How sleep changes during pregnancy and how to cope


Just like running a marathon, experiencing the changes in feelings as you go through pregnancy, is similar to running the most challenging race of your life! There’s also something else that you are doing while you’re pregnant; sleeping for two.

Whether you are a peak-performance athlete or a mum-to-be, sleep is absolutely vital to get right, and when you think about how pregnancy can expressively reshape the sleep architecture of expecting mothers, quality is of the utmost importance.

Regardless of it’s the first, second, or third trimester, that you are in, pregnancy can have strong effects on your ability to get sound slumber.

What Are the Effects of Pregnancy on Sleep?

This is a broad topic and changes are aplenty. Pregnancy brings with it, changes in quality, quantity, and the very nature of sleep. You might find that you don’t experience massive changes, while others pregnant mums can feel the full sway of the changes.

Sleep changes can first appear in life during pregnancy and then increase in their frequency and duration as the pregnancy develops. Standout changes include increased night-time awakenings, particularly as part of the third trimester.

What’s more, psychological variations, hormone changes and possibly physical discomfort can all have a defined impact on sleep and lead to feelings of fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness.

How Do Hormones Change Sleep During Pregnancy?

Ask any woman who has been pregnant before, and you’ll get the same answer; dramatic hormonal changes come as standard when you’re pregnant! These alterations affect a host of ways in which the body and brain function. From mood to physical appearance, and metabolism, there are changes in copiously amounts.

It’s worth noting that the hormone changes can change the pattern of your sleep, which can take some getting used to.

The hormone progesterone, which is released via the ovary, acts to relax smooth muscle and has been known to cause pregnant mothers to experience increased trips to the toilet, feel heartburn and also get nasal congestion.

All of the above can be a sleep inhibitor, and the hormone also lowers wakefulness during the night and decreases the volume of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – which is vital for the restorative purposes.

A more likely hormone you’ve heard of is estrogen. In pregnancy, it can have an effect on sleep if it causes the blood vessels to enlarge through vasodilation. You might find that your feet and legs swell, and increased congestion of the nose can also occur along with interfered breathing during sleep.

Research has highlighted that melatonin levels are greater during pregnancy, and amplified levels of prolactin in the body can cause increased slow-wave sleep, which isn’t a desired change in your rest.

Trimester Changes in Sleep Patterns During Pregnancy

Here are some changes that experts have found occur during the specific trimesters of pregnancy:

  • First Trimester: This is the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and when you get to roughly week 10, your overall sleep time increases at night and you’ll require more daytime naps. However, sleep loses its efficiency and waking up frequently can come into play.
  • Second Trimester: Between 13-28 weeks, sleep generally improves and you’ll spend less time awake once you’ve taken yourself to bed each evening. However, when you reach the end of the second trimester, the amount of time you wake up in the night ramps up again.
  • Third Trimester: From 29 weeks to term, night-time awakenings up in frequency and being awake more during the night is common. Naps during the day are more prevalent, which causes sleep efficiency to be reduced. You can experience lighter sleeping once you do drift off too.

Tips for Coping with Sleep Changes in Pregnancy

Here are some of the best ways to deal with the changes you are going to experience when pregnant:

  • Pillows: Not only can you get beds specific for pregnancy, but you can also add pillows to the equation to support your tummy and back. Place a pillow between your legs to help support the lower back, create a more natural posture and increase the comfort of side sleeping.
  • Relaxation: Following some basic relaxation techniques can assist in calming your mind and unwind tense muscles. You can turn to yoga, stretching, massage, deep breathing and even a simple warm bath or shower before bed to help.
  • Exercise: maintaining regular physical exercise during pregnancy not only promotes physical health, but also mental well-being. Exercise is proven to help with a higher quality of sleep too. Brisk walks, yoga, and stationary cycling are all great examples.
  • Nutrition: Bananas, which contain tryptophan and a wonderful store of magnesium, help with sleep. Almonds are another great addition to help with sleep too. You can also turn to kiwis and fatty fish to assist with sleep.

Chamomile or passionflower tea will help to relax your mind and send you into a sound slumber too.

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