Insomnia when pregnant is normal—but suffering is not.
Insomnia for pregnant people can make each trimester unenjoyable and frustrating. On top of that, your struggles may be silenced. You may be told that it’s normal and sleep will return after labor. Although that may be true, you don’t have to suffer for 9 months.
In this guide, we’re sharing 22 ways to combat insomnia when pregnant.
What Is Insomnia When Pregnant?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that involves difficulty:
- Falling asleep
- Staying asleep
- Waking up too early
Insomnia is common but is even more prevalent during pregnancy thanks to changes your body goes through. In fact, about half of pregnant women report poor sleep. If untreated, insomnia for pregnant people can last just one trimester, all trimesters, or a lifetime.
Sometimes pinpointing the cause of your pregnancy insomnia can help you find the best solution. For help on that, read 7 Causes of Insomnia with Pregnancy: Here’s Why You Can’t Sleep.
22 Ways to Combat Insomnia When Pregnant
Insomnia when pregnant can be difficult to overcome. We suggest trying a few ideas on this list to see which works best for you.
Set a Sleep Schedule & Stick To It
Training your body when to fall asleep and wake up can ease insomnia. When you give your body a pattern to follow, it can better prepare each night. To help you stick to a sleep schedule, set 3 alarms each day:
- An alarm to start preparing for bed/start nighttime routine
- An alarm to go to bed
- An alarm to wake up
Typically, we only set a wake-up alarm. But setting an alarm to start your nighttime routine can ensure you’re able to stick to your bedtime when the second alarm goes off.
Create a Bedtime Routine with a Relaxing Ritual
Trying to sleep after an exciting activity will only worsen your insomnia when pregnant. Instead, create a “buffer zone” before bed that allows you to wind down.
Each night, set aside a half-hour or more for your bedtime routine. Use this time to change into your pajamas, wash your face, and do everything you typically do before bed.
The most important part is to add a relaxing activity to your nighttime routine. The purpose of this activity is to help quiet your mind and find stillness. Make it something you can do every night, whether you dedicate 5 minutes or 30 minutes to it. Relaxing before-bed rituals to combat pregnant insomnia include:
- Reading a novel
- Having a cup of herbal (pregnancy-safe) tea
- Doing yoga or light stretching
- Coloring in a coloring book
Play Relaxing Sounds
If you live in a busy city or environment, the external noises may be bothering you more with pregnancy. Playing relaxing sounds while you sleep can drown out distractions and help you unwind.
A 2005 study showed that those who listened to 45 minutes of music before going to sleep reported better sleep quality. Another study showed that it can also decrease the time it takes to get to sleep.
Apps like Better Sleep make it easy to find calming sounds and music.
Monitor Your Diet
If you have insomnia when pregnant, it’s a good idea to monitor your diet for triggers. Keep in mind:
- Consuming too much caffeine—even in the daytime—can make sleeping pregnant insomnia worse
- Drinking too many liquids before bed can cause you to wake up throughout the night
- Eating big meals at night can affect your digestion and keep you awake
Use Separate Blankets
Do you or your partner hog the blankets? And does yanking the blanket back cause you to wake up? If so, try using different blankets.
Black Out Shades
Before pregnancy, you might have been able to fall asleep anywhere, anytime. But now that you’re experiencing insomnia when pregnant, your environment matters more. Even a little light from street lamps or the brightness at the crack of dawn can be bothersome. To avoid this, switch to blackout curtains, which stop any light from shining through your windows.
If worrisome thoughts are preventing you from sleeping, try a quick anxiety visualization before bed. Here’s how:
- Imagine your window wide open
- Imagine a group of people outside your window
- Imagine each person speaking one of your particular worries
- Hear the chatter getting louder and louder with worries
- Visualize yourself closing the window shut
- Visualize silence, away from the worried people with worried thoughts
Use a Pregnancy Pillow
Pregnancy pillows can help you get comfortable despite your large baby belly. They come in different shapes and sizes, so try a few to test which works best for your insomnia when pregnant.
Make a Gratitude List
For many people, pregnancy makes anxiety soar to new levels, creating insomnia when pregnant. To alleviate that, try making a daily gratitude list. Research shows that grateful thinking helps people sleep better and longer.
Use Lavender Oil
The therapeutic effect of aromatherapy is largely unproven. However, some research suggests that lavender may help sleep disorders. Try using lavender oil in a diffuser in your bedroom before sleep.
No Screens Before Bed
For some people, this will be the most difficult tip to implement on this list. Aim to shut off all your devices an hour before bed. This includes your phone, laptop, tablet, and TV. Instead, use that hour to complete your nighttime routine and unwind device-free. If you can’t possibly go without your device for a whole hour, even a half-hour without them is better than none.
This works for two reasons. Firstly, being on your devices less—especially scrolling through social media—can cause less stress, helping your pregnant insomnia. Secondly, since blue light interferes with melatonin production, limiting it helps regulate your circadian rhythms.
Flux is an app that changes the light on your computer to mimic the sun. If you’re using your computer at night, instead of emitting a bright blue light, your screen will be a dark orange hue. This minimizes the impact on your melatonin, helping you get sleep better.
Try lowering the temperature in your home to see if you can sleep better. A poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that a cool room was one of the most important factors for good sleep. Some suggest the best temperature is about 65°F.
Keep Your Bedroom for Sleep Only
Your bedroom should only be used for sleep and sex. Work, hobbies, and spare time should be spent in other areas. Even if you have a work desk in your bedroom, try to find a new home for it in the corner elsewhere. This helps your mind associate your bedroom with one thing: sleep.
Meditate to Improve Insomnia When Pregnant
Meditating before bed can help you fall asleep. There’s many different types of meditation, so find one that works for you. You can simply spend a few minutes breathing, focusing on the sensations. You can also try a longer meditation geared toward sleep, like the one below.
Exercise During the Day
Although exercising at night can keep you up, exercising during the day can actually help insomnia when pregnant. Researchers say there’s solid evidence proving that exercise can help you fall asleep quicker and improve sleep quality. For ideas, read: 11 Easy and Super Fun Pregnancy Exercise Ideas You’ll Actually Do.
Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a relaxation exercise and can be used for insomnia when pregnant. It involves tensing every muscle in your body and then releasing it. After releasing your muscles, your mind may relax too, helping you fall asleep. Try the tutorial below.
Get Out of Bed
If you’re struggling with insomnia when pregnant and can’t sleep, get out of bed for a few minutes. Instead of tossing and turning, hoping sleep will be bestowed upon you, relax instead.
Hop out of bed and choose a calming activity (warm bath, reading a novel, knitting, etc.). After 10 minutes or so of your relaxing activity, return to bed and see if you’re able to sleep.
Write a Next Day To-Do List
It may sound counter-intuitive—won’t writing a to-do list make you more anxious before bed? But the truth is that insomnia for pregnant people is sometimes caused by worries over uncompleted tasks. It’s hard to go to bed with so much left undone.
That’s why writing a to-do list can help you mentally move your worries to the next day. In one study, participants were asked before bed to make a to-do list for the next few days. Those that did fell asleep significantly quicker. The more specific the list, the sooner the sleep.
Don’t Allow Pets in the Bedroom
Your pet may be the best sleeping companion but when you’re pregnant, that may change. If they’re causing you to wake up in the middle of the night, it’s another hurdle to jump over to fall back asleep.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is far from a quick fix for pregnant insomnia. But it can be a permanent solution that improves your sleep quality in the long term. If you struggled with insomnia before pregnancy, it’s an especially good idea to see a therapist for professional help.
CBT helps identify and replace the unhelpful thoughts that might be causing pregnant insomnia. Seeing a therapist is the best option, but if you can’t afford one, try using a CBT workbook specifically for sleep (ex. The Sleep Workbook: Easy Strategies to Break the Anxiety-Insomnia Cycle).
Talk With Your Doctor About Pregnant Insomnia Treatments
If you’re struggling to cope with pregnant insomnia, talk with your doctor about potential treatments. Some sleep medications aren’t safe during pregnancy, but your doctor can find the most appropriate choice, if needed.
Also, talk to your doctor before using over-the-counter sleep remedies. Herbal remedies and supplements can still impact your pregnancy health. Your doctor can recommend the safest natural option for your pregnancy.
Summary: Combat Insomnia When Pregnant
Combating insomnia when pregnant can be difficult but not impossible. Try a few suggestions on this list and see if any work for you. Sometimes insomnia for pregnant people requires pharmacological intervention. If lifestyle changes aren’t working, talk with your doctor about prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids.
P.S. Have you tried a home fetal doppler yet? These amazing handheld devices allow you to listen to your baby’s heartbeat while she’s still inside the womb! Many mothers say it provides them with an extra level of reassurance.