How to Sleep When Pregnant: Your Guide to Good Sleep for Each Trimester

Pregnancy sleep

About half of expectant mothers have difficulty sleeping, especially during the last six months of pregnancy. Even if you have never had a problem sleeping before, you may find that your usual sleeping positions are no longer comfortable. Learn what steps to take to improve your sleep.

The first trimester

It can be difficult to get a good night's sleep during the first trimester of pregnancy due to increased progesterone levels, discomfort from body changes, nausea, backaches, and frequent urination. The best sleeping position during this time is to sleep on your side, specifically on your left side as it increases blood flow and nutrients to your baby. Laying on your stomach and sleeping on your back are not recommended as they can cause lower back pain, strain neck muscles, and reduce blood flow to the fetus, leading to dizziness and nausea.

To promote a good night's sleep during the first trimester of pregnancy, you can follow these tips:

  • Make sleep a priority and schedule it in your routine
  • Try to nap during the day when you feel tired
  • Drink enough fluids during the day, but avoid consuming them close to bedtime
  • Eat bland foods such as the BRATT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast and tea) to prevent nausea
  • Start sleeping on your side, as it will be beneficial later in the pregnancy
  • Use a night-light to make it easy to go back to sleep after getting up to use the bathroom

The second trimester

During the second trimester of pregnancy, you may still experience sleep issues despite feeling a little more comfortable. The best sleeping position during this time is to sleep on your side, specifically on your left side, as it promotes kidney function and nourishes the placenta. To increase comfort, place a pillow between your legs and bend at the knees. If you have back pain, try placing a pillow under your back and abdomen to alleviate pressure. If you wake up on your right side or back, there is no need to worry as it is not likely to cause any harm to your baby, simply readjust and go back to sleep.

Some tips to help you sleep better during the second trimester:

  • Eat small meals regularly throughout the day
  • Avoid foods that can cause heartburn, such as fried, acidic, or spicy foods, especially close to bedtime. Using a pregnancy support pillow that elevates your upper body can also help.
  • Engage in regular exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, unless advised otherwise by your doctor
  • Participate in relaxing activities such as listening to music or taking warm showers before bed.
  • Establish a bedtime routine and stick to it
  • Get enough sleep, 8 hours a night is recommended during this trimester
  • Turn off electronic devices such as TV, phone and other screens 1 to 2 hours before sleep
  • If nightmares are affecting your sleep, consider speaking with a therapist.

The third trimester

During the third trimester of pregnancy, it can be difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep in due to the size of the baby bump. The best position is to sleep on the left side, however, it's also okay to sleep on the right side if it feels more comfortable. To increase comfort, a pillow should be placed under the baby bump and between the knees, specifically for support around the hips and pelvis. There are various factors that can disturb sleep during the third trimester such as discomfort, muscle aches, back pain, frequent urination, snoring due to nasal congestion, cramps and restless leg syndrome, vivid dreams, movement from the baby, itchy skin, and heartburn.

To ensure restful sleep during the final months of pregnancy, it is important to adopt certain healthy habits such as avoiding sleeping on your back, using a pregnancy support pillow, stretching your leg and flexing your foot upwards when experiencing leg cramps, avoiding carbonated beverages, and using techniques to combat insomnia such as reading a good book, taking a warm shower, or journaling.

Can lack of sleep affect your baby?

Not getting enough sleep will not harm your baby, but it can increase your risk of needing a C-section due to stress and exhaustion. Therefore, it is important to prioritize good sleep during pregnancy.