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Sleep problems during pregnancy

Not getting enough sleep in pregnancy can be very upsetting. Worrying about it can make things worse.

As your bump gets bigger, it can be difficult to get a good night's sleep. You might find that lying down is uncomfortable or that you need to pee a lot. Heartburn can also disturb your sleep when you are pregnant.

Feeling tired will not harm you or your baby, but it can make life feel more difficult. This can be especially true in the early days before you tell people about your pregnancy.

How to get more sleep

Try these tips:

  1. Practise 'beditation' – a mixture of meditation and gentle stretches designed to help you drift off.
  2. Sleep on your side - use pillows to support your bump and any aching muscles. Also try sleeping with a pillow between your knees.

Strange dreams during pregnancy

You may have strange dreams or nightmares about babies and childbirth. This is normal.

Talking about them with your partner or midwife can help. Remember, just because you dream something, it does not mean it's going to happen.

Relaxation and breathing techniques can be helpful in reducing any anxiety you feel.

Bump-friendly sleep positions

Sleeping on your side helps keep your baby safe. Research has shown that sleeping on your side during the third semester (weeks 27 to 40) helps to prevent stillbirth.

Do not worry if you wake up on your back. But it's important to fall asleep on your side.

You can try supporting your bump with pillows and putting a pillow between your knees.

Why you should sleep on your side during pregnancy

Insomnia remedies in pregnancy

If you cannot sleep, do not worry - it will not harm your baby. If you can, nap during the day and get some early nights during the week.

Avoid tea, coffee or cola drinks in the evening. Caffeine or energy drinks can make it harder to go to sleep.

Try not to eat your biggest meal of the day late in the evening, especially if you suffer with heartburn.

Try to relax before bedtime so you're not wide awake. Relaxation techniques may also help, ask your midwife for advice. Your antenatal classes may teach you some techniques, or you could use a pregnancy relaxation CD or DVD.

Try and stop using screens one hour before bed. Scientists have found that the blue light from phones, tablets, mobiles and laptops can disrupt your sleep.

Exercise can also help. Go for a walk at lunchtime or for a swim, even if you feel tired during the day.

You could join an antenatal yoga or Pilates class. Make sure the instructor knows you're pregnant.

If lack of sleep is bothering you, talk to your partner, a friend, doctor or midwife.

Read more about preventing insomnia

Medical reasons for insomnia in pregnancy

Sleeplessness can be a sign of depression when it's accompanied by other symptoms.

Other symptoms of depression can include:

  • feeling hopeless
  • losing interest in the things you used to enjoy

If you cannot sleep and have any of these symptoms speak to your doctor or midwife. Mental health problems are common in pregnancy. There are treatments that can help.

Read more about mental health and pregnancy

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP, midwife or obstetrician if:

  • you have high levels of anxiety or if your mood is low

You may need extra support if these feelings continue.

Sleeping tablets and pregnancy

Most sleeping tablets are not safe to take when you are pregnant. And many herbal remedies may not be safe to take either.

Always talk to your GP, midwife or pharmacist before taking any medicine, over the counter preparations or herbal remedies when you are pregnant.

Page last reviewed: 27 October 2021
Next review due: 27 October 2024

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.