If pregnancy has scuppered your sleep patterns, listen up: our midwife Emma Mills recommends some snooze-smart strategies & comfy sleeping positions

Tossing and turning last night? You’re not alone. A National Sleep Foundation poll reveals that more than two in three women report more restless nights in pregnancy than at any other time. And it can start from day one...

First trimester – the early days

Nothing prepares you for the numbing, walking-through-toffee fatigue of the first trimester – it’s normal to feel absolutely washed out. “At this stage, there’s no such thing as going to bed ‘too early’, so aim for at least an extra hour of shut-eye each night,” says Boots Parenting Club midwife Emma Mills. 

Trouble is, when you throw in boobs swollen to watermelon proportions and ‘morning’ sickness that strikes at all hours, stacking up an extra 60 minutes of sleep is easier said than done. “It’s odd but sometimes the simplest rituals can work,” says Emma. “Soaking in a warm bath can help soothe tender breasts and fast-track relaxation, which may help take the edge off nausea, too”

Second trimester – halfway through

By this stage, most mums-to-be report feeling better physically. But it’s normal for your sleep to be broken by worries (your baby’s health, your finances, relationship, even how you’ll sleep when they arrive). “If you’re lying awake feeling anxious, talk to your midwife,” says Emma. “Help is available.”

Or, if it’s heartburn keeping you awake, Emma suggests eating bigger breakfasts and lighter dinners. “Extra progesterone slows down your digestive system, while your growing uterus presses on your belly, pushing stomach acid upwards,” she explains. “It should help if you stay upright for at least two hours after eating.” If it continues when you’re in bed, try propping yourself more upright with pillows, or prop up the head of the bed. And consider talking to your pharmacist about reflux remedies suitable in pregnancy. 

Third trimester – the final countdown

As your bump balloons, it seems impossible to get comfy in bed. “It can feel like a mission just to roll over,” says Emma. High levels of the relaxin hormone don’t help: “Relaxin loosens ligaments in preparation for birth, which can make it harder to get comfortable,” she adds. “A cushion between your legs, while lying on your side (the safest position when pregnant), can encourage your hips to rest in alignment, allowing the body to stay stable.”

And if you feel you’re riding a conveyor belt between your bed and the loo, Emma suggests you stop drinking two hours before bed (although you’ll still need six to eight glasses of water during the day). 

Finally, take comfort in this: these weeks of broken sleep may actually be nature’s really clever way of preparing your body and easing you into nocturnal wake-ups once your baby arrives!

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