How Sleep Changes During Pregnancy and Its Effect on Health

Last updated: September 5th, 2023

Sleep Changes During Pregnancy

For many women, sleep can be elusive during pregnancy. Physical discomfort, hormone fluctuations, and the excitement and anxiety that come from preparing for a new baby can all lead to a variety of sleep problems. It’s estimated that at least 50 percent of pregnant women experience insomnia. As such, it’s important to understand how sleep can be affected during pregnancy and to develop strategies to help ensure restful nights.

Factors That Affect Sleep During Pregnancy

It starts in the first trimester. Fluctuating hormone levels, especially in progesterone, can disrupt sleep. Progesterone is essential for maintaining a healthy pregnancy, but it can also lead to drowsiness during the day and make it difficult to stay awake at night.

The growing size of a woman’s belly can also lead to physical discomfort at night, making it harder to sleep well in the later stages of pregnancy. But, it’s not just the physical factors that can lead to restless sleep. Psychological changes such as mood swings, anxiety, and fear can also make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.

Why Is Sleep During Pregnancy Crucial?

Sleep is an important part of prenatal care. During sleep, a woman’s body can recover, allowing it to better handle the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy. Without enough quality sleep, a woman’s health can quickly deteriorate.

A lack of sleep can make it difficult to concentrate and to remember important information. It can also make it difficult to regulate emotions and make poor decisions. It also increases stress hormones which, in turn, can increase the risk of gestational diabetes, preterm labor, high-blood pressure, and other complications.

Treatment for Sleep Problems During Pregnancy

These factors can lead to disturbed sleep during pregnancy. To get relief, it’s important to understand and practice healthy sleep habits and to become familiar with the best sleeping positions for pregnant women. Some tips to get better sleep during pregnancy include:

  • Maintain as consistent a sleep schedule as possible, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
  • Improve the quality of the sleep environment, making it dark, cool, and quiet.
  • Eliminate distractions from the bedroom such as TV, laptop or tablet.
  • Do some relaxation exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation or meditate.
  • Find ways to reduce stress and anxiety, such as yoga, massage, or soft music.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods late in the day.
  • Exercise regularly but not right before bedtime.

When possible, it’s best to follow these guidelines at all times during pregnancy. Doing so can help manage the physical and psychological changes that can cause poor sleep.

Sleep Positions During Pregnancy

To optimize health and comfort during pregnancy, it’s important to know the best sleep positions. Generally, it’s best to sleep on your side, preferably your left side. This position allows the best blood flow for you and your baby. This is because the liver is on the right side of the body, and by lying on the left side, the uterus isn’t pressing too much against it. Ideally, the legs should be bent and supported with a pillow.

It’s best to avoid lying on your back for long periods, especially during the second and third trimesters. This position may reduce the quality of blood flow to the placenta and to your baby. It can also put additional pressure on the vena cava, a major vein that runs along the right side of the body and can cause symptoms such as breathing difficulties, a drop in blood pressure, and dizziness.


Sleep is essential during pregnancy, but can be difficult due to physical and psychological changes. To get the best sleep possible, it’s important to understand the factors that can cause sleep disturbances and to practice healthy sleep habits. Additionally, pregnant women should find the best sleeping positions that provide the most comfort, such as sleeping on the left side. Doing so can help improve sleep during the day and night to help ensure the health of both mother and baby.

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