Sleep Patterns During Pregnancy

Sleep Pattern During Pregnancy

After many sleepless nights, and years of hoping and praying, for many women, a positive pregnancy test result comes as an immense relief. The moment brims with joy and overwhelming emotions, as she prepares herself mentally and physically, for a long and demanding journey. In this journey, her body evolves, habits change, and new ones may develop. Once such aspect that dramatically changes during pregnancy is the Sleep Pattern.

In this article we shall read in detail about the varying sleep patterns during pregnancy.


  1. How does pregnancy affect the sleep pattern?
  2. What are the changes encountered in sleep patterns, in each trimester?
  3. What is insomnia during pregnancy?
  4. What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
  5. What are some safe sleeping positions during pregnancy?
  6. What are some tips to sleep better during pregnancy?

How does pregnancy affect the sleep pattern?

Pregnancy is an ever-changing state, where the mother’s body undergoes a multitude of transitions, everyday. It may affect even the most basic aspect of her life, such as sleep. 

Pregnancy can cause irregular sleeping patterns in women. This is majorly due to the influence of hormones such as hormones such as progesterone, oestrogen, cortisol, prolactin, human chorionic gonadotropin and oxytocin, which are increased during pregnancy.

For some women, pregnancy may precipitate sleep problems for the first time in their lives, and for some others who already have sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea or restless leg syndrome, pregnancy may worsen these.  

What are the changes encountered in sleep patterns, in each trimester?

Pregnancy can cause a varied sleep pattern, during each trimester. Most commonly, the sleep pattern changes encountered are as follows:


The first trimester of pregnancy is often associated with increased fatigue and day-time sleepiness. This is especially pronounced in women who are anemic. 

Day-time sleepiness may be associated with the lack of sleep at night. This can be due to a variety of reasons such as:

  • Action of hormones: A higher level of progesterone may hinder sleep during the nights, and may induce day-time sleepiness.
  • Breast tenderness: During the initial stages, the breasts may feel sore and tender. These can interfere with sleeping, as most women find it uncomfortable to sleep in certain positions.
  • Frequent urination: The growing fetus may exert pressure on the urinary bladder which causes an increase in frequency of urination, especially during the nights, which can cause frequent awakening, thereby disrupting sleep.
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Back pain
  • Anxiety

The second trimester is often a more soothing time for the pregnant mother, when much of the issues encountered in the first trimester gradually disappear. During this period, the sleep patterns generally improve, which may be owed to a number of reasons such as cessation of morning sickness and frequent urination.

Many women have increased energy and improved mood during this time.

However, towards the end of the second trimester, Braxton-hicks contractions, fetal movements, snoring, heartburn etc. may arise, which may deter nighttime sleep.


Sleep patterns may become the most agitated during the third trimester. Women are more restless and disturbed due to irregular and inadequate sleep. They often wake up multiple times during the night, which may cause an irritable mood the following day as well.

Some of the reasons for disturbed sleep during the third trimester are:

  • Itching
  • Leg cramps
  • Frequent urination
  • Heartburn
  • Forced body position in bed
  • Back pain
  • Joint pain
  • Numbness in the hands (carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Breast tenderness
  • Anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares

All of these problems may lead to a loss of sleep, and an increase in daytime sleepiness. Finding a comfortable sleeping position may be a task and one may need to use pillows to provide more lumbar support to reduce back pain. In addition, the incidence of sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome increases.

What is insomnia during pregnancy?

Insomnia is a condition characterised by an inability or difficulty to fall asleep, stay asleep or both. It is often experienced during pregnancy, most commonly in the first and third trimesters.

The causes for this include anxiety, nausea, back pain, leg cramps, frequent urination, and shortness of breath.

What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is an uncontrollable need to move the leg while sleeping or resting. It may be experienced as a burning, itching or crawling sensation in the foot, upper leg and calf. Movement of the legs usually causes it to subside, but it may result in frequent awakening during sleep. 

An estimated of 15% women suffer from this during pregnancy.

Reduction of caffeine intake, regular exercise, avoiding trigger foods etc. can contribute to management of RLS.

What are some safe sleeping positions during pregnancy?

Finding a proper sleeping position is significant in all trimesters of pregnancy. Doctors generally recommend sleeping on one’s left side, with the knees flexed to ensure maximum comfort. This posture reduces the workload on the heart, because it reduces fetus’s weight from exerting pressure on the inferior vena cava.

Sleeping on the left side is advised as it prevents the uterus from exerting pressure on the liver. It also improves circulation to the heart, and allows easy flow of blood to the fetus, uterus and kidneys. This helps with the swelling issues of the hands, ankles, and feet.

Additionally,  it also helps in flushing out fluids and waste from the mother’s body.

What are some tips to sleep better during pregnancy?

Even though several factors can deter normal sleep during pregnancy, there are some ways to manage it. These are as follows:

  • Stopping or Cutting down caffeine intake 
  • Staying away from sugar at night
  • Staying hydrated during the day, and tapering off water intake towards the night
  • Regular exercise
  • Consuming dinner early
  • Following a proper bedtime regime
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Using pillows, especially pregnancy-sleeping pillows
  • Considering therapy for anxiety or other stressors

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