7 Effects of Lack of Sleep During Pregnancy & When to Get Support

Many mums-to-be experience sleep problems, from difficulty falling asleep to disrupted sleep patterns. However, an excessive lack of sleep can affect your pregnancy in a few ways, which is why it's important to prioritise getting enough rest during this crucial time.

Many mums-to-be experience sleep problems, from difficulty falling asleep to disrupted sleep patterns. However, an excessive lack of sleep can affect your pregnancy in a few ways, which is why it's important to prioritise getting enough rest during this crucial time.

Not getting a good night's rest while you're busy growing a little bean in your belly can be down to numerous things, like hormonal changes, anxieties about pregnancy, or physical discomfort.

But whatever the reason, it's essential to address and manage sleep deprivation for the sake of both you and your baby's health.

Healthy sleep is important for us under normal circumstances, but even more so during pregnancy. You’re caring for another life, and that requires a lot of energy!

But what exactly does happen when you're not getting enough sleep?

Can Lack of Sleep Affect Your Pregnancy?

To answer it plainly, lack of sleep can indeed affect your pregnancy – but that doesn't mean you should immediately panic. Knowing the potential impacts of sleep deprivation can help you take steps to address it and prioritise rest.

Even when we're not pregnant, not getting enough shut-eye can have various negative effects on our physical and mental health.

Sleep is essentially like a reset button for our bodies and minds. Without this reset, we can start to experience issues like fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and a weakened immune system.

During pregnancy, these effects can be exacerbated, as your body is already working hard to support the growth and development of your baby.

Without giving your body the 'reset' it needs, you'll be working overtime, which can lead to a range of potential problems.


How Does Lack of Sleep Affect Pregnancy?

The actual effects of sleep loss can vary from person to person, but there are some common potential impacts to be aware of.

Please note, this list isn't to scare you, but to inform you of potential risks so that you can take steps to manage them. If you are overwhelmed or concerned, please speak to your healthcare provider for personalised advice.

#1 Increased Risk of Complications

Pregnancy naturally comes with a higher risk of complications, and sleep deprivation can increase this risk further. Lack of sleep has been linked to issues like high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia.

If your body is already working hard to grow a baby, adding sleep deprivation into the mix can put extra strain on your system and potentially lead to more significant problems if not managed.

#2 Impaired Immune Function

One of the biggest roles of sleep is to help keep our immune system functioning at its best. When we're not getting enough rest, our immune function is impaired, making us more susceptible to illnesses and infections.

During pregnancy, this can be particularly concerning as you want to do everything possible to keep yourself and your baby healthy. By not getting enough sleep, you may be putting yourself at risk of developing illnesses that could have negative effects on your pregnancy.

#3 Mood Disturbances

With hormones all over the place, your mood is likely already fluctuating during pregnancy. But when you add sleep deprivation into the mix, it can make things worse.

Lack of sleep has been linked to mood disturbances like irritability, anxiety, and depression – all of which can negatively impact your overall well-being during pregnancy.

Being in a positive mental state, not only for you but also for your baby, is crucial.

Not only that, but this is an exciting time in your life and getting enough rest can help you enjoy it more!

Read our guest blog post by Lisa Artis (Deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity) as she explores the impact of sleep deprivation and why it’s important to safeguard your sleep.


#4 Cognitive Impairment

Pregnancy brain is well and truly a thing, and not getting a good amount of sleep will add to the loss of cognitive function you're already experiencing.

Pregnancy requires a lot of mental and emotional energy, so when you're not getting enough rest, it can be challenging to keep up with your usual tasks and responsibilities. This can lead to forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and overall brain fog.

And while many people use the term 'baby brain' as a light-hearted term, it's essential to recognise that not getting enough sleep during pregnancy can have real impacts on our cognitive function.

#5 Weight Gain

It's natural to put on weight during pregnancy – essential, even. But when you're not getting enough sleep, it can increase your risk of gaining more weight than necessary.

Lack of sleep has been linked to an increased appetite and cravings for unhealthy foods. This, coupled with the fact that your body is already in a state of energy conservation for growing a baby, can lead to excessive weight gain.

Read The Modern Midwife’s Guide to Prenatal Health for advice on maintaining a healthy diet.

#6 Antenatal Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

It's thought that around 1 in 10 pregnant women have high blood pressure, also known as antenatal hypertension.

While this can be caused by various factors, including genetics and pre-existing conditions, lifestyle factors like lack of sleep can also contribute to high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Your blood pressure will be monitored as part of your midwifery appointments, but you should also be aware of potential risk factors so that you can take steps to manage them.

Let your midwife or antenatal team know if you're struggling with insomnia, and they'll be able to give you tailored advice to ensure your blood pressure stays healthy.

#7 Reduced Fetal Growth

With all of the extra strain on your body due to a lack of sleep, your body isn't able to provide the same level of support to your baby. This can potentially lead to reduced or restricted fetal growth and an uncomfortable birth.

Growing fetus' require a lot of energy from their mothers, and if you're not getting enough rest, your body may not have the resources to support this process fully. Just as you're eating for two, you're also resting for two!


When Should You Be Concerned About Sleep Deprivation During Pregnancy?

The optimum amount of sleep you should get during pregnancy varies from person to person. However, the general guideline is 7-9 hours each night.

While there may be the occasional sleepless night, if you're consistently struggling to get enough rest, it's important to address the issue.

If you're experiencing any of the above symptoms or are concerned about your lack of sleep, speak to your healthcare provider for personalised advice.

What to Do About It

The solutions to righting your poor sleeping habits will vary depending on the cause, but some general tips to help you get a better night's rest include:

  • Establishing a regular bedtime routine that includes winding down activities like reading or listening to music.
  • Limiting caffeine and sugar intake, especially in the late afternoons and evenings.
  • Creating a comfortable sleep environment with a supportive mattress and pillows, as well as a cool, dark room.
  • Practising relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises or prenatal yoga.
  • Using a pregnancy pillow or extra pillows for support and comfort.
  • Talking to your healthcare provider about safe sleep aids or remedies if needed.

It's also very important not to become more stressed due to sleep deprivation, as this can further impact your ability to rest. If you're finding yourself anxious about not getting enough sleep, speak to your healthcare provider for advice on managing stress and anxiety during pregnancy.

Our Sleep Talk blog is also full of great tips and advice on getting a good night's rest during pregnancy, so be sure to check it out in between getting your much-needed rest!

How to Sleep Better During Pregnancy: 10 Tips for Tired Mum-to-Be’s


To wrap it up, lack of sleep can affect pregnancy in various ways – if you don't take steps to address it.

By prioritising rest and implementing healthy sleep habits, you can minimise the potential negative impacts of sleep deprivation on both your and your baby's health.

Remember, if you're concerned about your lack of sleep, speak to your healthcare provider for personalised advice and support throughout your pregnancy journey.


The first 12 weeks of pregnancy is typically when mothers-to-be experience the most sleep disruption. However, sleep problems can persist throughout the pregnancy, so it's important to manage them as they arise.

While the general recommendation is 7-9 hours of sleep per night during pregnancy, some women may feel well-rested with less or more than this. That being said, consistently getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night is not recommended and can have negative effects on both you and your baby's health.

Your baby will spend almost all of their time sleeping in the womb, regardless of whether or not you are awake. Their sleep cycles will be different from yours and may even be influenced by your own movements and activities.

Yes, lack of sleep can potentially affect a baby's development if the mother is consistently not getting enough rest. You're at an increased risk of complications, reduced fetal growth, and a range of other negative effects when you're not getting adequate sleep during pregnancy.

The risk of sleep disorders can increase during pregnancy due to hormonal changes, physical discomfort, and stress. Gestational sleep deprivation is also a common issue that many pregnant women experience. Managing your sleep habits early on in pregnancy can help reduce the risk of developing sleep disorders.

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