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“I’m 37 weeks pregnant – why can I no longer sleep through the night?” A sleep expert reveals all

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Welcome to Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, where we’re taking a deep-dive into one of the most important (and elusive) factors in our day-to-day lives: sleep. To help us understand more about it, we’re inviting women to track their bedtime routines over a five-day period – and presenting these diaries to sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan for analysis.  

In this week’s Sleep Diaries, a 32-year-old mum-to-be wonders whether her late-stage pregnancy insomnia could be preparing her for the early stages of motherhood.

A little about me:

Age: 32

Occupation: editor

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 4 hours

Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 8 hours

How much water do you drink on average per day: 1-2 litres a day

How much exercise do you do on average per week: 2 walks a day and 1 martial arts class a week

Day 1

I’m up at 5am (after waking up multiple times in the night), so I head downstairs, make myself some peanut butter crumpets, and down a glass of water. I start work at 6am and power through the day until 11am, when I go grab a cup of herbal tea (and a glass of water) just to give myself a quick 10-minute screen break. Then, I’m back to work until 1.30pm, before heading off to a hospital appointment; I’m 37+ weeks pregnant and baby is measuring a little small, so they’re being extra careful – which means 1,000+ scans.

I treat myself to a chocolate bar as I leave the hospital, then head home to do some tidying and walk the dog (my shift finished at 2.30pm, so I’m done for the day). I cook a veggie bake so it’s ready for when my partner gets home at 4.45pm, and we tuck in. It gives us enough time to digest the food before our martial arts class at 7.30pm.  

It’s a lot of cardio and strength training tonight, and I feel the burn; we finish around 9pm, head home, where we have a tea and chat and cuddle on the sofa I down some iron tablets and pregnancy vitamins, and then we get to bed. Well, I have a quick shower first, as I feel a bit sweaty and gross. 

A pregnant woman holding her bump
“I’m 37+ weeks pregnant and baby is measuring a little small, so they’re being extra careful – which means 1,000+ scans.”

We listen to an audiobook, ostensibly together, but he passes out after the first few minutes, bless him (his job is very physically demanding).

I hope I will sleep through but, as seems to be the case at the moment due to my pelvic girdle pain, I’m up every couple of hours with terrible back pain; every time I turn or move in bed, I’m jolted awake, and need to walk or stretch it out. I try not to look at the clock, but I am up at least seven times overall and my partner’s alarm goes off at 5am, so that’s… that. I’m up. Sigh.

Day 2 

I have an appointment at 9am today, so I make sure to log on a little earlier than normal so I can get some work done beforehand (and play with the dog in the garden for a bit). Breakfast is weetabix and milk, which I wash down with some heavily diluted multivitamin juice.

The appointment goes well enough; they send me on my way around 9.45am, and I’m able to log into work at 10am, so it doesn’t take me long to catch up with what I’ve missed. I consider skipping lunch but then realise this would be a bad idea, so I grab a break around 1pm to play with the dog, chomp on an apple and eat some cheese and crackers. 

When work finishes at 5.30pm, I take the dog for a walk; I’m in a lot of pain today, so wind up having a hormonal cry along the way. This backache is really getting me down.

When I get home, I have some leftover bake with my partner and we chat about our days. We also binge watch some Buffy The Vampire Slayer, because we’re apparently still firmly living in the 00s. Then, we do some stretches and head up to bed together, where we stick our audiobook on and cuddle up.

It’s much the same as last night; I’m awake so many times in the night it barely feels as though I’ve slept. This is a nightmare, but I guess it’s preparing me for parenthood… right? 

Day 3     

I wake up feeling… not tired, more frustrated. My back is still achey but nowhere near as bad as yesterday, so I hop out of bed around 7am and take the dog out for a bit. Then, it’s weetabix with apple again (I’m a predictable sort of person) and another diluted multivitamin juice, not to mention a quick shower, before I switch on my computer at 8.30am and start the day.

It’s a pretty busy one, as I am all too aware I have another appointment at 3.15pm and I don’t want to leave anyone in the lurch, so I power through today. Luckily, my partner’s mum pops over at lunchtime to drop off a few bits, and she entertains the dog for me, so that’s one thing off the list! 

I’m a little late to the hospital, but the appointment goes well enough. I’m home by 4pm and pick up work again until 6pm, when I head out for a dog walk. 

A woman pouring vitamins from a bottle into her hand
“I pop some vitamins and an antacid (heartburn, one of the more glamorous parts of pregnancy) before heading up to bed.”

We’re both too tired to think about food tonight, so we order a takeaway (I know, I know) and eat it at the table as we chat about the book my partner is reading at the moment; I recommended it to him but read it ages ago, so can’t remember it all that well, and I enjoy hearing his explanation of what’s happened so far. I pop some vitamins and an antacid (heartburn, one of the more glamorous parts of pregnancy) before heading up to bed. The audiobook goes on, he crashes out almost immediately, and I lay awake for a bit until I manage to snuggle down and snooze.

Again, though, I’m up every few hours in pain. I wind up wandering up and down the hallway like a ghost at one point to try and get my back in order. The neighbours can probably hear me staggering about and grumbling to myself through the walls. I often wonder what they think is going on in the wee hours of the morning! 

Day 4

Finally, a day of no appointments – how blissful! I wake up and have a shower, before trundling downstairs for weetabix and juice. Then, I sit playing with the dog for a bit until he’s collected by a dog walker (he goes out for the day on Thursdays, so he can have some fun with other dogs), and then start work a little earlier than normal so I can catch up with the bits I’ve missed this week.

I work through until 1ish, when I break for “lunch” (today this looks a lot like hardcore-tidying the house for an hour more than lounging about with a sandwich, but hey ho!). Then, it’s back to work until 5:30ish. 

We have people over tonight for board games, and it’s one of their birthdays, so I fuss about getting a cake ready and some snacks. I also make sure me and my partner have a plate of beans and quorn sausages on toast before they get there, so we’re not tempted to just snack on sweet things all night.

It’s a really fun evening; we play a game or two, then sit around chatting until 11pm. I head up to bed before my partner, as he’s still chatting to a late straggler, and give myself a little facial massage as a treat. Then, I snuggle down until he hops into bed alongside me and sticks our audiobook on.

It’s the same old story; he sleeps deeply, I sleep in weirdly tiny bursts. I guess it’s proving to me how little sleep a person can survive on. I do have my first dream about the baby, though; I’ve not done that before. Maybe it’s all becoming a bit more real as I zoom closer to my due date.

Day 5

I’m up at 5am with my partner’s alarm, and he dashes off to take the bins out (we are the worst and we always forget until the bin men are literally outside). Then, he heads off to work and I walk the dog for an hour, before whipping myself up a bowl of – you guessed it – weetabix. And a juice. Obviously.

I’m particularly frazzled today as I have to go into hospital to have a breast lump examined, on top of all the baby stuff, but I don’t think I realise how stressed out I am until just before I head out for my appointment. 

It isn’t bad news, but it is the sort of lump that warrants further testing, so I come away feeling a bit shellshocked: I really thought it would be a “go home, it’s nothing” type thing. I treat myself to two chocolate bars, which I eat while having a very self-indulgent cry (honestly, I know there’s no point worrying yet, but I’m going to blame the hormones!), and get stuck back into work.

A baked camembert
“My partner and I take the dog for a walk around the lakes, before heading home to a hot camembert, carrot sticks, pepper slices and some warm crusty bread.”

It’s my last day before maternity leave, so I wind up working later than normal trying to finish everything off before I sign off. My partner and I take the dog for a walk around the lakes, before heading home to a hot camembert, carrot sticks, pepper slices and some warm crusty bread. Hey, it’s been a bit of a rubbish day and we’re both tired; maybe cheese is the answer!

We wind up staying up late snacking, chatting and watching silly stuff on telly. He’s very good at calming me down and makes me feel much happier about the hospital – he even points out that, with a follow-up test booked for next week, I’m in a much better position than most as I’m going to get answers really soon.

We cuddle up in bed and listen to the audiobook together, and this time he stays awake with me – even though he has work tomorrow and I don’t. I sleep better than I have done this week, only waking up once or twice in the night; I wonder what the secret to that was? 

So, what does it all mean? A sleep expert offers her thoughts

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “I really feel for you as you’re so close to term and are having to deal with the sleep disruption caused by the back pain and then the investigation of the lump in your breast. You are doing a lot of the right things to help yourself get the best sleep you can get and stay healthy – your level of exercise, hydration and nutrition are good and your partner is evidently very supportive.

“I wonder how you know you’re getting only 4 hours of sleep a night – are you measuring your sleep? I don’t recommend this for you at all. We can end up underestimating how much sleep we’re getting and this can create more anxiety. Also, it’s possible to get up to use the bathroom and actually be more asleep than we think!  

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan Stylist's sleep expert
Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina continues: “In these final stages of pregnancy, nature prepares you for the sleep disruption to come by synchronizing your sleep pattern to that of baby’s – hence the frequent waking. The key thing is to try not to worry about it, try to stay as restful and relaxed when you do wake up and know that the process of pregnancy and motherhood actually prepares you to be more resilient for the sake of your baby.

“I also wonder if you’ve tried any gentle pregnancy yoga which might help with the back pain and the breathing could actually help when the main event takes place.” 

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If you would like to take part in Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, please email us at with ‘SLEEP DIARIES’ as the subject. We look forward to hearing from you.

Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan

Images: Getty

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.

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