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Sleep during pregnancy

7-minute read

How much sleep do I need when I am pregnant?

When you’re pregnant, you need more sleep than usual. However, your sleep isn’t as deep and refreshing as usual while pregnant. You’ll wake more often throughout the night. You need to sleep as much as you can.

But, getting more sleep isn't always easy. It can be especially difficult if you have work, other children, or other responsibilities. To get enough rest, it can help to:

  • have a daytime nap
  • rest as much as you can during the day
  • go for a walk in the late afternoon or early evening
  • avoid tea and coffee before bedtime
  • relax before bed by taking a bath, reading, listening to music, watching TV, or having a backrub
  • go to bed earlier than usual

How do I sleep safely during pregnancy?

When you’re pregnant, and as your baby grows, sleep can become a problem. But it’s important to be well-rested, so you are ready for your baby’s arrival.

The position that you sleep in is also important for your baby’s health.

From 28 weeks until your baby is born, be sure to sleep on your side. Whether you are taking a quick nap on the couch or going to bed at night, sleeping on your side is best.

Lying on your back puts pressure on major blood vessels. This can reduce the flow of blood to your uterus, and restrict your baby’s oxygen supply. This can affect their heart rate. Research suggests that this causes a higher risk of stillbirth.

Stillbirth can occur from many different factors, some which can’t be controlled. But research shows that sleeping on your side can reduce the risk of stillbirth by half.

You can sleep on your left or right side. To make sleeping on your side easier and more comfortable, bend your knees. Then, put a pillow between them. You can also put a pillow under your belly for support.

Usually, the position you fall asleep in is the position you will stay in overnight. However, movement in sleep is normal. If you wake and find you’ve been asleep on your back, turn onto your side. If it happens a lot, put a pillow behind your back to make rolling on to your back more difficult.

What problems might I have when sleeping during pregnancy?

From the first trimester of pregnancy you may experience:

These troubles can disturb your sleep and may vary throughout your pregnancy. Because of this, the main challenge you may experience is tiredness. There are ways to manage these things, to help you sleep better.

Morning sickness

The nausea that comes with morning sickness may keep you awake. You can reduce this nausea by keeping full. During the day, eat bland snacks such as crackers.

Frequent urination

Going to the toilet more often during pregnancy is normal.

The baby can press on your bladder. And hormones in the late stages of pregnancy can relax your pelvic floor. Pelvic floor exercises will help you manage any 'leaks'. They will also help you to avoid continence problems in years to come.

Keep hydrated during the day, but don’t drink too much before bed.

The frequency of your need to pass urine at night might increase as your pregnancy progresses.

However, if it hurts to pass urine, talk to your doctor.

Leg cramps

Leg cramps can also disrupt your sleep. It’s not really understood why leg cramps happen. But, there are a number of things you can do to ease them, such as:

  • stretching your calf muscles
  • being active during the day
  • drinking plenty of fluids

Back pain

You might find your back aches more at night. If you can, try to avoid heavy lifting, housework, and long periods of standing. Rest during the day with your legs up if you can.

Disruptive dreams

Some women have more dreams than they would normally. They may also have unusual dreams or nightmares. Sometimes it can be related to stress, or it could be due to inconsistent sleep.

Try to stick to a regular schedule and maybe try different sleep positions or use a pregnancy pillow. If you are having dreams that are disturbing you, it can help to:

  • talk to your partner or a friend
  • consider seeing a counsellor

Congestion and snoring

Due to hormonal changes as your pregnancy progresses, you may get a blocked nose and feel stuffed up. Saline nasal sprays can help.

Some people start to snore for the first time in their lives while pregnant. Keeping a healthy diet and not putting on too much weight can help ease this.

You might find it comfortable to sleep with your head raised. You can use pillows for support or raise the head of your bed slightly. This can reduce your snoring.

Indigestion

Heartburn is common in pregnancy. This is because your growing baby can press on your organs, leading to reflux. This can keep you from resting.

Sleeping with your head raised and supported by pillows can also help ease the pain. Try to also avoid overeating, and foods that are:

  • spicy
  • acidic
  • fried

See your doctor if heartburn is causing you severe discomfort, or if you have other symptoms such as:

Are there any sleep aids that might help?

A pregnancy pillow might help you get comfortable. They come in many different shapes and sizes. You should be able to find one that suits you.

Generally, pregnant women are advised not to take sleeping tablets.

Who can I talk to for advice and support?

Whether you are experiencing common pregnancy problems or more serious sleep disorders, anxiety or depression, you can get support from a range of professionals and services. These include:

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: July 2022


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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?

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.

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