How Pregnancy Affects Sleep and What You Can do About it

By Stepheny Jonson | Published 3/24/2019 0

Photo Source: Shutterstock

Pregnancy is a taxing time for a woman. All that energy you get from food is being used to sustain the unborn life inside you. As a result, pregnant women feel tired all the time. Unfortunately, it is surprising how despite feeling this way, sleep doesn’t come easily to pregnant women.

Luckily, with a bit of understanding of the types of changes you will go through each trimester, and the reasons for these changes, it is possible to find a solution to your sleep woes. Read on to find out!

Pregnancy-Related Lethargy

First, let’s tackle why you might be feeling more tired than usual. Researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint what exactly causes pregnant women to feel this way. There might be several reasons to explain why this happens:

Hormonal Changes
An increase in progesterone levels will cause you to feel more relaxed and slow you down.

Physiological Changes
During pregnancy such as the growth of the uterus, weight gain, bloating etc. The body is being pushed harder to keep up with the increased demand for energy and blood flow by the fetus.

Emotional Changes
You might feel extra worried about the health and wellbeing of your baby. This increased level of anxiety can be energy draining.

What Causes Insomnia During Pregnancy?

The last thing you would expect to have when you are tired all the time is insomnia. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to suffer from this when you are pregnant.

This section describes some of the reasons for your insomnia by stage of pregnancy:

During First Trimester

The first stage of pregnancy is a period of rapid changes in your body.  A variety of physiological and hormonal alterations are taking place. You may begin to notice the following symptoms and feel more drained due to poorer sleep quality.

Frequent Urination
Since you are in your first trimester, your baby is still very small. However, your uterus is growing to accommodate the developing fetus. This increase in the size of your uterus puts pressure on the bladder.

Moreover, throughout pregnancy, blood volume keeps increasing until it is 50% greater than usual. This massive increase means that the kidneys process more body fluids. Hence, more urine is produced.

Unfortunately, the combined effect of these changes leads to frequent urination which can ruin a good night’s sleep.

Morning Sickness
Another reason for insomnia might be due to sudden attacks from morning sickness. Researchers are unsure why pregnant women suffer from this condition. A popular theory states that it may be a reaction to increased levels of hCG hormone in the body.

Breast Sensitivity
Women find that breasts are more sensitive during pregnancy. Unfortunately, it can be painful to sleep in your favorite positions such as lying on your stomach or sides if you have breast tenderness.

The culprits behind this are the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This hormone duo causes breasts to begin growing larger. To facilitate growth, fat deposition, and blood flow to the area increases which results in increased sensitivity.

Higher Body Temperature
Metabolic rate increases to provide the body’s greater need for energy during pregnancy. Unfortunately, this means you will begin to feel warmer than usual.

To combat a high body temperature, try using a ceiling fan in your room. It will keep you cool as well as drown out any background noises that disturb sleep.

Pregnant women might realize that they have suddenly begun to snore. This is because pregnancy hormones cause mucous membranes to swell resulting in nasal congestion. This is exacerbated by lying down. If you are an obese or overweight woman, the extra tissues in your head and neck can worsen snoring.

During the Second Trimester

Unlike the first trimester where your body undergoes rapid change, the situation is very different during the second trimester. This is the period in your pregnancy when you will be most well rested.

The reason for this is that your body isn’t changing quite as fast. Unfortunately, there are still some interruptions.

Restless legs
During the second trimester, you might experience a sensation that feels like tiny insects crawling inside your leg. The only relief is moving your legs until this feeling goes away. This condition is called restless leg syndrome.

It begins during the evening hours of the second trimester but gradually worsens as you approach the third trimester. The exact cause of restless leg syndrome in pregnancy is unknown, but imbalances in brain dopamine, deficiencies of folate or iron, and rising estrogen levels have all been suggested as causes.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
As your pregnancy progresses, your uterus grows bigger and heavier. When lying down at night, the heavy uterus puts pressure on the stomach forcing food up the esophagus. There is a valve in your esophagus that prevents digested food from coming back up.

Progesterone causes this valve to relax. Hence, food mixed with stomach acid travels up the esophagus and causes a painful burning sensation. This is called gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Sleep on your left side with your knees bent reduces the risk of a heartburn attack at night. Alternatively, you can sleep in a sitting up position with your back propped up by a stack of pillows for support.

Vivid Dreams
Pregnancy is an emotional rollercoaster ride for women. You might spend most of it constantly worrying about the health of your baby. This anxiety can translate into your sleep and lead to bizarre dreams.

Furthermore, if you wake up in the middle of a REM stage, you can vividly recall what you saw in your dreams.

During the Third Trimester

The last stage of your pregnancy is the most difficult. Sadly, you will suffer from the poorest quality of sleep because it is harder to fall asleep. You may also be awakened by numerous interruptions during this time.

Back Pain
You are heaviest during your third trimester. Throughout your pregnancy, you will gain 25-35 pounds. Your uterus will grow to almost full size by now. Thus, there is a lot of strain on the spine which has to support all this extra weight.

To make things worse, your body produces a hormone called relaxin which loosens ligaments to prepare your body for labor. This hormone loosens spinal ligaments making it more difficult for the spine to carry the burden placed on it.  This eventually culminates in back pain which might keep you up at night.

Increased Snoring
The weight gain from pregnancy worsens nasal congestion which leads to increased snoring. According to a study, mothers who snore are at high risk of developing pregnancy-related high blood pressure than mothers who do not.

Tips on How You Can Get a Decent Night’s Rest

Although your quality of sleep will suffer during pregnancy, you can reduce the frequency of interruptions and catch some z’s by following the tips below:

Schedule Your Sleep Sessions
A night full of running to the bathroom and waking up from bizarre dreams will certainly leave you exhausted by the morning. Many times through the day you may want to ditch the chores and have a lie in.

Well, seize the opportunity for a little nap whenever you want! Take as many naps as you need especially when you are running low on energy.

Experts advise avoiding the use of sleeping pills including ones which contain melatonin, during pregnancy.

Don’t Drink Fluids Right Before Bedtime
Stay hydrated during pregnancy to keep constipation and bloating at bay. However, you may want to reduce water consumption from the evenings up until bedtime. And, lay off caffeine which worsens insomnia.

Keep a Packet of Saltines or Dry Cereal on Hand
Keeping a packet of saltine or dry cereal on your nightstand will help you fight against morning sickness. Simply, pop in a cracker whenever you begin feeling queasy to ease nausea.

Use Pregnancy Pillows
When pregnant, you may have had to forsake your favorite sleep position to reduce any discomfort due to your changing body. Fortunately, pregnancy pillows come in a variety of shapes for all your support needs.

These pillows support the head, chest, back, and knees to help ease body pains and allow you to assume any sleep position you want.

Eat Healthily
If you suffer from heartburn, fatty food should be completely off limits. Consuming fat and oil-rich food causes the stomach to produce more acids and aggravates the digestive system. Eat a balanced diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables.

Moreover, eating a healthy diet during pregnancy is vital to having a healthy baby. Maternal nutrition influences the nutritional habits of the fetus for the rest of its life.

Furthermore, the baby’s predisposition to certain illnesses and its birth weight and development depend on the kind of nutrition it receives from its mother.

Exercise in the Mornings
Exercising during pregnancy improves your moods, increases your stamina for labor, reduces backaches and makes you more energetic. When you exercise in the mornings, it stimulates your body to produce melatonin earlier in the evening which positively affects sleep and improves your sleep rhythm.

Related article: Exercise and sleep quality

Related article: Three best pregnancy workouts

Make Your Bedroom More Comfortable
Use night lights to provide illumination whenever you need to go to the bathroom at night without turning the lights on and ruining your chances of getting any sleep. Keep your room dark and cool to make it an optimum environment to sleep in.

Practice Self-Soothing
If you have trouble falling asleep, don’t just lie in bed fretting. Get up, read a book or do something else. Distracting yourself will ease any tensions. You can also try meditating or relaxation exercises to soothe yourself.

The bottom line

As a pregnant woman, you may feel exhausted and have trouble sleeping a lot of the time. Although poor sleep quality is one of the side effects of pregnancy, you don’t have to spend the entirety of your pregnancy being chronically tired.

Following the above advice will help you stay well rested during pregnancy. However, if lethargy persists or worsens, consult a doctor.

Stepheny Jonson


Stepheny Jonson is a content writer at FeedFond. She’s a loving mother to her two children and is passionate about psychology and philosophy. Being a full time working mom she loves to share her experiences related to pregnancy, kids, and parenting with her audience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comment will held for moderation