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Pregnancy Insomnia: What It Is and How to Beat It


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Pregnancy may not be an easy ride for many mothers. The increase of pregnancy hormones may take many mothers on a roller coaster ride with pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness, weakness, and frequent visits to the loo that can keep the would-be mother awake all night. 

In the later pregnancy, baby kicks and heartburn are common pregnancy symptoms that can keep one awake during pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 78% of women experience insomnia during pregnancy. 

According to the National Health Society (NHS), UK, tiredness, strange dreams, and uncomforting sleep positions can also cause pregnancy insomnia. This article explores what causes insomnia in pregnancy and how to deal with pregnancy insomnia. 

What is Insomnia?

Mayo health clinic defines insomnia as “Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep.” One may feel tired when they wake up. 

Sleep requirements differ from one person to another. But, many people suffer from insufficient sleep- chronic (long-term) or short-lived insomnia. Stress, medical conditions, and medications are also linked to sleeplessness or insomnia. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep,
  • Staying awake all night, 
  • Waking up very early,
  • Tired and sleep during the day,
  • Depression, irritability, or anxiety due to sleeplessness, 
  • Concentration issues, difficulty while focusing on tasks,
  • Stress and feeling of restlessness even after a night’s sleep. 

What causes Insomnia during pregnancy?

Difficulty in sleeping during early pregnancy is often attributed to hormonal fluctuations and morning sickness- nausea and vomiting. However, in later pregnancy periods, sleep disturbances are majorly due to uncomfortable sleep positions or anxiety. Pregnancy insomnia can happen anytime during pregnancy but is mostly experienced by women in the latter half of the pregnancy. Some of the reasons causing sleep troubles in pregnancy include:  

  • Increase in pregnancy hormones- Progesterone and oestrogen spikes,
  • Improper sleep positions causing sleep discomfort,
  • Back pain,
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom,
  • Vivid nightmares or dreams,
  • Indigestion,
  • Heartburn,
  • Nausea and vomiting,
  • Anxiety,
  • Stress and depression. 

The biological causes, such as changing body and fluctuating hormones cannot be changed or solved. However, maintaining good sleep hygiene and a proper sleep routine can help regularise sleep during pregnancy. An active routine with exercise and a healthy lifestyle also helps catch up with a good night’s sleep. 

How to treat Insomnia in Pregnancy?

Trouble sleeping is very common among pregnant women. Changeable causes of pregnancy insomnia are mood fluctuations, anxiety issues, and improper sleep positions. Early interventions to treat insomnia during pregnancy is essential to prevent adverse pregnancy outcomes. 

Improving sleep hygiene and following a proper sleep routine are some ways to cope with pregnancy insomnia. Here are some tips on how to deal with insomnia during pregnancy. 

Indulge in relaxing activities while sleeping 

Sleeping troubles are majorly contributed to discomfort. Relaxing before sleeping with activities like reading a book, penning down your thoughts/ events, listening to music, or even a massage can help transcend into quality sleep. For heartburn, backaches, and restless leg syndrome, try out techniques like breathing exercises, and Epsom salt baths that can help soothe the sore muscles and painful back. 

Have a comfortable sleep setting

Timing and temperature are crucial when maintaining a regular sleep routine. The body temperature indicates sleep time and controls the circadian rhythm. And so, a warm water bath an hour before sleep can ease sleeping difficulties. Showers or warm water baths work by establishing the body’s natural thermoregulation process and aid in sleeping better.  

Exercise regularly during the day

An active routine with moderately intense exercise can optimise your weight and help with good sleep while pregnant. An active day can tone your body towards catching a good night’s sleep. Pregnancy exercises, such as Kegels, walking, and yoga, can also improve your sleep during the night. However, exercises and yoga must be practised after a doctor’s recommendation and with the help of expert guidance.  

Plan your naps Strategically

Pregnancy requires enough energy and nutrients that can often make you fatigued. Also, as the placenta grows, pregnant women tend to have naps during the day. Taking a short nap during the day can be helpful. However, napping too long or too late in the day can ruin your night’s sleep, making it harder to sleep during the night. Napping strategically is required to ensure it does not cause disturbed sleep or difficulty in sleeping. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy can help 

Try cognitive behavioural therapy if experiencing pregnancy insomnia. According to research, cognitive behavioural therapy in women with pregnancy insomnia has shown improved sleep quality. The therapy averts negative thoughts and behaviours that aggravate insomnia by replacing positive thoughts and behavioural patterns. It counters the underlying insomnia causes like anxiety, depression, and stress while improving sleep within four to six sessions of the therapy. 

Consider changing sleep positions

With growing baby bumps, uncomforting sleep positions also impact sleep. Sleeping on the back is not an ideal position during pregnancy. Sleeping on the sides, particularly on the left side, can help alleviate insomnia. Our stomachs are naturally oriented towards the left side. And sleeping on the left side can ease gastrointestinal problem-indigestion and heartburn. This position indeed directs effective digestion. 

However, sleeping in a new position can be difficult. Try using pregnancy/ maternity pillows that can support the back and legs and keep from sleeping on the back. 

Modulate your sleep practices

Practices or habits before sleep make it easier to fall asleep quickly. Unwinding before sleep is essential for the brain to stimulate sleep signals. Changing some routine habits can help sleep better.  

  • Try to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. 
  • Make sure your room is warm, dark, and cosy for a good sleep. 
  • Avoid screen time at least an hour or two before bed. 
  • Avoid caffeine intake before bed. 
  • And limit fluids hours before bedtime. 


Pregnancy insomnia during the first and third trimesters is common and does not imply pregnancy complications. However, lifestyle changes and therapies can help improve sleep and overcome insomnia in pregnancy. Consult your doctors on ways to find solutions for insomnia that can impact your physical and mental health during pregnancy. 


How many hours should a pregnant woman sleep?

The amount of sleep required differs individually. However, as a general guideline, 7 to 9 hours of sleep is recommended for pregnant women. (Note: These numbers can change depending on various factors, including genetics and quality of sleep)

Is insomnia common during pregnancy?

Yes, insomnia during pregnancy is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms. Although a woman can experience insomnia at any stage of her pregnancy, it is more common during the first and last trimester. 

What are the causes of insomnia in the 3rd trimester?

During the third trimester, the baby bump significantly grows while the pregnant mother also increases weight. The weight gain, the pressure of the growing baby, and foetal movements can cause achy muscles and impact blood flow, leading to sleep-disturbing changes in the third trimester.

Somapika Dutta (B.Sc Physiology, Honours)
Somapikar holds Bachelors Degree in Physiology from University of Culcutta. She has 6+ years of experience writing in different niches, including health, tech and lifestyle. An animal enthusiast and a raging foodie, experiencing life - one day at a time.


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