A pregnant woman laying in bed.
Insomnia during pregnancy can be caused by hunger and body discomfort.

Insomnia During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, every woman experiences some sort of discomfort. As the body goes through many changes, women usually experience a multitude of symptoms, including morning sickness, backaches, heartburn and headaches, among others. One of the most common problems is insomnia during pregnancy, with approximately 78% of pregnant women reporting sleep problems, especially in the first and third trimester. There are several reasons why this happens. In this article we discuss some possible causes of insomnia during pregnancy and outline tips to prevent insomnia during pregnancy to help you get a better night’s sleep.

Causes of Insomnia During Pregnancy

Hormonal Changes

The number one reason for abnormal sleep patterns during pregnancy is due to a shift in hormones, especially changes in reproductive hormone levels, including progesterone. An increase in this hormone causes you to be sleepier during the day and hence, you are unable to fall or stay asleep during the nighttime.

Frequent Urination

Pregnancy causes frequent urination and if you are making trips to the bathroom over and over again, it can really disturb your sleep schedule. The discomfort of a full bladder also wakes you up from sleep and may make it difficult to go back to sleep after waking.

Digestion Problems

Most women experience digestive issues during pregnancy including vomiting, heartburn and nausea. Such feelings make it very difficult for you to go to sleep as the discomfort in your stomach and chest keeps you awake.


Some women tend to go through a lot of stress during their pregnancy. Whether it is stress about the delivery, the responsibilities that will come with being a mother, or balancing work and being a new mom, all of these thoughts can cause cortisol levels to rise and can make you very anxious, which can contribute to insomnia during pregnancy.


Pregnant women usually feel hungry at unexpected times during the day and night. You may feel a wave of hunger but are reluctant to eat due to digestion problems or vomiting. An empty stomach can be the reason that you no longer feel sleepy anymore.

Back Pain

This usually starts in the third trimester where discomfort in your back can cause sleep issues. You may experience trouble falling asleep or staying asleep due to discomfort on one side of your body.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

RLS is a disorder that causes an urge to move your legs because they feel uncomfortable. Many women suffer from RLS during the third trimester of their pregnancy, and it usually happens during the night when you are trying to sleep.

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Preventing Insomnia During Pregnancy

There are various things you can try to help prevent insomnia during pregnancy.

Implement Better Sleep Hygiene Practices

This involves taking care of your sleeping habits and the environment. Start by setting a sleeping schedule so that you go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time each day (even on weekends). This helps to ensure that your body gets used to the routine. Make sure you are not sleeping anywhere other than your bed. This also means not using your bed for other activities, such as watching movies on your laptop, browsing your phone, eating, etc. This helps to program your brain to sleep when in bed.

Also, the atmosphere and temperature of your room matter. Keep the room temperature cool to help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. You can darken the room as much as you can so that there are no distracting lights that can affect your sleep.

When it comes time to sleep, try to find a comfortable position on your bed. Most women find that lying down on one side of the body while bending the knees and the legs, and keeping a cushion between the legs, makes for a comfortable sleeping posture. Keeping a pillow behind the lower back can also be helpful.

Meditation and Other Relaxation Routines

Doctors recommend that pregnant women practice relaxation techniques including meditation, yoga and mindfulness on a regularly basis. Spending some time to ease the tension that you are holding either in your muscles or your mind can help you to relax before going to bed.

Make Diet Changes

Avoid spicy food as it can cause digestive issues that may contribute to insomnia. It also helps to avoid eating for two to three hours before bedtime and limit fluid intake closer to bedtime to avoid frequent bathroom trips during the night.

Exercise Daily

Even though it may be difficult to exercise, especially during the last trimester, engaging in regular physical activity helps to tire your body out and can help to encourage better sleep. Try taking a brisk walk or doing light stretching at least six hours before bedtime.

Avoid Caffeine

Avoid caffeine if you are suffering with insomnia during pregnancy. A recent report revealed that the effects of caffeine can stay in your body for about 12 hours after consumption. So, even if you have a cup of coffee at noon, chances are it is triggering your system to be alert for several hours afterwards. This means you might feel tired and sleepy but would have a lot of trouble actually sleeping and staying asleep.

Don’t Force Sleep

If you are unable to fall asleep, do not stay in bed for more than 20 to 30 minutes. Instead, get up and engage in some other relaxing activity such as knitting, taking a warm bath, or meditation, before trying to go back to bed.

Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one most recommended therapies for chronic insomnia. During these therapy sessions, you will be encouraged to keep a sleep log and will receive counseling for sleep education, simulation control and sleep restriction. Through such therapy, you will be able to get professional help if other techniques are not proving to be helpful in your case.

In Conclusion

Pregnancy itself causes a lot of physical and mental challenges for all women, and not being able to have a good night’s rest can really distrub your mood and cause other problems in your personal and professional life. If you are pregnant and suffering with sleep difficulties, it is important to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation and get your body the sleep it needs.