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Alleviating Sleep Issues During Pregnancy

“Make sure to get lots of sleep now before the baby comes!”

What expectant mother hasn’t heard this? You might think, “If only I could! My back hurts, I have heartburn, my legs keep cramping…” The list goes on.

According to this study on insomnia during pregnancy, 78% of women experience at least some difficulty sleeping, whether it is for a short or extended amount of time during their pregnancy. Your body is going through so many physical changes, and your pregnancy brain is probably not helping. It’s no wonder you’re having a difficult time sleeping.

Sleep Issues During Pregnancy are Common

One of the biggest questions you might ask yourself with this lack of sleep is, “Is this normal?” The likely answer is “yes.” Sleep issues that are common for pregnant women include heartburn, discomfort, bladder fullness, sleep apnea, and leg cramps or restless legs. Let’s take a closer look at why these happen and what to do about them. 

Frequent Need to Use the Restroom

This issue is typically prominent during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy. Your higher levels of HCG (the pregnancy hormone) can have you doing frequent runs to the restroom day and night. Your kidneys also happen to be filtering up to 50% more blood than usual, which means more urine and that you’re basically peeing for two people.

During your third trimester, the need to urinate tends to increase thanks to your growing uterus pressing down on your bladder. If baby decides to give you a swift kick in that direction too, well… that’s nobody’s favorite feeling.

Our tips to help minimize trips to the bathroom:

  • Drink lots of liquids throughout the day so you stay hydrated, and then decrease your intake near bedtime.
  • Leave a nightlight in the bathroom to guide you, and avoid turning on the overhead lights. Overhead lights can contribute to waking your body up and making it difficult to fall back asleep.

Discomfort or Difficulty Finding a Good Sleeping Position

What once was your go-to sleeping position may not be so during your second and third trimester. Side sleeping may end up being the most comfortable, but even then some women keep a pillow between their knees to take pressure off their pelvis. What about sleeping on your back? The good news is that there is no evidence that back sleeping is harmful for you or your baby, despite what you may have read elsewhere. However, as your baby bump gets bigger, this option may become more and more uncomfortable.

Our tips to minimize general discomfort while sleeping:

  • Side sleeping may work the best
  • Try putting pillows between your knees, behind your back, or under your abdomen. Wherever they can help relieve pressure, put ’em there! Pregnancy pillows are a favorite for a reason.


Insomnia can hit any point during your pregnancy. Thanks to changing hormones, changing physique, anxiety, and discomfort, sleeping can be a lot more difficult than normal.

Our tips to help minimize insomnia during pregnancy:

  • Try to get yourself on a routine to wind-down every night. Even just having a routine for this can calm your mind and body and prepare it for sleep.
  • Stay away from screens an hour or more before you plan on sleeping. This is a good tip even if you aren’t pregnant, but trust us when we say it can help your brain relax!
  • If you’ve done all you can, talk to your doctor and see if they have suggestions or can prescribe you something to help you sleep that is safe for your baby.

Heartburn at Night

Heartburn is another dreaded issue that can happen anytime during pregnancy and can affect your sleep. It tends to flare up more at night because you’re lying down. Pregnancy hormones tend to relax your esophagus, causing it to not keep stomach acid down as well as usual. Many women express feeling an increase in heartburn during the last trimester because their baby bump is pushing up on their stomach.

Our tips to help minimize heartburn during pregnancy:

  • Avoid spicy, acidic or greasy foods. We know you might be craving these things more than normal, so if you just can’t give those up, then we recommend avoiding them before bed.
  • Eat dinner at least two hours before you know you’ll be going to bed.
  • Try propping your head up with a couple of pillows (taking care not to hurt your neck with a bad angle).
  • Take medications such as Tums or Rolaids, but only if your doctor has given you the OK to do so.

Leg Cramps

These painful spasms in your calves are pretty common during the second half of pregnancy. Although you can feel them during the day, they tend to be a lot more common at night, making it difficult to sleep.

Our tips to reduce or relieve leg cramps during pregnancy:

  • Talk to your doctor about your calcium and magnesium levels. It could be that you’re low, and upping your intake could help reduce your chance of having leg cramps.
  • Drink plenty of water, as cramping can be a sign that you’re not hydrated enough.
  • If you get a cramp, slowly straighten your leg and then gently flex your foot toward your body and without pointing your toes.
  • If the cramps are severe and persistent, talk to your doctor to ensure you don’t have a blood clot.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Leg Syndrome is typically experienced during the third-trimester of pregnancy by an estimated 15% of women. If you have RLS, you’ll notice your legs feel uncomfortable, are tingling, or have a crawling sensation, making you have the urge to keep moving them.

Our tips to relieve restless leg syndrome during pregnancy:

  • Get your iron levels checked, as anemia can be a contributor to RLS. It could be that your iron levels are low and you need to start taking supplements.
  • Get your daily exercise in, including relaxation exercises and techniques to calm your body.
  • Try applying hot or cold packs before bed.

Sleep Apnea and Snoring

A stuffy nose or the extra pregnancy weight you’ve gained can make snoring or sleep apnea worse during pregnancy. If you are experiencing sleep apnea (brief moments of no breathing), talk to your doctor, as this could indicate high blood pressure or gestational diabetes.

Our tips to reduce snoring during pregnancy:

  • Prop your head up with pillows to keep your airways open
  • Sleep with a nasal strip
  • Keep a humidifier running during the night

Talk to Your Doctor About Sleep Issues During Your Pregnancy

If you’re struggling to sleep at night and just aren’t sure what else to do, schedule an appointment with us, and we’ll sit down with you to discuss your options and try to help get you the relief you need so that you can be well-rested!

Learn more about Pregnancy Health