The Link Between Pregnancy Hormones and Sleep Patterns

Expecting a baby soon? Learn how pregnancy hormones like progesterone and estrogen impact sleep patterns so you can enjoy restful sleep.


If you’re expecting a little bundle of joy, you might wonder how your pregnancy will impact your sleep. Many women report sleeping much better, but there are challenges like finding the right sleeping position or ensuring that you maintain and limit your stress. Fortunately, we have done some research to identify how specific pregnancy hormones—like progesterone, estrogen, and others—impact your sleep. 
In this article, we’ll explore how five distinct pregnancy hormones impact your sleep pattern. We’ll look at how progesterone impacts your rest, as well as estrogen, relaxin, cortisol, and melatonin. As you’ll come to find out, the fluctuation of these hormones impacts so much more than just your growing baby and other aspects of your health!

Progesterone Impacts Sleep Regulation

Once you become pregnant, one of the most essential hormones—progesterone—plays a vital role in your sleep regulation. Clinical studies have shown how important progesterone is for your overall health as an expecting mother and specifically for your sleep. Progesterone is noted for its ability to regulate and promote sleep in women, supporting better sleep regulation and more beneficial rest as you support your baby’s development (Source: Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience).  
So, if you’re feeling sleepier and experiencing changes in your sleeping patterns, know that it is natural and expected. It’s a sign that your progesterone levels are healthy and that you’re supporting your baby’s overall development and your health during this transformative life chapter. It also comes with another benefit: your brain’s enhanced ability to consolidate memories and perform well cognitively. However, another pregnancy hormone that can impact your sleep is estrogen.

Estrogen Can Cause Snoring  

As you await your baby’s arrival, another hormone fluctuation that changes upon conception is estrogen. Estrogen is responsible for supporting your overall health while you’re pregnant, but it can also cause snoring, believe it or not. Studies have proven that expecting mothers often suffer from stuffy noses, leading to them likely snoring while they sleep. Some may even develop sleep apnea because of the swelling of the mucous membranes within the body. 
However, studies also show that estrone—which is defined as a weaker estrogen made within the body—and its low or high levels can actually lead to snoring, and not just in pregnant women (Source: PLOS One). Thus, estrogen plays a vital role while pregnant in supporting your health and potentially encouraging snoring, but you may encounter more snoring later on in life, too. 

Relaxin Leads to Physical Discomfort 

While not directly tied to sleep, relaxin is another important hormone that you should know about if you’re expecting a child. If you have ever felt soreness in your hips, lower back, or pelvis, then relaxin is to blame. As one of the most studied pregnancy hormones, relaxin is tied to lumbopelvic pain or pain in the back and hips (Source: ScienceDirect). This can contribute to soreness while you’re awake and while you sleep. 
If you have ever tossed and turned and could not find the proper sleeping position, you likely are just experiencing the effects of relaxin preparing your body for birth. To support better sleep, try a pregnancy pillow and add extra cushioning around you. There are so many options for pregnancy pillows, so you can choose what fits your preferred sleeping position. This will help alleviate the pain you may be feeling and ensure that you stop moving and get to resting when nightfall hits and you’re looking for some shuteye.

Cortisol Disturbs Sleep at Times

While not explicitly a hormone solely related to pregnancy, cortisol is still critical to discuss because of how it changes during pregnancy. Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone, as it helps you respond to threats, mitigate challenges, and ultimately ensure that you maintain homeostasis or physiological balance. When you become pregnant, cortisol can fluctuate drastically, which not only affects your brain health but also your sleep (Source: PLOS One).  
Not only that, but cortisol has an interesting relationship with sleep. If you struggle with poor sleep, to begin with, you’re more likely to struggle with higher levels of cortisol. This can lead to poor outcomes for your mental health and even depressive symptoms and poor concentration. Not to mention that too much cortisol within the body can lead to insomnia (Source: PubMed). So, as you can see, cortisol impacts sleep and even disturbs it, which is why protecting your mental health and mitigating stress is so critical during pregnancy.

Melatonin Supports Maternal Sleep Patterns 

Many may already know the importance of melatonin, one of the main chemicals that supports your circadian rhythm, but it can also impact you differently while pregnant. Not only can melatonin ensure adequate sleep, but it might also change your sleep patterns to support maternal sleep needs. In other words, melatonin can ensure you get even more sleep to support you and your baby while you await the due date. 
One study showed that melatonin production actually has ties to a healthy pregnancy. A study over time discovered that pregnancies with complications actually had less melatonin present in the body than others who had better sleep and more melatonin production. Evidently, melatonin can encourage better sleep, and if you prioritize your sleep health, chances are you may also ensure a healthier pregnancy for you and a healthy delivery of your child.

Taking Steps to Support Your Health During Pregnancy

With an understanding of how pregnancy hormones impact your sleep, you’ll see just how important it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle if you’re expecting. It is not just about eating healthy and exercising but about supporting your sleep health while you await your little bundle of joy.  
How will you encourage better sleep as you await your due date? With so much information presented, you’ll find numerous ways to get restful, comfortable, and relaxing rest.  


Written by

Marie Soukup

Marie Soukup is a seasoned copywriter, editor, and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach with a certificate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN). With years of experience working with brands across diverse industries, Marie is passionate about holistic health and crafting compelling content.

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