during the third trimester because of the belly bump. Of course, this is not always the case.

We covered several tips and tricks on how to overcome some common sleep problems and we went over tools to help you sleep better.

If you do have problems sleeping, be sure to talk to your doctor. We just want to make sure you know sleep problems are common, and some easy ways to take care of them.

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