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The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide: Sleep Better! Feel Better!

Written by Melissa Robertson

Pregnancy and good sleep don’t often go hand in hand. No matter how tired you may feel (after all you are busy growing a brand new person!) you may still be unable to get adequate rest. Check out our tips and tricks to getting more sleep with a bump. 

While most associate having a newborn with a loss of sleep, the truth is for most women sleep loss begins well before the baby arrives.

A majority of women (66 to 97 percent) of women report sleep disturbances during pregnancy. The sleep issues differ during each trimester and often increase in frequency as the pregnancy progresses.

Research suggests that a lack of sleep during pregnancy can potentially affect more than just our ability to function day to day. According to a study by Science Daily, poor sleep can actually disrupt the immune system and cause birth-related complications, such as lower birth rates. Poor sleep quality has also been associated with longer labours, higher cesarean rates, depression and a higher perception of pain during labour.

So what can expecting mothers do to increase their sleep? After all, there are a number of common complaints that keep expecting women awake at night. Although there are many challenges to overcome to get a good night’s rest, (and the challenges can change each trimester!) PLN decided to get the advice of Jamie Contrini, Sleep Consultant, to help our PLNers get some much-needed sleep.

Adjusting to a new sleep position

One of the first sleep challenges pregnant moms can face is a change in sleep position. While expecting mothers are generally able to sleep on their back for their first trimester, Jamie suggests checking in with your healthcare provider once you get your pregnancy confirmed.

As your pregnancy progresses, mothers are encouraged to sleep on their side. When sleeping on your back you can run the risk of the weight of your uterus and baby putting pressure on one of your major blood vessels, which can disrupt the flow of blood from your heart to your lower body. This can also disrupt the flow of blood to your baby.

The ideal sleep position is on your left side. Placing a pillow between your knees can help to take the pressure off of your back. Some Mamas like a small wedge pillow under the side of their stomach, or the large ‘U’ or ‘S’ shaped pregnancy pillow.

“If you find that you start on your side but end up on your back, don’t panic, just put a small pillow or wedge behind your back to keep you more on your side,” Jamie says.


Heartburn during pregnancy is uncomfortable and can cause sleeplessness. Hormonal changes, as well as pressure on the stomach, cause an increase in the painful burning sensation that women can experience after eating.

There are many steps you can take to reduce heartburn while pregnant. According to


  • Stop smoking during pregnancy
  • Avoid alcohol during pregnancy
  • Eat smaller and more frequent meals
  • Reduce your consumption of fatty, gassy or spicy foods
  • Avoid coffee, chocolate, and curry, which can trigger heartburn
  • Always eat while sitting upright
  • Avoid laying down within two or three hours of eating.

If you are still experiencing the symptoms of heartburn when you are ready for bed, Jamie advises trying elevating your head/upper body. This is where extra pillows come in handy as you support your body on your left side.


Many women suffer from nausea during the first trimester which often tapers off by 12 to 14 weeks of gestation. While there are many things expecting women can do to ease their suffering, if you are unable to keep anything down or becoming dehydrated, you may actually be suffering from Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Women suffering from severe morning sickness or HG should contact their healthcare professional.

You can reduce the symptoms of nausea by:

  • Eating smaller amounts more frequently
  • Avoiding fried foods
  • Drinking lots of water to stay hydrated

Jamie used a unique trick (approved by her doctor) to help her keep her nausea at bay at night and in the morning.

She would keep a meal replacement shake on her bedside table. She would drink half in the middle of the night if she woke up so that when she got up in the morning her stomach was not empty and making her feel more nauseous.

How much sleep do pregnant women need?

Jamie suggests that expecting women should aim for seven to nine hours per night of consolidated sleep.

As proper sleep is so important to the development of your baby and your own health, Jamie suggests that expecting women to start putting their health needs first.

“Rest when you can, and don’t feel bad if you need to cancel plans to take a nap or to go to bed early,” she says. “If you find that napping is interfering with your night sleep, skip the nap and go for a walk instead. Then get to bed a little earlier.”

The Rules for Better Sleep

While pregnancy insomnia isn’t unique, the reason expecting mothers are unable to sleep with vary from woman to woman and trimester to trimester. There are ways you can prepare your body to rest better each night.

Practice a consistent night time routine. By doing the same thing each night, it tells your body that it is time to sleep.

If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do a quiet activity. Don’t stay in bed if you cannot sleep; we do not want you to create a negative association with your bed. After about 15 to 20 minutes, try to go back to bed again.

Stay away from electronics if you wake in the night. That blue light will turn off your melatonin production and tell your body that it is time to be awake.

If you are feeling anxious: Try filling out a journal, confiding in your partner, or downloading a relaxation App to soothe your nerves about becoming a parent.

Keep your room cool and use a fan if you need to.

Dress in layers and opt for 100% cotton sheets and clothing so that your skin can breathe.

Stop drinking three hours before bed. Pregnant mamas have to go to the bathroom often, so having an emptier bladder at bedtime can help to sleep you longer.

Turn off technology (cell phone, tv, computer, and tablet) 60-90 minutes before bed. The blue light emitted from the devices can interrupt your bodies natural sleep rhythms.

Now that you know everything you need to get more shut-eye it’s time to hit the hay and grow that sweet little one! No really, why not share this article to spread the love and a little R.E.M. cycles?

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.