Put Your Pregnancy Sleep Struggles to Bed

This is Nike (M)

Growing a baby can wreak havoc on your Zs. Our pros have smart tips—whether it's your body or brain that's keeping you up at night.

Last updated: 15 November 2022
7 min read
  • During the third trimester, the physical discomfort of pregnancy along with anxieties about parenthood (and life!) can make it near impossible to get decent sleep.
  • Strategically setting up pillows to get comfortable at night and pencilling in "worry time" during the day can set you up for a sounder snooze.
  • Movement is also shown to tire out the body and soothe the mind. Reap those bed-time benefits with the Nike (M)ove Like a Mother programme in the NTC App.

Read on to learn more …

How to Get More Sleep in the Third Trimester, According to Experts

*This content is designed to inform and inspire, but it is not meant to diagnose, treat or give specific medical advice. Always check with your healthcare provider about how to stay healthy and safe before, during and after pregnancy.

Pregnant people often get the unsolicited advice (along with a little knowing wink) to "sleep while you can". Cool, cool … but what if you absolutely freaking can't?

Pregnancy brings on major physiological and psychological changes that are anything but soothing. The sheer size of your expanding abdomen is probably making you uncomfortable, hormones are sending your body temp through the roof and you may be dealing with other fun side effects like nausea and heartburn, says Amanda Williams, MD, a board-certified obstetrician-gynaecologist in Oakland, California, and a member of the Nike (M)ove Like a Mother advisory board. Factor in the added stress and anxiety that often comes with growing a baby in your belly and it's no wonder research shows that almost 80 percent of women suffer from insomnia in the third trimester.

But sleep is the ultimate recovery, especially when your body is working OT to sustain another life, says Safia Khan, MD, a sleep-disorder specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Learn how to log more of it, whether it's the physical issues keeping you up, the mental ones or both.

Set Your Body Up for Success

Anything you can do to feel a liiittle more comfortable when you're horizontal is progress, so start here:

1. Assume the position.

Your doc has probably told you it's ideal to sleep on your left side. That's because sleeping on your back can put pressure on the vena cava, the primary vein that carries blood to your heart, and reduce optimal blood flow to you and your baby, says Anna Glezer, MD, a volunteer associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and the founder of Women's Wellness Psychiatry in San Francisco. But if you're not typically a side sleeper, turn to pillows. Williams suggests either investing in a pregnancy pillow that best suits your needs or using multiple pillows you already own. Place them under any pressure points that are feeling the extra strain, she says, especially under your boobs, between your legs and behind your lower back.

Not doin' it for you? It's OK to lie on your back if it's the only way you can sleep, says Dr Glezer. Just prop yourself up with an extra pillow or two so your torso is at a slight incline, which also helps with heartburn (more on that barrel of fun below).

2. Shush up your symptoms.

There are a lot, we know. Skyrocketing hormones could be causing night sweats, says Dr Glezer, so if you need to turn your room into an icebox, do it. For acid reflux or heartburn, Dr Williams suggests cutting acidic foods (tomatoes, oranges, chocolate, etc.) out of the second half of your day and eating smaller meals. Nausea becoming your nemesis? Try keeping salty crackers next to your bed, says Dr Williams, as the starch can help settle the upset. If restless leg syndrome or leg cramps keep you tossing and turning, drink more water and up your electrolytes (grab a banana for your pm snack and add a little more salt to dinner), says Dr Williams. If that's not helping, call your obstetrician-gynaecologist, says Shelby Harris, PsyD, a psychologist in White Plains, New York, and the author of The Women's Guide to Overcoming Insomnia. Sometimes it's as simple as supplementing with iron or magnesium.

The other too-real sleep thief? Your constant need to pee, a result of much-needed hydration (don't skimp on this!) and that tiny person pushing on your bladder. All you can do is head to the bathroom whenever you feel the urge; trying to ignore it will only delay sleep, says Dr Williams. Try to relax on the toilet, and take an extra-deep breath to make sure you're fully emptying your bladder to reduce the chances of a return trip 20 minutes later, says Laurel Proulx, DPT, PhD, a pelvic health physiotherapist in Colorado Springs, the founder of FEM Physical Therapy and a member of the Nike (M)ove Like a Mother advisory board.

3. Leave your bed.

If you've tried the above and still can't nod off within 20 minutes of getting in bed (with your phone away … lights off … yeah, we see you), get up and do something else. Part of sleeping well is training your mind and body to associate your bed with sleep and only sleep, says Dr Williams. So if the Zs aren't coming, walk around your house, stretch on your birthing ball or tuck into a book on your sofa—and don't get back into bed until you're ready to try again. Psst: The same advice applies if you wake up in the middle of the night, says Dr Williams.

How to Get More Sleep in the Third Trimester, According to Experts

Put Your Mind at Rest

Still awake? It might be your headspace that's making you uncomfortable. Try this:

1. Sort out your struggles.

Worrying right now is normal. But that doesn't mean every concern you have is helpful. Harris recommends labelling your worries as either productive—stressors that you can solve or, at the very least, do something about)—or unproductive (basically the opposite). Doing so can help you feel motivated to tackle the ones within your control and help you let go, even just a little bit, of the ones that aren't, she explains.

Even better: Set aside a little "worry time" early in the day to write down, weigh and troubleshoot unpleasant thoughts, says Dr Khan, noting that bedtime is not the time to dedicate to mind-wandering.

2. Make time for movement.

You know how you feel a little less frazzled after a good workout, even if you didn't solve an actual problem? Exercise isn't just an invitation for feel-good endorphins, it also helps regulate your serotonin system to ease stress, and it can soothe the fear centre of your brain that activates when you're anxious, according to Jennifer Heisz, PhD, the author of Move the Body, Heal the Mind and the director of the NeuroFitLab in Hamilton, Ontario. If you can get in even 20 minutes of daily movement of your choice, says Dr Williams, you can start to quiet anxious feelings.

Bonus? Being active during the day can build up your body's pressure for more quality sleep (called homeostatic sleep drive), so you should feel more tired when you're ready to crawl under the covers, explains Dr Khan. Just don't do anything too rigorous an hour or so before bed because, hi, energy and body heat.

3. Organise your life.

Pregnant or not, if you've ever laid in bed thinking about all the things you need to do tomorrow, first, welcome to the club, and second, let's get you out of it. How? Triage. Sort everything you want or need to do into three categories, says Harris: what has to get done today, what you would like to get done today and what other people (outside of work, of course) want you to get done today. Take care of the first column first, then try to cover at least one thing under each of the other two. This can help you feel less stressed (you'll probably see that not that much needs to happen today), says Harris, and should allow you to be productive enough during the day that you're able to chill TF out and sleep easy afterwards.

Listen, you may still not sleep as well as you did before you got pregnant. But even a little extra rest will make a difference—and (bonus!) many of these tips may come in handy for that other notorious lack-of-sleep time: when you have a new baby in the house.

Words: Sabrina Hunt
Photography: Vivian Kim


Work up that homeostatic drive—and get more guidance as you navigate pregnancy—with the Nike (M)ove Like a Mother programme in the Nike Training Club App. Then, shop the Nike (M) collection for looks that support you every step of the way.

Originally published: 18 November 2022

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