Get Better Sleep During Pregnancy: 3rd Trimester

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Written by Afy Okoye

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Breus

Our Editorial Process

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As a baby grows and becomes more active during the third trimester of pregnancy, getting comfortable in bed may feel like a challenge. It’s common to experience problems with sleep during pregnancy due to all of the changes your body is undergoing. 

During the third trimester, sleep quality decreases. There are many reasons why sleep is altered during pregnancy. Learn how your sleep may change during the third trimester and the steps you can take to help improve your sleep.

The Importance of Sleep During Your Third Trimester

Sleep is critical for maintaining your health and the health of your baby throughout pregnancy and during delivery. Pregnancy is typically 40 weeks long or a little over nine months and is grouped into three trimesters. The third and final trimester lasts from week 29 up to when a baby is delivered. 

Poor sleep may raise the risk of fatigue, depression, mental health disorders, preeclampsia, prolonged labor, cesarean section (c-section), and increased perception of labor pain. 

Sleep deprivation during pregnancy may also affect the baby’s health and could lead to low birth weight or sleep problems for the baby. 

As with other stages of pregnancy, people experience some unique sleep changes during the third trimester.

Sleep Changes During the Third Trimester

Sleep duration and quality generally decline during the third trimester of pregnancy. One study found a significant change in sleep, with 54% of pregnant people in their third trimester reporting bad sleep and 64% reporting shorter sleep duration. 

Several sleep changes may occur during the third trimester.

  • Strange dreams: Vivid dreams and nightmares are normal occurrences during pregnancy. These dreams often focus on pregnancy-related themes such as the baby or childbirth. In one study, a fourth of pregnant people reported having nightmares at least twice a month during their third trimester. 
  • Lower quality sleep: Sleep quality generally decreases in the third trimester. Shortened sleep and more nighttime wakings are changes reported during the third trimester. Pregnancy-related discomforts such as lower back pain and leg cramps may affect sleep quality.
  • Loud snoring: Approximately 14% to 45% of pregnant people will experience loud snoring during their third trimester. Snoring can lead to fragmented sleep and may also raise the risk of pregnancy-related complications such as preeclampsia or gestational hypertension. 

In addition, some pregnant people may find it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep at night during the third trimester. An increase in pregnancy-related worries and more movement from the baby may make it harder to go to sleep. 

Third Trimester Insomnia

The likelihood of developing insomnia increases later in pregnancy. Some studies estimate that about 80% of pregnant people experience insomnia during the third trimester.

Insomnia may occur during pregnancy due to bodily, hormonal, and psychological shifts. For example, breast tenderness, heartburn, and swelling are more likely during the third trimester, which can affect your ability to sleep comfortably. Changes in body size and proportions can make it harder to be comfortable, as can increased movement from the growing baby.

Pregnant people can also experience sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome (RLS). As many as 30% of pregnant people develop RLS, which can keep them from getting enough sleep. Sleep disorders are linked to poor pregnancy outcomes, so it’s important to speak to your doctor if you experience sleep problems.

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Tips to Sleep Better During the Third Trimester

Pregnancy brings a lot of new changes to the body that can impact your sleep. Although it may seem difficult to get good rest, sleep is especially critical during this time period for you and your baby. Several healthy sleep habits may help you improve your sleep during the final trimester of your pregnancy.

Change Your Sleep Position With Pillows

Your body position during sleep can impact your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. To get comfortable, consider placing a pillow under your bump and another pillow between your knees. Experts recommend that pregnant people should sleep on their left side. However, many doctors consider it okay to also sleep on the right side periodically, if needed. 

Monitor Your Fluids

During the third trimester, nighttime urination can increase because your growing baby is placing more weight on your bladder and your kidneys are filtering extra blood. Avoid drinking a lot of liquids close to bedtime. 

Adjust Your Diet

Digestion issues such as acid reflux and bloating can occur during pregnancy. If pregnancy-related stomach issues are impacting your sleep, consider avoiding greasy, fried, acidic, citrusy, and spicy foods. In addition, eat slowly and have smaller meals. Avoid eating or drinking a couple of hours before going to sleep and don’t lie down immediately after eating. 

Create a Sleep Routine

Maintain a sleep schedule by consistently going to bed and waking up at the same times. Ensure your sleep environment is comfortable, and keep your room dark and quiet. In addition, consider incorporating relaxing activities into your bedtime routine to help you wind down for bed. 

Limit Screen Time

When sleep feels like a challenge, it may seem tempting to get on your phone to pass the time. However, experts recommend avoiding electronic devices such as tablets, smartphones, and TVs before bed. Research indicates that using electronic devices two hours before bedtime is linked to lower-quality sleep.

Reduce Stress

During the third trimester, it’s normal to worry about childbirth. Finding ways to cope with your stress is important, as stress may raise your risk for developing insomnia. Consider taking a birthing class, speaking to a doctor or midwife about your questions, or contacting a therapist to help process your concerns about delivery. 

Apply Heat and Elevation

During the third trimester, body aches and pain can occur as the baby grows and adds pressure to the organs in the body. Lying down and applying external heat to the body may help soothe aches and pains. Be sure to notify your doctor about any ongoing or sporadic pain you experience during your pregnancy. 

Speak to a Doctor

To avoid potential health complications for you or your baby, speak to a doctor about any sleep problems you experience during pregnancy. A doctor can help determine the underlying cause of the problem and recommend treatment options, if needed.

If you’re having sleeping difficulties, first check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter sleep medicines or herbal supplements. Be sure to regularly discuss your sleep health during your scheduled doctor appointments. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep During the Third Trimester

How do I know if I have insomnia during the third trimester?

You may have insomnia if you experience sleep disruptions or trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. Multiple treatment options are available for insomnia, so be sure to speak with your doctor if you think you may have insomnia.

What are risk factors for insomnia during pregnancy?

Some risk factors for developing insomnia during pregnancy include older age, a lower level of education, and a history of insomnia or depression.

What sleep disorders occur during the third trimester?

In addition to insomnia, sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea can occur during pregnancy. Other pregnancy-related symptoms such as back pain, leg cramping, acid reflux, and frequent nighttime urination can also affect how well you sleep during pregnancy. Notify your doctor if you experience disrupted sleep during the third trimester.

About The Author

Afy Okoye

Staff Writer, Sleep Health


Afy is a writer and creative strategist in San Francisco with a master’s degree in international health policy from the London School of Economics. She has written for VeryWell Health, BlackDoctor.org, and Paste magazine and edited peer-reviewed journal manuscripts for Elsevier. Afy says her work with The Sleep Doctor is anything but “sleepy.” She enjoys the opportunity to learn new information and share knowledge that gives people the power to make better choices. Afy also likes to read non-fiction, do creative writing, and travel solo.

  • POSITION: Side sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Hot Sleeper
  • CHRONOTYPE: Bear

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