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How To Get Energy When Pregnant? 8 Things To Consider

Keep sleep debt low, live in sync with your circadian rhythm, and rest more than usual to make the most of your energy when pregnant.
Published
2022-08-29
Updated
15 MINS
Pregnant woman with partner resting and making most use of energy while pregnant

Tiredness is a common pregnancy symptom, especially during the first and third trimesters. But that doesn’t make it any easier to live with.

You’re more tired than usual — you’re growing a new human, after all — but you can’t turn to your usual pick-me-ups of double-shot espressos and energy drinks, and you still want to work and keep living your life. 

Unfortunately, more research needs to be done on how energy levels during pregnancy can be improved, but below, we dive into what science does know. 

Why Am I Tired When Pregnant?

Several things can make you feel more tired than usual when pregnant. 

High Sleep Debt

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have.

Sleep debt is the running total of how much sleep you owe your body. It’s measured over the last 14 nights and compared against your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need each night. 

When you don’t meet your sleep need, you start building up sleep debt, and feeling more and more tired. 

High sleep debt makes anyone feel tired, pregnant or not, but it’s especially hard to meet your sleep need when pregnant. 

Sleep disturbances are all too common when pregnant with a seemingly endless number of things either keeping you up or waking you up during the night. 

You can easily build up sleep debt while pregnant due to: 

  • Increased need to use the bathroom during the night 
  • Nausea 
  • Heartburn 
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Leg cramps at night
  • Back and pelvic pain 
  • Baby movements keeping or waking you up 
  • Nightmares — especially in late pregnancy 
  • Increased metabolic rate making you feel hot when you sleep 
  • Finding it hard to find a comfortable sleeping as your pregnancy progresses 
  • Increased estrogen levels impact your sleep and may decrease REM sleep (rapid-eye-movement sleep, the phase where you most commonly dream)
  • Hormonal changes can cause insomnia and daytime sleepiness 

Turn to the RISE app to find out your individual sleep need. The app can also work out how much sleep debt you’re carrying. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

Circadian Misalignment

Your circadian rhythm is the roughly 24-hour cycle of your biological clock. It controls everything from when you feel tired and alert to when your body produces certain hormones. 

When you’re not living in sync with it, your energy levels take a hit. You might be out of sync with your circadian rhythm if: 

  • You have social jetlag: Or you go to sleep later on the weekend than during the week. Research shows 77% of pregnant women have more than an hour of social jet lag during at least one trimester. You can learn more about social jet lag and how to combat it here.
  • You’re a shift worker: Either you work nights or you work rotating shifts, so your sleep and meal times are always changing. 
  • You’re not honoring your chronotype: Perhaps you’re a night owl forcing yourself to be a morning person
  • You eat at very odd times: Like during the night or your meal times are dramatically different each day. 

Just like with sleep debt, not living in sync with your circadian rhythm drains anyone of energy. But it can be harder to stay in sync when pregnant. 

Sleep disruptions may make your sleep schedule irregular, increasing social jetlag, and nausea and cravings can often dictate when you eat. That’s before even thinking about your work times and your chronotype. 

It’s hard to picture your circadian rhythm, but RISE makes that easy. The app predicts your circadian rhythm each day and shows you a visual representation of how your energy levels will fluctuate throughout the day and when your body naturally wants to go to sleep and wake up. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their upcoming energy peaks and dips on the Energy screen.

Other Pregnancy-Related Factors 

Your body is working hard growing a baby and changing a lot. Here’s what else affects your energy levels when pregnant: 

  • Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, which act as sedatives   
  • Lower blood sugar levels 
  • Lower blood pressure 
  • Increased blood production 
  • Nausea and morning sickness making you feel drained, especially in early pregnancy  
  • Stress and anxiety about your pregnancy, impending motherhood, or the extra stress of balancing work while pregnant 
  • Anemia or an iron deficiency  
  • Carrying extra weight, especially towards the end of your pregnancy 

Heads-up: While fatigue is a common pregnancy symptom, you should speak to a doctor if you’re feeling extremely tired all the time to rule out any underlying causes. 

How to Get Energy When Pregnant?

While you might not be able to get the energy levels you had before you got pregnant, there are things you can do to reduce how tired you feel. We cover how to sleep when pregnant here, but here’s how you can work on bringing those energy levels up. 

1. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene 

RISE app screenshot showing when to get and avoid bright light
RISE can remind you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits.

As sleep disturbances are even more common when pregnant, you should pay special attention to sleep hygiene. 

Sleep hygiene is a set of behaviors you can do that help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night. This will help you get more sleep each night, increasing the odds of you meeting your sleep need and feeling more energized the next day. 

Sleep hygiene includes: 

  • Getting light first thing: Aim for 10 minutes of natural light as soon as possible after waking up or 30 minutes outdoors if it’s overcast. This will reset your circadian rhythm for the day and help you feel sleepy come your desired bedtime. 
  • Avoiding light before bed: Light suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin, so 90 minutes before bed, dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses. On your (probably many) trips to the bathroom during the night, use your phone flashlight instead of bright overhead lighting. 
  • Winding down before bed: This helps to slow your body and brain down for bed and reduce stress (which is linked to pregnancy nightmares). Read, journal, practice yoga, or listen to music. One study found women who listened to 30 minutes of music at bedtime for two weeks experienced improved stress, anxiety, and perceived sleep quality.
  • Keeping your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet: Aim for 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (this is especially important as you may feel warmer when pregnant) and use blackout curtains, an eye mask, and earplugs to turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary. 

You can learn more about sleep hygiene here. And RISE can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits and tell you exactly when to do them each day to make them more effective. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications. 

2. Lower Sleep Debt

The good news about sleep debt is that it is possible to catch up on sleep, pay down this debt, and increase your energy levels. 

We usually recommend keeping sleep debt below five hours to feel and perform your best. But when pregnant, you may find that keeping your sleep debt even lower than this helps you feel better during the day. 

Use RISE to find out your sleep need and aim to hit at least this amount throughout your pregnancy. 

If you find out you have a high amount of sleep debt, you can pay it back by: 

  • Taking naps: Naps are especially useful if you’re waking up often during the night. Check RISE for the best time to take a nap to stop it keeping you up at night. We answer all of your napping questions here.
  • Going to bed a little earlier. 
  • Sleeping in a little late: Keep lay-ins to an hour or two to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm. 
  • Improving your sleep hygiene: If you can’t squeeze in extra sleep, or pregnancy symptoms are stopping you from getting any more sleep, focus on your sleep hygiene. This will help improve your sleep efficiency, meaning less time awake in bed.

You can use RISE to keep track of your sleep debt throughout your pregnancy and take extra steps (like a nap or sleeping in) when you see it creeping higher. 

Heads-up: Avoid over-the-counter sleep aids while pregnant as there’s simply not enough research into how safe these are. Even melatonin may not be suitable. Speak to a doctor before taking it to help you fall asleep. 

3. Live in Sync with Your Circadian Rhythm 

Living in sync with your circadian rhythm can boost your energy levels and has plenty of health benefits, like reducing the likelihood of developing certain diseases. Here’s how to do it: 

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule: Aim to wake and up and go to sleep at the same times each day. If possible, pay down sleep debt with naps, rather than sleeping in until noon one day.
  • Eat during the day and at regular times: Avoiding large meals too close to bed can also help reduce nighttime heartburn and digestive issues that can easily keep you up. 
  • Work with your chronotype: If you have the flexibility, go to sleep and wake up when your body naturally wants to. You can also reset your circadian rhythm if this doesn’t fit with your job or lifestyle. 

4. Find the Right Balance of Exercise 

RISE app screenshot showing you when to avoid working out
The RISE app can tell you when to avoid exercise.

You might find you can’t hit the gym as often as you used to pre-pregnancy, or at least, not with the same intensity. Downgrading your exercise may help conserve some of your energy. 

Swap long arduous hikes for gentle walks, HIIT classes for yoga classes or pregnancy pilates, and hill sprints for swims. 

Of course, speak with your doctor to find out the right intensity of exercise for you.

Unless instructed to, you shouldn’t give up exercise altogether, though. When you’re tired, you may not be in the mood to move, but exercise can help: 

  • Reduce the chances of developing gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. 
  • Ease constipation. 
  • Control weight gain. 
  • Build core strength, which can reduce lower back pain, help during labor, and speed up recovery after giving birth. 
  • Finish your meals — one study found for every one-minute increase in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, pregnant women are 17% less likely to have trouble finishing a meal due to tiredness. 
  • Improve your sleep — mindful yoga has been shown to reduce nighttime awakenings, how long you’re awake for at night, and perceived sleep disturbances in women in their second trimester. 
  • Reduce sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) and sleep fragmentation (how often you wake up during the night) in those who aren’t pregnant. More research needs to be done to see how exercise can help improve sleep when pregnant.

Although you should listen to your body and exercise when you have more energy, try to be done with your workout 1.5 hours before bed as it can disrupt your sleep. You can learn more about exercise before bed here. RISE can remind you when to work out before bed. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their avoid late workout reminder.

5. Tweak Your Diet 

Eating right is hard at the best of times, but it’s even trickier when you’re pregnant. Perhaps all you’re craving is pizza or you’re feeling too nauseous to even look at a salad. But the right foods can increase your energy levels and help you have a healthy pregnancy. 

As best you can: 

  • Focus on eating a well-balanced diet: Including plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, complex carbohydrates (like brown rice, whole grain bread, lentils, and oatmeal), fiber, and protein.
  • Eat iron-rich foods: Anemia is common during pregnancy and one major symptom is fatigue. Include iron-rich foods in your diet like spinach and sweet potatoes.
  • Avoid simple carbs and sugary foods: They cause your blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, leaving you feeling more tired than before. Plus, sugar is associated with lighter and less restorative sleep and waking up more often during the night — as is saturated fat and a low-fiber diet. 
  • Opt for healthy snacks: Go for veggies and peanut butter, yogurt, nuts, and seeds.
  • Drink enough water: Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue. Plus, when pregnant, your body needs more water to increase your blood volume and produce the amniotic fluid around your baby.
  • Speak to a doctor about prenatal vitamins. 

You can learn more about the foods that give you energy here.

Just like with exercise, try to avoid eating too close to bedtime as this could keep you up. Aim to be done with large meals two to three hours before you go to sleep. RISE can remind you when to wrap up your last large meal of the day. 

6. Consume Caffeine the Right Way 

You don’t need to give up caffeine altogether during pregnancy (although check with your doctor to make sure it’s okay for you). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests limiting caffeine to less than 200 mg a day. 

Be sure to watch out for hidden caffeine in black tea, green tea, and chocolate. Even decaf coffee contains some caffeine. And steer clear of energy drinks — they often contain ingredients that may not be safe for pregnancy. 

When you do consume caffeine, do it at the right times of day. Drinking a cup of coffee is a great way to shake off sleep inertia, or that groggy feeling you get when you wake up. But avoid it too close to bedtime or you run the risk of struggling to fall asleep. RISE can tell you the best time to have your last cup of coffee for the day. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their limit caffeine reminder. 

7. Match Your Day to Your Energy Levels

RISE app screenshot showing your energy peak and dip times
The RISE app can show your energy peaks and dips each day.

As much as you can try to boost energy levels through naps, healthy meals, and exercise, you should also cut yourself some slack. 

Growing a baby is no easy feat, so of course, your body is going to feel more tired than usual. Give yourself compassion and rest more often than you usually would. 

You may find you have more energy at certain times of day. If possible, schedule the tasks you absolutely have to get done for this time. When you’re feeling drained, take a break, go for a walk, do a relaxing activity, or take a nap. 

You can check RISE to see when your peaks and dips in energy will be each day. This way, you know when you’re most likely going to be able to get work tasks or household chores done, and when you’re better off resting. 

8. Speak to a Doctor 

You should speak to a healthcare professional if you feel like your tiredness is more than a pregnancy symptom. They can help you get to the bottom of your tiredness and may offer treatment options. 

For example, iron supplements can help with pregnancy anemia and its related fatigue. And magnesium supplements may help to reduce leg cramps in pregnant women.

Heads-up: Pregnancy fatigue is often stronger in the first trimester, so if you’re early in your pregnancy, remember this phase will pass and you’ll hopefully get some of your energy back as you move into your second trimester. 

Better Sleep and Better Days

Getting enough sleep is hard enough as it is without mentioning the long list of pregnancy-related things that keep you up at night and drain your energy during the day. But, there are some things you can do to boost your energy levels. 

Keep your sleep debt as low as possible, work to live in sync with your circadian rhythm, and maintain excellent sleep hygiene. The RISE app can help you stay on top of these three things to improve your sleep at night, boost your energy levels during the day, and help you feel as best as you can before the baby arrives. 

Summary FAQs

How to overcome tiredness during pregnancy

You can overcome tiredness during pregnancy by exercising, eating a healthy diet, keeping sleep debt low, and living in sync with your circadian rhythm. But remember, tiredness is a natural symptom of pregnancy, so go easy on yourself and rest when you can.

How to get energy without caffeine while pregnant

To get energy without caffeine while pregnant, you can take a nap, exercise, eat a healthy energy-boosting snack, and long-term focus on keeping your sleep debt low and living in sync with your circadian rhythm throughout your pregnancy.

How to get energy in your first trimester of pregnancy

You may feel more tired during your first trimester, compared to your second. Take naps and rest, exercise, eat a healthy diet, keep sleep debt low, and live in sync with your circadian rhythm. Feelings of fatigue should decrease when you move into your second trimester, so hang in there!

How to get energy in your third trimester of pregnancy

Focus on finding a comfortable sleeping position (on your left side is best), stop drinking liquids two hours before bed to reduce nighttime bathroom trips, and take naps when you can to make up for lost sleep at night. Keeping sleep debt low and living in sync with your circadian rhythm will help to boost your energy levels.

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