Why Pregnant Women Can't Sleep

The Link Between Pregnancy and Sleep


Pregnant women often receive sleep advice, and although this advice is typically about how to sleep after the baby is born, the fact is many pregnant women need sleep help long before the birth. Fatigue is a hallmark of pregnancy, and 78 percent of women report more disturbed sleep while they're pregnant.
Hormones, anxiety, and body changes can complicate sleep while you're pregnant. But as you work overtime to develop new life, it's in pregnancy that you need sleep more than ever.
Although sleep may be a challenge for some pregnant women, it's important to make sleep a priority and manage sleep issues so you can get the rest they need for a healthy pregnancy.

Why Pregnant Women Can't Sleep


Pregnant women are often fatigued due to the physical toll pregnancy takes. It's simply hard work to make a baby, and it takes energy. So why do so many women struggle to sleep well even when they're so tired?
Hormones can affect sleep, as can physical changes. You may feel uncomfortable due to the size of your belly. Other issues include back pain, heartburn, and restless legs. And of course, sleep may be interrupted one or more times during the night for urination, which increases during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is emotionally charged, which can cause sleep difficulties, too. Anxiety might keep you up at night. It's not unusual to stay awake thinking about changes to your life, what your future will look like with a baby, and even worrying about the delivery or health of your baby.
Although poor sleep is common in pregnancy, it shouldn't be ignored, as it can lead to serious issues. Sleep deprivation can affect your health, make it difficult to function throughout the day, and even affect the health of your pregnancy. For example, sleep apnea in pregnancy may have complications including preeclampsia and low birth weight. And less sleep at night may be associated with longer labors and a higher potential for surgical delivery.

How to Sleep Better While Pregnant

Pregnant sleep isn't always easy, but there are ways to improve the quality of your sleep.

  • Make sleep your most important task of the day. Don't make sleep an afterthought; it's a priority. Plan your schedule around your sleep needs, counting the hours backwards from when you need to wake up each day. You should try to get at least eight hours of sleep each night, but you may need more when you're pregnant. Consider letting go of commitments and activities that might interfere with your ability to get the rest you need.

  • Take naps, but be careful. When you're pregnant, your sleep needs are greater. And if you're not sleeping well at night, you'll have to make up the time elsewhere. If you're feeling tired during the day, try to make time for a nap. It doesn't have to be (and actually, shouldn't be) a two hour rest. In fact, a quick 20 minute shut eye is best, helping you catch up on sleep and feel refreshed. But avoid napping late in the day, and avoid long naps, as these can interfere with nighttime sleep.

  • Work on comfort. As you go through the physical changes of pregnancy, sleeping comfortably can get more difficult. Consider using a pregnancy pillow, which can support your body and take some of the pressure off as you're trying to sleep.

  • Don't load up on water at night. Drinking enough water in pregnancy is important, but if you're slacking during the day, nighttime is not the time to make it up unless you want to run back and forth between your bed and the bathroom all night. Drink water throughout the day so you can slow down on consumption at night. And it's a good idea to use a soft night light in your bathroom so you don't have to turn on a bright light and wake yourself up even more as you go to the bathroom.

  • Avoid problematic foods. Spicy, acidic, or fried foods may cause heartburn at night. It's a good idea to avoid eating them for dinner, or if you're especially sensitive, avoid eating them in the daytime, too.

  • Manage anxiety around the clock. If you're feeling anxious in pregnancy, make sure you're using relaxation methods to manage it in a healthy way. Use a journal to get anxious thoughts out of your head at night and deal with them in the morning. Practice yoga and meditation, or take a warm bath before bed to help you feel more relaxed.

If you're struggling to sleep well in pregnancy, manage it with healthy sleep habits. Make sleep a priority and recognize that your needs may be greater during this time. Extra sleep, naps, comfort, and relaxation should take priority so you can have healthy sleep and a healthy pregnancy.

Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.