Sleep Disorders: Sleep During Pregnancy

Last Editorial Review: 6/20/2005
The Cleveland Clinic

The hormonal changes and physical discomforts associated with pregnancy can affect a pregnant womans quality of sleep . Each trimester of pregnancy brings its own unique sleep challenges. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the following are the most common sleep changes that may occur in each trimester:

First Trimester

  • Frequent waking due to an increased need to go to the bathroom.
  • Disruptions in sleep as a result of physical and emotional stress associated with pregnancy.
  • Increased daytime sleepiness.

Second Trimester

Sleep during the second trimester improves for many women since nighttime urination becomes less of an issue as the growing fetus reduces pressure on the bladder by moving above it. Still the quality of sleep may remain poor as a result of the growing baby and emotional stress associated with pregnancy.

Third Trimester

You are likely to experience the most sleep problems during this trimester as a result of the following:

  • Discomfort due to your growing belly.
  • Heartburn, leg cramps, and sinus congestion
  • Frequent nighttime urination returns, as the baby's position changes to put pressure on the bladder once again.

Tips for Sound Sleep

If your sleep disturbances are severe, talk to your doctor. There are steps you can take that may improve your sleep quality. One or more of the following may help you get the sleep you need during pregnancy.

  • Extra pillows: Pillows can be used to support both the tummy and back. A pillow between the legs can help support the lower back and make sleeping on your side easier. Some specific types of pillows include the wedge-shaped pillow and the full-length body pillow.
  • Nutrition: Drinking a glass of warm milk may help bring on sleep. Foods high in carbohydrates, such as bread or crackers, can promote sleep. In addition, a snack high in protein can keep blood sugar levels up and could help prevent bad dreams, headaches, and hot flashes.
  • Relaxation techniques: Relaxation can help calm your mind and relax your muscles. These techniques include stretching and yoga, massage and deep breathing.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise during pregnancy promotes physical and mental health. Exercise also can aid in helping you sleep more deeply. However, vigorous exercise within four hours of bedtime should be avoided.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications: Ideally, all medications (including over-the-counter medications) should be avoided during pregnancy. Some medicines can hurt the developing baby. However, there are some medications that are considered safe to take during pregnancy and that might help you sleep better. Always talk to your doctor first before taking any kinds of medications including alternative therapies.

Reviewed by The Sleep Medicine Center at The Cleveland Clinic.

Edited by Michael J. Breus, PhD, WebMD, September 2004.

Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005


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