Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Insomnia in pregnancy and breastfeeding

8-minute read

If you are extremely distressed or having suicidal thoughts call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for immediate support.

Key facts

  • Insomnia is a common sleep disorder where you have trouble falling or staying asleep.
  • Pregnancy causes many hormonal and physical changes to your body, which can increase your risk of developing insomnia.
  • Insomnia can affect your daytime functioning, energy levels, memory and mental health. It's also associated with postnatal depression and anxiety.
  • There is a range of treatments for insomnia — behavioural, psychological and alternative treatments for insomnia are preferred in pregnancy and breastfeeding since some insomnia medicines are not safe for your baby.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder where you may find it hard to fall or stay asleep. Sleep issues, including insomnia, affect more than 1 in every 2 pregnancies and can get worse as your pregnancy progresses. It is also common after birth when breastfeeding.

Insomnia can become long term (called chronic insomnia disorder). This is when you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least 3 nights per week, for at least 3 months, along with not functioning well during the day.

What are symptoms of insomnia?

Key symptoms of insomnia include:

  • difficulty falling asleep
  • waking up a lot during the night
  • waking up too early and not being able to go back to sleep
  • not feeling refreshed when you wake up

Insomnia can cause other symptoms during the day, including:

  • tension headaches
  • low energy, feeling tired or being too sleepy to do normal activities
  • poor memory and concentration
  • worrying about sleeping
  • feeling irritable, moody or losing motivation and interest in doing things you usually enjoy
  • feeling restless, being aggressive or impulsive
  • feeling sleepy when sitting quietly

People experience insomnia differently, and you might only have some of these symptoms.

Why might I have insomnia during pregnancy?

You may develop insomnia during pregnancy because of many physical, emotional and hormonal changes your body is going through or because of general, non-pregnancy causes.

Pregnancy causes for insomnia:

General causes of insomnia:

  • medical issues — conditions causing chronic pain and breathing, urinary or digestive problems
  • sleep disorders— obstructive sleep apnoea, circadian rhythm disorders, restless leg syndrome and periodic leg movement
  • poor sleep habits, known as sleep hygiene
  • mental health problems — anxiety, depression or other disorders
  • stress — caused by work or financial problems, relationship issues or grief
  • substances — caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, amphetamines and some medicines

How is insomnia treated during pregnancy?

Your doctor or midwife can help you manage your insomnia. They will likely recommend a non-medicine treatment first, for example, behavioural and psychological interventions.

Treating an underlying condition causing insomnia

Before you try to treat the symptoms of insomnia, tell your doctor if you have any underlying conditions that may cause insomnia such as:

  • pain
  • digestive problems
  • mental health problems
  • other sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea

Sleep hygiene

Your health professional may recommend you improve your sleep hygiene. Try these good sleep habits to help you sleep better:

  • Keep regular sleep patterns. Go to bed and wake up at around the same time every day, and avoid napping for more than 20 minutes in the day.
  • Don’t spend too long in bed. Most people should not stay in bed for more than 8½ hours. Staying in bed for longer can lead to broken sleep.
  • Cut out nicotine, reduce or cut out alcohol and limit caffeine to mornings only.
  • Exercise regularly, but not in the evening.
  • Do something relaxing before bed. If you don’t feel sleepy, or wake in the night, go to another room and do a relaxing activity (such as reading) until you feel sleepy, and then try again.
  • Try to manage anything that is worrying you earlier in the day, rather than at bedtime.
  • Make sure your bedroom is comfortable. It should be quiet and dark, not too hot or too cold. Consider removing clocks from your bedroom, so you don’t keep checking the time. Avoid screens in your bedroom and don’t use screens for one hour before going to bed.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)

Research shows that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a treatment of choice for many pregnant females with insomnia. CBT can help reduce your insomnia symptoms while pregnant. CBT is based on the idea that how you think and act affects how you feel.


Your doctor will discuss which medicines you can safely take during pregnancy. Many sleep medicines are not considered safe for you and your baby, so be sure your doctor knows you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Sedating antihistamines such as doxylamine can be used in all stages of pregnancy. They are not associated with any increased risk to your baby and are not habit forming, but speak with your doctor before you take these in pregnancy.

Melatonin is sometimes used to treat insomnia, but it’s not recommended if you are pregnant. There is little research investigating how safe it is to use during pregnancy. Doctors prefer that you take a medicine with more evidence of being safe for you and your baby.

Benzodiazepines, including temazepam, are habit forming and not recommended. They may be associated with your baby having withdrawal symptoms after birth. If necessary, your doctor may prescribe these at the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time.

Are there any alternative ways to treat insomnia?

Acupuncture is a popular alternative therapy for insomnia, and is recommended during pregnancy. Research shows that it can improve your sleep quality.

Herbal medicines and infusions, another common alternative treatment, are not recommended to treat insomnia while pregnant or breastfeeding, as there is not enough research investigating their safety. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking an alternative or herbal medicine.

How is insomnia treated while breastfeeding?

If you are breastfeeding and experiencing insomnia, your doctor will first treat insomnia by addressing your sleep hygiene, as well as any underlying causes of poor sleep.

Some medicines can pass into your breastmilk and make your baby drowsy. It is not recommended to take any medicines or herbal infusions without first checking with your doctor. If your doctor does prescribe you with a sleeping medicine, they may prescribe the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time possible.

Temazepam, a short acting medicine, is unlikely to be a problem, especially with older babies. It can be prescribed on a one-off occasion. This medicine is used in preference to over-the-counter antihistamine — doxylamine, which can affect your milk production.

There is not much research studying the effect of melatonin on your breastmilk. It is unlikely to be of concern if you are breastfeeding an older baby, but check with your doctor or pharmacist before you take any medicine while you are breastfeeding.

Can insomnia affect my or my baby’s health?

Insomnia during pregnancy can affect your and you baby’s health. It can negatively affect your quality of life and cause anxiety and stress during pregnancy. It is also be associated with premature birth, postnatal depression and anxiety, gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. This is why if you have problems with experiencing insomnia, you should seek appropriate medical advice and treatment.

If you are extremely distressed or having suicidal thoughts call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for immediate support.

How can I improve my sleep during pregnancy?

You can improve your sleep during pregnancy by following these tips to help treat pregnancy related sleep problems:

  • Indigestion and heartburn — raise the head of your bed or sleep with more pillows. Take antacids in moderation.
  • Physical discomfort — sleep on your side and try a pregnancy pillow.
  • Frequent urination — avoid drinking too much in the evening and try to go to the toilet before bed.
  • Restless leg movements — reduce the amount of tea, coffee and other sources of caffeine.

See your doctor or midwife if you still have problems sleeping after trying these tips.

Resources and support

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

Sleep problems in children

Common sleep disorders in children include sleepwalking, insomnia, night terrors and teeth grinding. Learn about managing these disorders.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Insomnia | Sleep Health Foundation

This is a fact sheet about Insomnia. Insomnia is a disorder characterised by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or getting restorative sleep, and can negatively impact your health and wellbeing

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

What is Insomnia? | Causes & Treatment Explained | THIS WAY UP

What is What is Insomnia? Understanding the signs, symptoms & treatment options available for those dealing with insomnia.

Read more on This Way Up website

Sleep Tips for New Mothers | Sleep Health Foundation

This is a fact sheet about Sleep Tips for New Mums. A newborn baby may sleep a lot but they will also wake up a lot too! Here’s some top tips to help with the change in your sleep routine.

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Pregnancy and Sleep | Sleep Health Foundation

This is a fact sheet about Pregnancy and Sleep. Good sleep during pregnancy is important for you and your baby.

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Weighted blankets – are they safe for kids or during pregnancy?

Weighted blankets are used to aid sleep and reduce anxiety in both children and adults, but are they really safe for kids or during pregnancy?

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Pregnancy at week 14

By week 14, your baby’s organs have formed, their face is becoming more recognisable, and you may be feeling more energetic.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Caffeine during pregnancy

Some foods, drinks and medication contains caffeine and you should limit the amount of caffeine you consume during pregnancy and while you are breastfeeding.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Herbal teas during pregnancy and breastfeeding

During pregnancy or while breastfeeding, it’s important to speak to your doctor or midwife first about the safety and benefits of drinking herbal tea.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Pregnancy and exercise - Better Health Channel

Unless you have complications, you should be able to exercise throughout your pregnancy.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.