Insomnia during pregnancy

Updated Oct 30, 2023
Insomnia during pregnancy | Huckleberry

You've probably heard from fellow parents-to-be or maybe you're experiencing it firsthand: the notorious struggle to catch some quality zzz's during pregnancy. The truth is that more than half [1] of all pregnant caregivers report difficulty with sleeping.

We all have a sense of what insomnia is – but medically speaking, it's a condition where falling asleep becomes tricky, staying asleep becomes a struggle, or you find yourself waking up too early despite having the chance to sleep more. Insomnia not only affects your nights but also makes it hard to function properly during the day. If these problems occur three or more times a week, then it's worth addressing.

It's also good to know that insomnia has distinct characteristics, and it's important to differentiate it from other sleep issues, which we will discuss further in the article. Read on to learn more about the impact of insomnia, coping strategies, and more.


Causes of insomnia during pregnancy

Coping strategies for insomnia during pregnancy

When to seek medical help

Tips for partners to support sleep


Insomnia during pregnancy FAQ

Alright, let's dive into the culprits behind insomnia during pregnancy. Here are some things that can trigger those sleepless nights:

Studies have shown that many common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are strongly associated with sleep disturbances like insomnia.

Life throws us curveballs, and pregnancy is no exception. With all the excitement and anticipation, it's normal you might experience a bit of stress. Stress sometimes can get worse at night as you lie in bed thinking about things – making it more difficult for you to fall asleep.

Oh, the hormonal rollercoaster of pregnancy! As soon as pregnancy begins, your hormones are affected. While they're working their magic for your little one, they can also stir up some discomfort for you.  An example that happens very early on in the first trimester is nausea and vomiting caused by increased levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) – the hormone that is measured when you take a pregnancy test.

As your baby grows, so does the chorus of aches and pains. Lower back and pelvic pain, round ligament pain can all cause a concert of discomfort. Your body is changing, and unfortunately, it can disrupt your precious sleep.

Let's talk about heartburn, or as we like to call it, "the unwelcome guest at the sleepover." Your stomach decides to release some fiery acids, causing that uncomfortable sensation in your chest. Your growing baby can physically push upward against your stomach, making it difficult to keep things down. Heartburn may get worse at night and interfere with your sleep when you lie flat – so prop yourself up to let gravity help keep the acid down.

Fairly early on in your pregnancy, your body starts to retain fluid. This is a normal thing, meant to protect you when you eventually give birth but can lead to frequent urination. Adding to the challenge of your body retaining fluid, the expanding size of your baby adds to the demands on your bladder. Thanks to the pressure from your uterus, frequent bathroom visits may become an essential part of your routine. And when your baby gives a little kick to your bladder? Well, let's just say it's a wake-up call you didn't ask for.

Ah, the grand finale of pregnancy: contractions. As you enter the final phase of pregnancy, your uterus will begin to contract irregularly. This normally happens late in the third trimester as a way for your body to prepare to have a baby and may get stronger the closer you get to labor. These contractions may be mild or quite uncomfortable – and may contribute to your difficulty sleeping. If you suspect it's labor time, don't hesitate to reach out to your obstetric provider. If you aren’t in labor, you may want to ask for medications that could help you sleep through your contractions.

The quest for peaceful slumber during pregnancy! We've got some coping strategies to help you conquer the insomnia monster.

  • Develop a routine sleep schedule and wait to go to bed until you’re sleepy. Once you experience insomnia, it’s difficult to get it under control and can be quite frustrating! But don't jump into bed out of worry or desperation - it may lead to a vicious cycle of anxiety and difficulty falling asleep. 

  • Keep your caffeine intake in check, sticking to no more than 200 mg per day (one 12-ounce cup of coffee). And here's a tip: say goodbye to caffeine after lunch.

  • Don’t drink alcohol if you are pregnant. If you are postpartum, try to avoid alcohol in the evening because it can interfere with restful sleep.

  • Explore the magic of yoga! It's not just about stretchy poses; it's a whole mind-body-spirit experience. Dive into the benefits of yoga's postures, meditation, relaxation, and breathing techniques.

  • Give yourself a break from screens before bedtime. Bid farewell to the glowing blue lights of TVs, laptops, and cell phones. Create a peaceful atmosphere in your bedroom, free from distractions.

  • Create a  sleep environment that promotes calmness and relaxation. Try to reduce visual clutter where you can and keep your sleep space quiet, cool, and dark at night. 

  • As your baby bump grows, find sleeping positions that ease discomfort and promote better sleep. Avoid sleeping on your back and opt for side sleeping with bent legs, especially in the second and third trimesters. Propping yourself up or knowing how to sleep with a pregnancy pillow can work wonders.

While it’s common to experience insomnia during pregnancy, that doesn’t mean you should just try to live with it. If you've tried all those sleep hygiene tips we shared earlier and you're still tossing and turning, or if your lack of sleep is making you feel stressed, it's time to reach out to your obstetric provider. 

Some ways your provider can help you to sleep include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia or CBT-I. This treats insomnia by targeting underlying physical, environmental, emotional, and behavioral issues without the use of sleep medications or supplements. CBT-I during pregnancy has some incredible side effects - it's been shown to improve symptoms of postpartum depression and can even reduce the likelihood of depression.

Here are some friendly tips to support your pregnant partner in their quest for restful sleep. Show them you've got their back, quite literally:

Pillow power: Become a master of pillow placement. Help your partner find the right combination of pillows to support their growing body. From fluffy body pillows to extra cushions for added comfort, your pillow arranging skills will be legendary.

Create a sleep haven: Transform your bedroom into a peaceful oasis. Dim the lights, clear away clutter, and keep the noise to a minimum. Make it a sanctuary where your partner can escape the daily chaos and unwind. You can help block out the world and drown out the noise with blackout curtains and white noise.

Massage magic: Embrace the power of touch! Offer your partner gentle massages to help relieve any aches and pains. Focus on those areas that feel extra tense or uncomfortable. It may help melt away their worries and lull them into relaxation.

Be a sleep schedule champion: Help your partner establish a consistent sleep schedule. Encourage them to stick to regular bedtimes and wake-up times, even on weekends. Your support will help them develop healthy sleep habits that can lead to more restful nights.

  • Insomnia is a condition where you may have difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or waking up early despite having the opportunity to sleep.  

  • Pregnancy can make insomnia worse due to the many physical and hormonal changes in your body, including nausea and vomiting, back and pelvic pain, round ligament pain, frequent urination, heartburn, and contractions. 

  • If you are having trouble with insomnia during your pregnancy, be sure to try our sleep hygiene tips or see your obstetric provider for additional help.

Insomnia during pregnancy FAQ

Q: What causes insomnia during pregnancy?


Insomnia can happen in those who have an underlying predisposition, such as with a genetic or family history and experience an event that triggers it, such as acute stress. The many physical and hormonal changes of pregnancy can also trigger insomnia and include nausea and vomiting, back and pelvic pain, round ligament pain, frequent urination, heartburn, and contractions.

Q: How common is insomnia among pregnant women?


Insomnia is generally more common in women compared to men and appears to get worse in pregnancy – especially as the pregnancy progresses. Studies [2] show that insomnia happens 5 - 38% of the time in the first trimester, and up to 60% of the time by the third trimester.

Q: What are the recommended sleep positions during pregnancy?


During pregnancy, avoid sleeping on your back and do your best to sleep on your side with your legs bent – especially as you get into your second and third trimesters. Propping yourself up or using a comfy body pillow may help to reduce snoring and to prevent heartburn.

Q: What lifestyle changes can I make to improve my sleep during pregnancy?


Develop a routine sleep schedule and wait to go to bed until you’re sleepy. Limit caffeine intake and don’t drink alcohol or use tobacco products. Finally, you can try yoga with its body postures, meditation, relaxation, and breathing techniques.

Q: Are there any risks or complications associated with insomnia during pregnancy?


Insomnia can lead to daytime sleepiness and increase memory problems, confusion, and difficulty concentrating on tasks. It can also worsen some underlying mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Q: How can I create a sleep-friendly environment during pregnancy?


Have a cozy, comfortable sleep environment - keep your sleeping space quiet, cool, and dark. If you share a household with others, consider working out a plan to get more rest and try to find a quiet, dark, and comfortable room without noisy distractions. You can also block out the world and drown out the noise with blackout curtains and white noise. Take time to unwind without screens before going to sleep and minimize distractions in the bedroom before going to bed, such as television, blue lights, noises, cell phones, and laptops.

Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.

2 Sources


  1. Miller, M. A., et al. (2020). Sleep Pharmacotherapy for Common Sleep Disorders in Pregnancy and Lactation.

  2. Miller, M. A., et al. (2020). Sleep Pharmacotherapy for Common Sleep Disorders in Pregnancy and Lactation.