Natural Remedies to Help You Sleep Better During Pregnancy
Between fluctuating hormones, finding a comfortable sleep position and at least one nightly trip to the bathroom, it’s hard to log a good eight hours or so of sleep during pregnancy. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, don’t despair just yet—there are a few drug-free ways that can help ensure quality pillow time during pregnancy. We reached out to two experts to find out how you can get better sleep with the help of all-natural remedies. Here are six smart, pregnancy-safe solutions the pros suggest.
Aromatherapy has been around for centuries. It involves inhaling or using essential oils on the skin for restorative health and wellness purposes. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, when inhaled, the scent molecules in the essential oils travel from the nerves in your nose directly to the amygdala, the part of our brain that controls emotions.
But before you reach for just any essential oils, check in with your doctor to learn which may be beneficial for moms-to-be and which should be avoided during pregnancy. “Aromatherapy is probably safe during pregnancy, but it’s important to know that it’s a bit controversial since medical studies have not been conducted,” says Sherry Ross, MD, a women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. “It’s best to discuss essential oils with your ob-gyn before using them.”
Drinking herbal tea can help you wind down before bed—just make sure not to drink too much to avoid middle-of-the-night bathroom trips! Diana Quinn, ND, a naturopathic physician and previous president of the Michigan Association of Naturopathic Physicians, recommends starting with a cup of herbal tea around an hour before bed. One of her favorites for sleep is oatstraw, which can be readily found in tea form at grocery stores. Ross adds that lavender and lemon balm teas are also great, safe choices to help with insomnia during pregnancy. Some herbal teas are not recommended during pregnancy, so always check in with your doctor before brewing a cup.
While you should limit eating and drinking before bed, if you’re worried about waking up hungry, Quinn says to have your tea with “a light, high-protein snack like a handful of nuts, which takes a while to digest and can help keep glycemic levels steady (so you don’t wake up starving at 5 a.m.).”
A relaxing massage is “a great way to wind down and clear your mind before bedtime,” Ross says. Have your partner gently massage your shoulders, hands, feet or any other area that’s been giving you grief. If you’re lying on your side, tuck cushions around you to help keep your body aligned, and consider placing a pillow between your knees for added support (avoid lying on your belly during pregnancy). You can use essential oils for the added benefit of aromatherapy, but lotions or massage oil work too. (Check out these tips for everything you need to know about safely giving and getting prenatal massages at home.)
Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine in which very thin needles are strategically inserted into the body. It may sound intimidating, but acupuncture is generally safe for pregnancy and many swear by its benefits. “Acupuncture is completely safe during pregnancy and often recommended to treat various symptoms including nausea, fatigue, heartburn, lower back pain and pre-birth preparation,” Ross says. Just be sure to get treatment from someone trained in prenatal care, as certain pressure points should be avoided during pregnancy (definitely let your acupuncturist know you’re pregnant!). Plus, if you have a high-risk pregnancy, get the green light from your doctor first.
Baths before bed are a proven way to help relax and prepare your body for sleep. According to a 2019 study, warm baths taken an hour or two before bedtime were found to help regulate core body temperature and improve sleep. Ross recommends taking a warm bath with candles, epsom and bath salts and bath oils. Just make sure the water temperature is below 100 degrees before getting in, as pregnant women shouldn’t let their core body temperature exceed 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pregnant women are supposed to consume 350 to 360 milligrams of magnesium a day. Not only does it help build baby’s nervous system, but it also helps decrease the risk of preterm labor and, according to one 2017 study, some pregnancy complications. Plus, according to Quinn, magnesium supplements can ease muscle pain (something you may have a lot of during pregnancy) and may help you get more shut-eye. Check in with your doctor before use, as too much magnesium can cause diarrhea.
If you’re wondering about over-the-counter melatonin supplements during pregnancy, Ross says it’s best to avoid them, as there isn’t enough research to confirm their safety. She also advises against using CBD, Ambien or other known prescription sleep medication without speaking to your OB first.
As always, if you find yourself tossing and turning at night, check in with a healthcare provider to find the best natural sleep remedies for you. “As with eating and drinking, sleeping is a basic necessity in life. Getting a good night’s sleep is critical for optimal health, mentally and physically, especially during pregnancy,” Ross says. “If insomnia becomes an ongoing problem during pregnancy, speak to your obstetrician. You have to make sleep a priority!”
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
Sherry A. Ross, MD, FACOG, is an ob-gyn with over 25 years of experience. She’s the author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period and co-founder of URJA Beauty. Ross obtained her medical degree from New York Medical College and spent her residency at the University of Southern California School Of Medicine. She currently practices at Providence St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California.
Diana Quinn, ND, is a naturopathic physician with over 15 years of experience. She focuses on holistic health and somatic bodywork and works with marginalized individuals, including people who identify as LGBTQ+, Black and trauma survivors. Quinn obtained her degree from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon and has previously served as the president of the Michigan Association of Naturopathic Physicians. In 2018 she completed a Health Leaders Fellowship in environmental justice from The Ecology Center.
Sleep Foundation, Pregnancy and Sleep, March 2023
Johns Hopkins Medicine, Aromatherapy: Do Essential Oils Really Work?
American Pregnancy Association, Herbs and Pregnancy
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Johns Hopkins Medicine, 5 Snack Foods to Eat While Pregnant
American Pregnancy Association, The Benefits of Prenatal Massage Therapy
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Sleep Medicine Reviews, Before-Bedtime Passive Body Heating by Warm Shower or Bath to Improve Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, August 2019
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American Pregnancy Association, Muscle Cramps During Pregnancy
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Sleep Foundation, Can You Take Melatonin While Pregnant?, October 2023
U.S. Food & Drug Administration, What You Should Know About Using Cannabis, Including CBD, When Pregnant or Breastfeeding, October 2019
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Sleep Foundation, Sleep Aids to Take While Pregnant, February 2023
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