A Guide to Better Sleep During Pregnancy

By Kerry Weiss
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
March 01, 2024

For the text version of this infographic on sleeping during pregnancy, read on.

All About Sleep During Pregnancy

Sleep is always important, especially during pregnancy. Good sleep can help you:

  • Regulate your mood
  • Have energy throughout the day
  • Nourish your baby’s development
  • Have enough energy for labor and delivery

A lack of quality sleep during pregnancy can increase your risk of complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. It can also make you more likely to have a long labor or need a cesarean section.

How Much Sleep is Needed During Pregnancy?

Most people 18-64 years old should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Pregnant people tend to need more sleep. Around 8-10 hours of sleep each night is recommended during pregnancy.

You may crave even more sleep in early pregnancy. Changes to your hormones, blood pressure, and blood sugar can make you tired.

What Can Cause Sleep Problems During Pregnancy?

According to a study published in Breathe, more than 83% of pregnant people said they experienced sleep problems by the time they reached 8 months.

Common things that disrupt sleep during pregnancy include:

  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Aches and pains
  • Waking up to use the bathroom
  • Trouble getting comfortable
  • Anxious thoughts
  • Leg cramps or restless legs syndrome
  • Shortness of breath

Sleep troubles can start in the first trimester and persist, or even worsen, in the second and third trimesters.

Your Sleep Position During Pregnancy Matters

When you’re pregnant, it’s important to sleep on your side starting around 20 weeks.

It’s better if you can sleep on your left side during pregnancy as much as possible.

Side sleeping promotes healthy blood flow to your body and your baby. That means you’re getting the oxygen and nutrients needed to stay healthy. Plus, side sleeping also helps reduce swelling in the ankles and legs.

Be Cautious About These Sleeping Positions While Pregnant

There are no wrong sleeping positions during pregnancy, but there are a few that can cause problems. Try to be careful about:

Sleeping on Your Back While Pregnant

After 20 weeks, sleeping on your back can compress two main blood vessels, worsen lower back pain, and increase your risk of breathing problems (like snoring).

Sleeping on Your Stomach While Pregnant

Although it’s fine to sleep on your stomach in early pregnancy, you’ll eventually have to stop for sheer comfort as your belly grows.

Sleeping on Your Right Side While Pregnant

Sleeping on your right side is generally safe for most of pregnancy. Consider rolling to your left side after the 30 week mark, as your baby may start to put pressure on your liver.

Use Pillows to Help You Sleep Comfortably During Pregnancy

Pillows can help you get comfortable and help you sleep on your side if you’re not used to it.

Supporting your body with pillows can help ease some symptoms too. Use pillows you already have at home or try one specially made for pregnancy.

Here are some tips on how to sleep with a pregnancy pillow or a regular pillow:

  • Reduce heartburn or nasal congestion: Try placing pillows under your shoulders and arms so your upper body is at about a 45-degree incline.
  • Ease lower back and hip pain: Try with a pillow under your knees or between them when you’re sleeping on your side. This may help relax and support your back. A small pillow or rolled towel between your knees can also reduce pressure on the hip joint.
  • Decrease pressure on your belly: A pillow under your bump can help support your growing belly. Try a body pillow or turn your existing pillow lengthwise and use it to support your head and torso.

Types of Pregnancy Pillows

You may see these pillows specially designed for pregnant people:

  • Wedge pillow: A pillow with an angled side triangle can be used to incline your upper body or under your bump for added support.
  • Full-body pillow: A body-length pillow can be used for head-to-toe support.
  • Contoured pillow: A curve-shaped pregnancy pillow provides firm support and has an ergonomic shape to help it stay in place. This pregnancy pillow can be placed between the knees while side sleeping.
  • Multi-piece pillow set: Some sets come with four pieces: a back support and belly support joined with velcro coupling, a leg pillow to place between or under the knees and a smaller pillow for placing under the neck or inclining the upper body.

8 Daytime Habits to Help You Sleep Better During Pregnancy

1. Skip Afternoon Caffeine While Pregnant

Avoiding caffeine of all forms—including coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate—can help promote nighttime sleepiness.

2. Eat a Smaller Dinner

Eat light in the evening to help you avoid feeling too full at night.

3. Limit Fluids Before Bed While Pregnant

Drinking lots of fluids before bed can lead to having to get up to go to the bathroom at night. Cut back on fluids before bed to reduce nighttime bathroom breaks.

4. Fight Nausea

Keep crackers by your bedside to snack on if nausea keeps you up at night.

5. Exercise in the Morning While Pregnant

Exercising while pregnant is safe, but it’s best to do it earlier in the day to avoid an energy boost before bedtime.

6. Limit Screen Time During Pregnancy

Looking at screens at night can prevent you from falling asleep and result in a poor night's sleep. Turn off all screens at least an hour before bed.

7. De-Stress

Find healthy ways to ease stress during pregnancy. Stress can interfere with your sleep.

8. Take a Childbirth Class

Ease your anxiety about delivering your baby by signing up for a childbirth class. This class can help to ease nerves and prepare you for parenthood.

Taking Naps During Pregnancy

Short naps throughout the day can help you get the rest you need when you’re not sleeping well at night.

Make sure you schedule your naps earlier in the day so you’re still tired at bedtime.

Set a Nighttime Routine to Promote Quality Sleep

Establish a good sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and free of electronics.

Promote relaxation at night by taking a warm bath, listening to calm music, or reading a book before bed.

Set up nightlights in your bedroom and bathroom to keep lighting dim for nighttime bathroom visits.

If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing in another room. Then, go back to bed when you feel tired.

What to Do if Sleep Problems Persist

Talk to your doctor if you have any issue that repeatedly keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep or if you are experiencing fatigue that doesn’t go away.

Don’t take sleep aids without a doctor’s order. This includes over-the-counter and herbal remedies. Some medications are considered safe to take during pregnancy, but it’s always best to check with your doctor first.

Work with your doctor to determine what’s causing your sleep problems during pregnancy and how to handle them.

The goal is to ensure that you’re getting the sleep you need to promote a healthy pregnancy.

For more information about your body and your health during pregnancy, read these articles: