6 Tips for Better Sleep When You're Pregnant

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Side sleeping, white noise and an established bedtime routine can all help you sleep better when pregnant.
Image Credit: Artem Varnitsin / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Of all the things you have to think about when you're pregnant, getting quality sleep can easily make the top of the list.


It doesn't help that people around you will dish out advice to "get sleep now before the baby comes!" Sometimes, you just can't.

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"Pregnancy is one of the most wonderful times in someone's life, but it can wreak havoc on sleep," says Anne Marie Morse, DO, a pediatric neurologist, sleep specialist and American Academy of Sleep Medicine fellow.

Hormonal changes, weight gain, discomfort and anxiety during pregnancy can all interfere with your snooze time. Not to mention the increase in waking up in the middle of the night to pee. Pregnancy can even cause larger sleep issues like sleep apnea, Dr. Morse says.

Why Is Sleep So Important During Pregnancy?

We all know sleep is important, right? Well, it's especially important when you're pregnant.


That's because ‌poor sleep‌ is associated with negative outcomes during pregnancy and postpartum, according to an April 2020 review in ‌Sleep Medicine Reviews‌. It increases your risk of developing preeclampsia (high blood pressure), gestational diabetes and having a longer labor time, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. It's also linked to a higher risk of having a C-section.

This applies to even the slightest change in your sleep pattern, whether in duration or quality.


That said, don't blame yourself or assume something will go wrong if you're sleeping poorly now. Chances are, you'll get into a routine eventually. If you have concerns, talk to your ob-gyn who can offer support.

6 Tips for Better Sleep When You're Pregnant

Despite many factors that interfere with sleep, it's still worth trying to get quality shut-eye while pregnant. Here are some of our top tips to do so:


1. Sleep on Your Side

This is an oft-talked about "rule" of pregnancy, and here's why: "There are many physiological changes that occur that make sleep challenging when you're pregnant," says Tara Shirazian, MD, ob-gyn and founder of Mommy Matters.


Turns out, your growing belly limits your lung capacity and how much oxygen you're breathing in and out. Sleep position plays a huge role in increasing your circulation and ability to breathe. Enter: side sleeping.


"Sleeping on your side helps slightly move your uterus, taking its weight off your central blood vessels and lungs. This gets more oxygen back to your lungs and helps you breathe a little more comfortably," Dr. Shirazian says.

But what happens if you roll onto your back in the middle of the night?

It's OK. "Just start off on your side," Dr. Shirazian says. The more comfortable you are falling asleep, the faster you'll doze off (and less likely you'll be to wake up).



Try a pregnancy pillow to support your belly and make side sleeping more comfortable. You can find pillows that come in "U," "L" and "C" shapes. "The one that's best for you depends on your own sense of comfort, and how big your bed is," Dr. Shirazian says. (Note: Some take up a lot of space!)

Try These Pregnancy Body Pillows

And, to ease low back pain during the day (which can help you sleep later), Dr. Shirazian recommends the Mommy Matters Support Pillow ($39, MommyMatters.com).

2. Establish a Bedtime Routine

Once your baby is born, all sense of routine will likely go out the window. In the meantime, it's helpful to have one for yourself.

"Make sure you engage in a good bedtime routine prior to going to sleep, to wind down your mind and body," Dr. Morse says. You can try light stretching, listening to music, meditation, gentle yoga or a calming workout.


The key is to find a bedtime routine that's enjoyable — not something you feel you "should" do. Anything that makes you step away from your phone, the to-do list or any other obligations will do.


A bath, warm shower and/or a cup of herbal tea are also safe to incorporate in your pregnancy wind-down routine, Dr. Shirazian says. Just make sure you’re not drinking the tea too close to bedtime to reduce the need to pee at night — and make sure to drink caffeine-free varieties.

3. Turn Your Thermostat Down at Night

Sweating in your sleep when pregnant is not fun — you wake up damp, uncomfortable and even cold. Many times, this is due to the hormonal changes happening in your body, per the Mayo Clinic.

However, it's still good to check your thermostat: It may be set too warm.


"We frequently recommend that a bedroom temperature be between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit," Dr. Morse says. This helps you transition into sleep faster and helps prevent nighttime sweats.

4. Incorporate Movement Into Your Day

What you do — and how you move — during the day influences how you'll sleep later.

Indeed, there's evidence that moderate physical activity generally improves sleep quality across all ages, according to a July 2019 systematic review in the ‌European Journal of Physiotherapy.

This is no different for people who are pregnant, but it does come with a perk. "There's data to show exercise increases oxygen delivery to the fetus, which can help with development," Dr. Shirazian says.


Talk to your doctor about what exercise is safe for you. They can provide tips on duration, intensity and exercises that may help improve pain and reduce labor time. "Swimming and prenatal yoga are great options for folks who are pregnant," Dr. Shirazian adds.

5. Be Mindful of Your Bedtime Snack

Try to avoid eating about three to four hours before bedtime to allow your body time to digest before you hit the sheets. But if you do get hungry at night, a bag of hot chips or bowl of spicy ramen might not be the best to dig into.

High-fat, spicy foods can increase the risk of reflux or heartburn when you lay down at night, Dr. Morse says. "Your growing uterus in combination with hormonal changes can make it more likely you'll experience these symptoms," she adds.

Pay attention to the foods that trigger your reflux symptoms, use multiple pillows to elevate your head and avoid laying on your back right after eating to prevent reflux, per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

6. Use a White Noise Machine

White noise is popular for helping baby sleep, but it can help you sleep, too.

It's been said that a quiet room is the optimal environment to sleep in, but "if you have a hard time shutting off your brain, playing some white noise or soothing sounds could be helpful," Dr. Morse says.

Related Reading

When to See a Doctor

While it's common to experience sleep disruptions in pregnancy, there are some instances where you should seek help from a professional.

If you've noticed you tend to fall asleep during the day, are more irritable or anxious and don't know why or these problems become more frequent, talk to your ob-gyn or primary care doctor, Dr. Morse says.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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