pregnant woman sleeping in bed

5 Reasons You're Having Trouble Sleeping During Pregnancy—and How to Fix It

By Carol Caffin
August 25, 2023

Reviewed by Elizabeth Eden, M.D.

Awake again? Pregnant people often have trouble sleeping.

Lack of sleep can leave you drained. And for some pregnant people, it can also lead to health issues.

Studies suggest that too little rest can also increase your chances of:

  • Preterm birth
  • Mood changes
  • Prolonged labor
  • C-section

Here, we’ve made a short list of five reasons you may be having trouble sleeping while pregnant. Each comes with tips to address the problem and help you get better rest.

1. Being Pregnant

The reason you can’t snooze could simply be your pregnancy. After all, there are so many changes taking place in your body.

In one study, 13% of pregnant women reported sleep troubles in their first trimester. And up to 74% had them by week 39.

A few reasons why:

  • Baby kicks
  • Pelvic pain
  • Changing hormones

What You Can Do:

  • Go to bed at a decent hour
  • Go to bed at the same time every night
  • Skip coffee at night
  • Make your bedroom dark
  • Don’t eat large meals at night
  • Avoid screen time in bed
  • Make your room cooler
  • Prop yourself up with pillows

2. Nighttime Bathroom Breaks

Changes to your hormones can make you have to urinate more. You’re also drinking more water now because your body is creating more blood to support your baby. The extra fluids you drink help your kidneys do their job—keeping that new blood well filtered. Plus, your growing uterus puts pressure on your bladder.

This can all lead to more trips to the bathroom, especially in the third trimester.

What You Can Do:

  • Drink lots of water during the morning and afternoon so you can limit drinks after dinner (try to get about eight to 12 glasses total).
  • Limit coffee/tea after 4 p.m.

3. Reflux and Heartburn

As your baby grows, your uterus gets bigger. As a result, your other organs start to get crowded.
Your diaphragm—a thin muscle that separates your lungs from your stomach and intestines—can get pushed up. Plus, hormone changes can slow digestion. All of this can cause stomach acid to back up in the esophagus—the pipe that moves food from your throat to your stomach. This is called acid reflux.

Acid reflux can develop into a more severe condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Both can cause heartburn—a burning feeling in the throat and chest. Heartburn can make it hard to sleep.

What You Can Do:

  • Eat small meals more often
  • Avoid foods that give you heartburn (oranges, chocolate, spicy food, and fast food are common causes of heartburn)
  • Sleep on your left side
  • Prop your head up with pillows as you sleep
  • Ask your doctor about over-the-counter medications that can help

4. Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome is a sleep disorder. It’s common in the third trimester. RLS can feel like:

  • Tingling
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Crawling skin

Symptoms are worse at night and while resting.

What You Can Do:

  • Exercise
  • Get a massage
  • Practice yoga
  • Meditate
  • Get acupuncture
  • Go to therapy
  • Talk to your doctor about what medications can help

5. Breathing Issues

Snoring is common in pregnancy. It often starts in the second trimester. It’s partially caused by the pressure on your organs. Changing hormones are also a factor. You should tell your doctor if you’re snoring more.

Sleep apnea is a condition where your breathing pauses for short periods of time as you sleep. This is more serious than snoring. And it may increase health risks while pregnant. Talk to a doctor if you think you might have it.

What You Can Do:

  • Sleep on your side, not on your back
  • Keep your head raised on pillows
  • Use a nasal strip to open the airways
  • Try a warm-mist humidifier
  • Ask your doctor about a CPAP machine
  • Eat healthy foods and exercise during the day

Experts we spoke with for this article:

Raquel Dardik, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Associates in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Stephen Bacak, D.O., a board-certified ob-gyn and the director of maternal-fetal medicine at Cleveland Clinic Akron General.