Healthy Sleep During Pregnancy Is Good for Mom (and Baby)

Pregnant woman sleeping in bed.

It’s crucial to sleep well during pregnancy — but like many women, you may face obstacles to getting enough zzz’s.

In addition to adapting to physical and mental changes, pregnant women may also have to cope with new sleep challenges each trimester. Disrupted or inadequate sleep can complicate delivery and affect the health of mom and her unborn baby.

Too little or too much sleep is also associated with heart disease, studies show. That’s why the American Heart Association recommends adults aim for an average 7-9 hours each night to promote healing, improve brain function and reduce risk for chronic diseases.

There’s no specific recommendation on sleep duration for pregnant women, and every woman — and every pregnancy — is unique. So be sure to discuss your pregnancy-related sleep issues or concerns with a health care professional who can create a personalized treatment plan and screen for sleep disorders to rule out more serious conditions.

Sleep problems during pregnancy

Pregnant women may have to deal with inadequate sleep and multiple sleep disturbances, including:

  • Anxiety and worry
  • Pain or discomfort, such as a backache or feeling the baby move
  • Indigestion, heartburn or nausea
  • Leg cramping and restless legs syndrome (an uncomfortable urge to move the legs)
  • Uncomfortable or limited sleep positions
  • Frequent urination

Ways to improve sleep during pregnancy

Before you tuck yourself into bed, apply a few sleeping basics so you (and baby) get some well-deserved rest.

  • First, know that what works this week may not work next week depending on how your body changes and grows during pregnancy.
  • One way to find a comfortable sleep position is to use pillows between your knees and under the belly to support the body. Also, try bending the knees to take pressure off the lower back.
  • Typically, pregnant women are advised to sleep on their left side. But some movement during the night is to be expected. By the third trimester, women are advised not to sleep on their backs. Elevating the upper body while sleeping may help avoid heartburn.
  • Making changes to what and when you eat and drink may lessen sleep disruptions. Eat small meals throughout the day and stop eating or drinking a few hours before bedtime. Avoid consuming anything that triggers indigestion and heartburn, including citrus, spicy or fatty foods. Don’t lie down right after you eat.

Other tips

  • Do safe prenatal exercises such as brisk walking during the day. Even gentle movement, such as yoga, can help relax the body and relieve stress.
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule as much as possible. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time daily. But pregnant women may need to nap during the day or need more sleep at night. That’s OK! Follow what your body needs.
  • Take breathing problems seriously. Snoring and obstructed breathing increases during pregnancy. Discuss all breathing problems during sleep with a health care professional.
  • Have a calm nighttime routine to manage stress.
  • Limit screen time and bright lights before sleeping and don’t keep cell phones near the bed to avoid disruptions.
  • Keep the bedroom dark and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Avoid taking sleep medications or supplements, unless prescribed by a health care professional.