Third trimester sleep

Advice on getting a good nights sleep in the third trimester of pregnancy, with information on sleep problems, insomnia and the benefit of naps
Sleep (or a lack of it) becomes a big issue for many in the third trimester as you are up against leg cramps, heartburn, aching joints and the frequent need to empty your bladder, all the while trying to navigate your tummy into a comfortable sleeping position. However, before you despair, there are several things you can try to get a better nights sleep.

Firstly, if you are not doing so already, you should go to sleep lying on your left hand side - this not only helps to improve circulation, digestion, kidney and liver function, but also prevents the weight of your unborn baby pressing on the inferior vena cava, the blood vessel that brings blood to your heart from the lower half of your body. Sleeping on your back in the latter stages of pregnancy (unless you are propped up into a sitting position) can result in palpitations, shortness of breath and even low blood pressure.

The most comfortable way to lie in this way is to bend your knees slightly and strategically place pillows so that they provide support for your lower back, tummy, hips and joints. While you can use regular household pillow, special maternity pillows are also available. Some find that having a memory foam sheet or layer on top of the mattress helps to relieve painful joints.

Alternatively, if you enjoy the comfort that pillows bring but miss snuggling with your partner, try lying on your side and resting your tummy and top leg against your partners back or side so that you get support and the snuggle factor.

Your growing baby begins to press on your bladder again in the third trimester meaning more nighttime trips to the toilet. Try to reduce the amount of fluids you consume in the hours before your bedtime (although make sure you drink plenty in the day), take a toilet trip before you settle for the night and try to lean forward when you urinate so that you completely empty your bladder.

Heartburn or indigestion are often a problem during the final stages of pregnancy. It is best to avoid eating heavy or spicy meals late in the evening and to drink a glass of milk or eat a banana before bed as this may help to settle your stomach. Additionally, keep a bottle of fizzy water by your bed for easy access in the night as this is also said to help relieve the acidity.

Even though you feel exhausted you should try to take some exercise such as a brisk walk, yoga or swimming on a daily basis (always consult your doctor first) and ensure that you eat a healthy, balanced diet with little processed foods so as to avoid stimulants such as caffeine and sugar that prevent you from sleeping. This will not only make for a healthier pregnancy but is also likely to help you enjoy a deeper sleep. Additionally, ensuring that you are hydrated and stretching out the muscles in your calves before you get into bed may help to reduce leg cramping in the night.

During the final trimester, the movements of your baby become increasingly noticeable and while it is a joy to feel your baby moving inside of you these movements are likely to keep you awake on the odd occasion. There is little you can do about this as your baby has a completely different rest pattern to you so if your baby kicks up a storm in the middle of the night just try to relax and enjoy it.

Taking an afternoon nap can do wonders for recharging your batteries and compensating for the time you spend awake during the night. Taking a warm bath or having a milky drink before bed may also help.

The most important thing to remember is that even if you are having difficulties sleep, stressing about it is probably the worst thing you can do as anxiety makes sleep even more difficult. If you are unable to get comfortable, get up and read a book for half an hour, take a bath, have a warm milky drink or even try sleeping in a reclined position on your sofa. However, as with any pregnancy problem, if you do feel that sleep is becoming an issue then you should go and talk about solutions with your health care professional.

Chat or Ask a Question:

If you have a question about this article or something else, visit our friendly forums & ask the AskBaby community.

Chat about third trimester sleep with our friendly community...

Your Comments:

We'd love to hear your comments on this article...

Login to add your comment:

Email: Password:
Not yet a member? Join thousands of other parents and parents-to-be... Sign Up Now!
Forgot your

I am 36 weeks and the last 3 weeks I have developed severe insomnia and anxiety which begins at night. I get at most 3 hours sleep in sporadic naps. I have to stay up all night with the TV on to ease the anxiety. I can't lie still. I am constantly pacing the floors to relieve anxiety or going to the rest room. I feel overwhelmed, exhausted, claustrophobic and just do not know what to do. My MD said to take benadryl before bed. I take one 9PM and 3AM. It makes me drowsy but I still cannot sleep thoughout the night. Tried warm milk, reading, warm baths etc. Nothing works. I really hate taking medication. I am already on metformin, macrobid 1x a day to prevent UTI's and now the benadryl. Any advise?
by graciousbaby 20th Jun 2013, 3:36pm
im 34 wks n its my 5th pregnacy and the worst 1 yet all i want 2 do is sleep iv tried everything and the intergestion is terrible all i ask is 4 a good nite sleep :(
by 5timemum 8th Mar 2011, 6:03pm
im 33 weeks and find myself suffering from really bad anxiety! sometimes it gets so bad i cant do aything else but cry from frustration. I get an overwhelming urge to move, i cant keep still as much as i may want to. I have to get up, move about. shake it off. And it only occurs when im ready to go to bed at night!
Ive now reached a point where i wil stay up as long as possible every night, until my eyes are literally rolling down my face!!!! i know exercise does help ,as i spent a whole day shopping, and travelling not to long ago and had the best nights sleep EVER! bt at this point i seriously can not be bothered! my feet swell, my back and hips ache. its one extreme to the other. its safe to say i am not enjoying pregnancy anymore!
by alliey 6th Sep 2010, 10:10am
I'm 31 weeks pregnant now and get only one or two hours sleep a night what with needing to pee, baby wriggling around and back ache. I've tried everything but nothing seems to work. People tell me it's good practice for when baby is born but as I'm still working full time it's getting incredibly difficult. Any suggestions?
by rachnbaby 14th May 2010, 5:09pm
i am 25 weeks and 1 day, and i am having trouble sleep, because all the baby wants to do is push down on my bladder, and i am in pain bad, any one else had the same or is it just me, i dont know what to do, please help me
by avfcgal 14th May 2010, 4:11pm
Very good infomation on getting better sleep. Thank you.
by Dawnye 14th May 2010, 3:26pm
I must be lucky. I just turned 24 weeks and all i want to do is sleep sleep sleep. I mean i just woke up at 2 pm from a "nap" i started around 9 am. I dont know if thats normal or not but going to bed sleepy and waking up sleepy is to put it lightly very annoying.
by soopahdoopahshayshay 19th Oct 2009, 10:24am
I rarely feel my little 1 move at night when im asleep and im 38wks preg, she will move when im going sleep and if i wake up for a wee but she soon stops and i go back to sleep, a cushion between ur legs and another to cuddle seem to work well for me. Cramps iv suffered with since puberty so i find putting pressure on them with a cold can (deoderant or somthing) works well, also if u increase the amount of salt u eat that helps! Garlic tablets help with circulation but not sure if they r safe during pregnancy! xx
by bibibaby 24th Jul 2009, 9:02am
i am 33 weeks pregnant. my husband tells me sometime that my baby been moving all night when he felt my tommy but once i am asleep i dont feel anything and only wake up in the it because my baby is not strong enough or is it normal? however my bladder has become weak and i have to rush to toilet all the time during the day but not at night. also every night i get so much muscular pain in my legs and arms who ever i tell they says it normal during pregnancy but really some time its unbearable. what can i do to stop this pain?

by sadafzain 12th Jun 2009, 9:12am
I am 30 weeks and I can't sleep at night. I spend most of my time tossing and turning. When I finally get "comfortable" the baby starts kicking and rolling around. Once he starts doing that, I find that I'm once again uncomfortable and can't sleep. My baby is a "mover". I am still working. I find that in the middle of the day I am very very tired. When I get home from work, I refuse to take a nap because I feel that I can "save" my sleepy feeling until night and hope that I'll be worn out. Unfortunately, that doesn't work!! Any advice?
by firsttymemom09 25th Mar 2009, 9:18am
I find i get to sleep fine most nights but then im awake between 3/4 oclock so i hav 2 p, an then i cnt sleep again till bout 5/6. I'm in week 31 an im findin daytimes exhausting, ive tried the usual, lilke milky drinks an reading, but i've found the best thing for me at the mo. is having the telly on low an turning my back to it. It also seems to keep baby amused till i fall asleep too.
by Dudge 11th Mar 2009, 9:18am
i cant slep its awful i give up unless i am too tired to keep my eyes open there in no point in even tryin im glad its near the end i just want 1 just 1 good nights sleep... is that 2 much to ask ???x
by kaylsmummy 23rd Feb 2009, 1:06pm
I need to start making some me time in the evening. I am 30 weeks pregnant and I find the side that I sleep on is the side that aches. The top of my tummy, the skin burns and I can't find anything to tell me why that is or what I can do to help ease that. Any advice?
by mummytummy 23rd Feb 2009, 1:06pm
thank you. I will try a few of these to help sleep.
by keta 5th Jan 2009, 9:23am
apparently I have developed Carpel Tunnel Syndrome in this third and final pregnancy (phew) Im 30 weeks and I wake up frequently with pain in my hands radiating to my elbow. It hurts so bad it wakes me up and then of course I have to pee! lol Being pregnant isnt so much fun but it is all worth it
by Dice 26th Mar 2008, 9:02am