Sleep Discomfort

A woman sleeping uncomfortably

Difficulties getting comfortable as your baby grows are common. Understanding those difficulties and how you can mitigate their impact can help to improve your sleep.

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A woman beside her bed in pain

Pain

If you experience pain in the hips or pelvis, using a pregnancy pillow (usually a curved shape so you have a part between the knees, a longer section behind your back to stop you rolling, and another curved part at the top for the head) can help. Don’t forget the waist – a rolled up towel or flat pillow can help if there is still pressure on the hip because of the differing heights.

Heartburn

Heartburn at night can also be a cause of discomfort. Heavy meals too close to bed and then lying down can make this worse, so try and eat earlier and avoid going to bed too soon after eating. You may find propping yourself up when you sleep helps too.

Woman holding her stomach on a bed
A thermometer

Temperature

During pregnancy, you are likely to feel warmer. When we sleep at night, we need the temperature to drop to signal to our brain that it is sleep time. If you find you are waking up through the night feeling warm, you may find opening a window, swapping to a lighter cover, or wearing looser bed clothes helps.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

This is where you have an uncontrollable urge to move your legs. This could be for the first time, or if you already experienced this pre-pregnancy, it may be exacerbated. It usually happens as we are in bed trying to get to sleep. Having enough iron in your diet (make sure you if you are taking a multivitamin that you use one designed for pregnancy without vitamin A), avoiding too much caffeine, and getting some exercise during the day may help. Avoid going to bed unless you feel ready for sleep too – lying awake can make it worse. The Ready Steady Baby Guide foods section provides additional information highlighting foods to eat (and avoid) during pregancy.

Restless Leg Syndrome
Paper coffee cup

Caffeine

NHS Scotland recommends limiting caffeine intake during pregnancy to 200mg per day, but that still allows for a couple of cups of tea or instant coffee. It can be tempting when feeling really fatigued to have that later in the day to keep going through the afternoon. However, this may stop you getting to sleep later, so it is better to keep any caffeine intake (including tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cola etc.) to earlier in the day.

Snoring

Pregnancy can mean you start snoring, or if you were already a snorer that it is worse.

This is due in part to hormonal changes, increased swollen nasal passages, and weight changes with your growing body and baby that is affecting your breathing through the night.

This can affect the quality of sleep that you have, so it is worth asking a bed partner to watch out for this so you can see if a change in sleep position or pillows can help open up your air way. For example, those pregnancy pillows are designed to include a pillow for your head, but if using that exacerbates snoring, you may find removing the top section and going back to your original pillow improves this. Alternatively, you can get pillows designed for side sleeping that may help.

If you are concerned that your snoring is waking you or if your bed partner reports that you are gasping or snorting through the night, speak with your midwife as it could be an indication of a more serious medical condition called sleep apnoea.

Woman asleep in bed
A woman napping on the couch

Napping

Naps are your friend. Usually, we wouldn’t recommend too much napping for adults as it can affect your ability to sleep well at night time, but when you are pregnant, you will feel more fatigue at different stages of your pregnancy and are likely to experience disrupted sleep at night, so naps can help keep you going.

You may find you really need a short nap during the first trimester when we often experience fatigue, nausea and sickness – and this can be hard if you haven’t told people that you are pregnant. Naps may be less needed during the second trimester when we often have more energy, but then come back in during the third trimester, particularly as you get to the end of your pregnancy and are busy with finishing up work or dealing with other children. Listen to your body; if you need a nap, have one.

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