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Sleep during pregnancy

4-minute read

When you’re pregnant, sleep can become a problem. Here are some tips to help you get as much sleep as possible so you are as rested and ready as you can be for your baby’s arrival.

How much sleep do I need when I am pregnant?

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

But getting more sleep isn't always easy, especially if you have work, other children or other responsibilities.

If you can, get to bed earlier than usual and have a daytime nap. It can also help to:

  • 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

Sleep during the 1st trimester

The main issue in the first trimester is tiredness. See above for some helpful suggestions.

You might also need to pass urine more often, which will disturb your sleep. Going to the toilet more often is normal, but if it hurts to pass urine, talk to your doctor.

Sleep during the 2nd trimester

The second trimester brings new challenges.

Many women get a blocked nose and feel stuffed up due to hormonal changes. Saline nasal sprays can help.

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 and drinking plenty of fluids.

Some women have more dreams than they would normally, or unusual dreams, or nightmares. Sometimes it can be related to stress, or it could be 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, or consider talking to a counsellor.

Some start to snore for the first time in their lives. Sleeping on your side and keeping your head slightly elevated can help. Maintaining a healthy diet and not putting on too much weight can also help.

Sleep during the 3rd trimester

It’s important from 28 weeks till your baby is born that you 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 womb, and restrict your baby’s oxygen supply. Research has shown that sleeping on your side can reduce the risk of stillbirth by half.

You can make it more comfortable, and easier to stay on your side, by bending your knees then putting a pillow between them. You can also put a pillow under your belly for support.

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 so rolling over onto your back is more difficult.

Some women find it comfortable to sleep with their head quite high, either with pillows for support or by raising the head of the bed a little. This can reduce heartburn and snoring.

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

The frequency of your need to pass urine at night might increase even further. The baby might be pressing on your bladder, and the hormones that go with the later stages of pregnancy can relax your pelvic floor. Pelvic floor exercises will help you manage any 'leaks' and also avoid continence problems in years to come.

Sleep aids

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

Generally, pregnant women are advised not to take any sleeping tablets, although your obstetrician or midwife might advise you otherwise.

Services 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, including:

You can also call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 for advice and support.

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

Last reviewed: January 2020

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