How to Cope With Pregnancy Insomnia

When You're Pregnant and Can't Sleep

Pregnant woman sleeping on bed.
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If you have trouble sleeping during pregnancy, you're not alone. Research shows that between 20% and 60% of pregnant women experience insomnia at some point during their pregnancy.

Insomnia comes in a few different forms. You can have trouble falling asleep when you try to go to bed or wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble going back to sleep. Between the various physical discomforts of pregnancy and the worries of bringing a child into the world, there may be plenty to keep you up at night.

Taking medication to help you sleep during pregnancy can be risky, especially in the first trimester. There are several other natural things you can do to combat insomnia in pregnancy. Here are some tools that can help you improve your sleep quality and duration.

Go to Bed Drowsy 

Sometimes the issue is that you're going to bed wound up and not able to sleep because you are not physically or mentally ready to sleep. By entering your bed only when you are truly ready to sleep, you increase the likelihood of actually doing it.

To help with this, avoid caffeine after early afternoon, don't exercise vigorously past late afternoon, and don't have a heavy discussion before bed or in bed.

Set yourself up for sleep success by avoiding stimulants in the late afternoon and evening. This includes the light of your smartphone in the hour before bed.

Try a Sleep-Inducing Snack 

Some women find a bedtime snack can help them fall asleep. But don't overdo it: Pregnancy increases the likelihood of heartburn after a meal, which can keep you awake.

Warm milk or a turkey sandwich are classic sleep inducers. Other things you can try:

  • Almonds or cashews have magnesium that may help relax you into sleep.
  • Bananas are a good source of melatonin and potassium, which can induce drowsiness.
  • Cheese has tryptophan, which boosts the body's production of melatonin.
  • Tart cherries are rich in antioxidant anthocyanins, which may ease aches and pains, and help relieve insomnia.

Practice Relaxation Exercises

Doing relaxation exercises, either alone or with your partner, may help you sleep faster. Deep breathing, meditation, or even progressive muscle relaxation techniques can help to calm the mind and body to prepare for restful sleep.

Download a meditation or mindfulness app, such as Calm or Headspace, watch meditation videos on YouTube, or listen to relaxing music at bedtime.

Take a Warm Bath

A bath or shower can not only relax you and soothe soreness that accompanies pregnancy, but it can also help you prepare for sleep. If pregnancy body aches or leg cramps are interfering with your sleep, a warm Epsom salt bath can help to ease pain and relax muscles.

While baths and showers are safe during pregnancy, you want to avoid soaking in water that is too hot, such as a hot tub. You want to make sure that the bath doesn't raise your body temperature higher than 102.2 F for more than 10 minutes.

Taking a warm bath or shower helps before bedtime, and also can help put you back to sleep after a middle-of-the-night awakening.

Read a Book

Reading, doing small craft projects, or even a tiny bit of mindless television can help you shut down your brain so you can fall asleep. Avoid reading tense novels, mysteries, scary books or anything that upsets you in any way.

Baby name books can be a fun bedtime read, but you should avoid reading pregnancy books, which may stir up more worries. In pregnancy, you may feel like your mind is racing with all you need to do and think about. By giving yourself a chance to shut it off, you can help prepare yourself for sleep.

Get Out of Bed 

When all else fails, don't lay in bed. Set a time limit—such as 30 minutes—to stay in bed trying to sleep. Then get out of bed and do something else, even if it's just changing locations. You may find you can be very productive in the middle of the night. It can be a great time for nesting and getting the house ready for baby.

Some women, however, find the very thought of getting up and doing housework exhausting enough to bring on sleep.

A Word From Verywell

Pregnancy insomnia is real. Most women try to avoid taking medications for insomnia during pregnancy, however, there are some lower risk prescription and nonprescription options available. If your insomnia is interfering with your ability to function during the day, talk to your doctor about the potential risks and benefits of different insomnia medications.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Dørheim SK, Bjorvatn B, Eberhard-Gran M. Insomnia and depressive symptoms in late pregnancy: a population-based study. Behav Sleep Med. 2012;10(3):152-166. doi:10.1080/15402002.2012.660588

  3. Reichner CA. Insomnia and sleep deficiency in pregnancy. Obstet Med. 2015;8(4):168-171. doi:10.1177/1753495X15600572

  4. Phupong V, Hanprasertpong T. Interventions for heartburn in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;(9):CD011379. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011379.pub2

  5. Ravanelli N, Casasola W, English T, Edwards KM, Jay O. Heat stress and fetal risk. Environmental limits for exercise and passive heat stress during pregnancy: a systematic review with best evidence synthesis. Br J Sports Med. 2019;53(13):799-805. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2017-097914

Additional Reading

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.