Health advice

Sleep and pregnancy

Husband and pregnant wife happy with their daughter on the sofa.

Having a full night's sleep is important for both you and your baby, but often pregnancy means disturbed sleep. Find out all you need to know about interuped sleep during pregnancy and what you can do to overcome lack of sleep.

How can pregnancy affect your sleep?

Sleep problems in pregnancy are common and usually nothing to worry about.1

Some of the most common sleep problems in pregnancy are:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Frequently waking up during the night
  • Tiredness during the day
  • Strange dreams or nightmares.2
What causes sleep changes during pregnancy?

There are many reasons why your sleep cycle might change during pregnancy.

One possible cause is hormonal changes. When you’re pregnant, your levels of the hormone progesterone are high.3 This can lead to sleepiness during the day and broken sleep at night.4

Physical changes during pregnancy can also make it harder to sleep. Heartburn, nausea (feeling sick), an overactive bladder and backache are all common in pregnancy and can make it more difficult to sleep.4

In the later stages of pregnancy, the size of your bump may also make sleeping uncomfortable.2 Many people have trouble managing their body temperature during pregnancy, which can also make it hard to sleep.5,6

Pregnancy can also be a time of heightened emotions and psychological stress. This can make it more difficult to fall asleep or cause you to wake up often in the night.4

If you have sleep problems and other symptoms like regularly experiencing low mood, it could be a sign of a mental health problem like depression or anxiety. Talk to your GP or midwife if you’re struggling with your mental health.2

How can you sleep better during pregnancy?

There are lots of things you can do to improve your sleep while you’re pregnant. The most important thing is to maintain good sleep hygiene (a healthy sleep routine).2

It may help to reach out to your partner, family or friends if you’re having trouble sleeping. Talk to your midwife or GP if you’re really struggling with sleep during pregnancy.2

What is the best sleeping position for pregnancy?

You should try not to fall asleep on your back after 28 weeks of pregnancy. This is because it increases the risk of stillbirth.7 If you wake up and you are sleeping on your back, turn to your side when you go back to sleep.

In the early stages of pregnancy, it’s fine to sleep on your stomach. But when your bump gets bigger, it can be uncomfortable.8

Lying on your side might help you to sleep better. Putting pillows behind you or using a pregnancy pillow can help keep you sleeping on your side.8

Visit your nearest pharmacy

Get support and advice from your local Well pharmacist

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Where can I go for further information and support?


National charity for pregnancy, childbirth and parenting with a helpline and local support groups.

NHS website

Information about pregnancy, including how to have a healthy pregnancy and manage common conditions.

NHS inform

Information and support if you live in Scotland.


Charity with information and support around health during pregnancy.

  1. Hashmi AM, Bhatia SK, Bhatia SK, Khawaja IS. Insomnia during pregnancy: Diagnosis and Rational Interventions. Pak J Med Sci. 2016;32(4):1030-1037. doi:10.12669/pjms.324.10421
  2. Tiredness and sleep problems. Published December 3, 2020. Accessed August 9, 2023.
  3. Cable JK, Grider MH. Physiology, Progesterone. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2023. Accessed August 9, 2023.
  4. Won CHJ. Sleeping for Two: The Great Paradox of Sleep in Pregnancy. J Clin Sleep Med. 2015;11(6):593-594. doi:10.5664/jcsm.4760
  5. Hartgill TW, Bergersen TK, Pirhonen J. Core body temperature and the thermoneutral zone: a longitudinal study of normal human pregnancy. Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2011;201(4):467-474. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.2010.02228.x
  6. Trust) N (National C. How to sleep better in pregnancy: 10 tips | Pregnancy articles & support | NCT. NCT (National Childbirth Trust). Published August 18, 2022. Accessed August 9, 2023.
  7. McCowan LME, Thompson JMD, Cronin RS, et al. Going to sleep in the supine position is a modifiable risk factor for late pregnancy stillbirth; Findings from the New Zealand multicentre stillbirth case-control study. PLOS ONE. 2017;12(6):e0179396. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0179396
  8. Sleep position in pregnancy Q&A | Tommy’s. Accessed August 9, 2023.

Reviewed by: Connie Whewall

Published: 30 April 2024

Next review: 30 April 2027