Sleep and Pregnancy

By Clinton Marquardt - Sleep & Fatigue Specialist

October 18, 2007

better sleep, fatigue, insomnia


Did you know? ...... That a newborn baby may spend as much as 16 hours asleep in a 24-hour period?

Pregnancy is a wonderful life event, but like most great accomplishments, it comes with some sacrifice. Sleep and your usual sleep patterns become compromised. In the first stages of pregnancy you’ll probably be able to sleep in the same position with little physical discomfort. But what changes is that you will feel that you just can’t seem to get enough sleep. Daytime sleepiness may even effect your workday.

As you reach the 29th week, sleep problems can become more physical. Increased daytime sleepiness can be caused by a lack of night sleep due to the physical changes in your body.

Women who were back and tummy sleepers will often find it especially hard to get comfortable in the third trimester. Lying on your back is not recommended because of the possibility of reduced oxygen flow to the baby; it may also cause a compression of the vena cava (vein that carries blood from the lower body back to the heart), not to mention the extra pressure on already aching lower backs. Sleeping on your stomach becomes almost impossible when the baby is larger and it can cause excess pressure on the fetus. Generally, it is best to sleep on your side during pregnancy.

The simple fact that you are carrying around extra weight can make you more tired and less comfortable. The baby may also compress your lungs, making it harder to breath. The bladder also gets compressed and will probably wake you a few times in the night. Even the baby’s movements can cause awakenings. Understandably, the anticipation of the big day can make a person nervous and restless too.

The positive side of being at this stage of pregnancy is that you are near its end and the reward will soon arrive. Fortunately, there are a few things one can do to increase the odds of getting a good night’s sleep.

  • Stop drinking a couple of hours before bed and try to empty your bladder right before crawling into bed.
  • Moderate exercise early in the evening (2-3 hours before bed) can help.
  • A hot bath for 40 minutes about one hour before bed can make it easier to fall asleep.
  • To avoid heartburn, don’t eat meals too close to bedtime.
  • Use extra pillows wherever you need support, between the knees for sore hips, under the side of your belly, behind your back – there are even specially contoured pillows for pregnancy. Anti-snoring pillows are often a great help.
  • Relax – do whatever makes you feel good, a warm bath, warm milk, listen to soft music etc.
  • If you just can’t stay asleep don’t force it, try reading for a little while in a chair, not in the bed, and then try again when you feel sleepy.

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