Sleep in pregnancy

Sleep in pregnancy is critical, but it isn’t always easy to come by.  For pregnant women, sleep physically helps your body recover from the hard work of pregnancy.  Equally important is that sleeps helps all expectant parents to maintain your emotional wellbeing and handle the stressors in your life.

Getting enough sleep

Often, however, getting a good night’s rest is easier said than done.  Sleeping well isn’t just as simple as telling your body it’s time to go to sleep.  This is especially so for women during pregnancy when sleep can be disrupted and comfort more difficult to achieve as you or your partner gets bigger.

If you find yourself struggling to get a restful night, the tips below may help you to better prepare your mind and body for sleep.

Strategies to support healthy sleep patterns in pregnancy

Establish a proper sleep environment

Make sure your sleeping area is dark, quiet and comfortable.  Also, make your room cool, if possible, as it is easier to sleep in a cool environment. As your body temperature rises in pregnancy you may need to use fans or air-conditioning.

Establish a proper sleep routine

Get up regularly the same time each morning so that your body can get into a rhythm.

Go to bed only to sleep

Don’t use your bed as a place to do other stimulating activities, such as studying, watching television or surfing the internet.  Also, allow yourself time to wind down before going to bed. Everyone is different, but you may need 30 minutes to 2 hours to wind down so that you can fall asleep within a reasonable timeframe once you are in bed.

Try relaxation techniques

You may find that employing certain relaxation techniques help your body and mind to de-stress and feel calm, which can help you to fall or go back to sleep quicker. Relaxation techniques might include guided muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, and guided mental imagery or visualisation. 

Try multiple pillows

As your pregnancy progresses, you may find it difficult to get in a comfortable position that allows you to get to sleep or stay asleep. You may wish to use multiple pillows in different positions around your stomach, legs and neck to pull your baby away from your diaphragm so you can breathe easily.

Exercise in the late afternoon or early evening

This will help to tire your body and release tension, promoting a relaxing state for your body later in the day, helping you get to sleep sooner and stay in a deep sleep for longer. Exercising in the late afternoon or early evening will also give your body time to cool down before going to bed.

Don’t drink after 6.00pm

This will reduce your need to get up during the evening.  Try making your last drink for the day a warm glass of skim milk.  The lactose in milk helps proteins enter the brain and that can help people fall asleep.  If you develop lactose intolerance, which many women do during pregnancy, you can try soy milk or rice milk.

Avoid alcohol, caffeine or nicotine

These are stimulants which don’t support relaxation.

Go to bed early when you are sleepy

If you do not fall asleep within 15 minutes, get up and go to another room and stay up until you are sleepy.

Lie on your side

You’re not going to lie on your stomach as you enter the second trimester and your belly grows, but you do need to avoid lying flat on your back to prevent the weight of your uterus compressing the blood vessels that are feeding the placenta. Lying on your left side is better than lying on your right side, as this allows more blood to flow to the uterus.  Either side is better than lying on your back, so, if you are not used to lying on your side, try getting used to this in the early months of pregnancy.

Using all or a combination of these strategies can assist greatly in getting a much needed, good night’s sleep.  

Getting help

If you try these strategies but are still having difficulty sleeping, or experiencing other pains that are interfering with your sleep, your doctor may recommend some sleep medications that are safe to use in pregnancy. If you are considering complementary or alternative medicines, such as homeopathic or herbal remedies to help with your sleep, talk with your doctor first as some supplements may have ingredients with unknown effects.

Download the Ready to COPE app to help you cope during pregnancy

Get timely, supportive advice and reassurance throughout your pregnancy and your first year of parenthood.

Download our free app new parents, Ready to COPE, from Google Play or the App store

Get Ready to COPE app

Viewing this on a PC? Scan the QR code with any phone to download Ready to COPE.

Ready to COPE app for mums, dads, partners for pregnancy and early parenthood