photo of woman trying to stay awake at work while pregnant

16 things worth a try if you’re struggling to stay awake at work while pregnant

By Jason Wooden, PhD | May 2, 2021

The reasons expecting moms experience day time fatigue include hormonal changes, poorer sleep, nontraditional work shifts, tiring or repetitive tasks, health issues, and medications.

To stay awake at work while pregnant, you can try getting more sleep, power naps, activity breaks, eating more iron rich foods, vitamins, healthy snacks, changes to your workspace, and a host of other remedies.

The many reasons you’re finding it so hard to stay awake at work while pregnant

Trying to stay awake at work while pregnant can be pretty frustrating.  That sleepy brain fog can make things tougher for anyone, let alone expecting moms.

If this sounds like your situation, you’re not alone as day time fatigue is one of the most common complaints for pregnant women.

It’s also an issue for many other people.

In countries like the US, two thirds of the labor force experience fatigue according to a National Safety Council survey.  Depending on the occupation, an Amerisleep survey found that as many 70% admitted to snoozing on the job.

That’s a lot of people and it’s likely some of them are pregnant just like you.

When tired and dragging, the workday is less productive, less enjoyable, and tougher.  For some jobs, it’s also a safety issue.

According to the Pew Research Center, women today are more likely to work while pregnant.

And while employers are making more accommodations than in the past, you’re still going to deal with fatigue.

A big part of the reason you may be getting more sleepy than usual is because of the hormonal changes in your body to support the growing baby.  There’s also the physical and emotional changes that can sap energy.

Towards the end of pregnancy, all that extra weight and extra bathroom visits can make it harder to sleep at night which means you’re more sleep-deprived during the day.

On top of this, there’s the everyday reasons people struggle to stay awake at work – long work hours, odd work hours, tiring work or tasks, health issues, and medications.

Regardless of the reasons you find yourself dragging, it’s all the same to your work day or night.

It can make life tougher.

It can put your job at risk.

And depending on your job, it can put the safety of yourself and others at risk.

Since things are already stressful enough on the job, let’s look at some practical things that may help you stay awake at work while pregnant.

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What to try if you’re struggling to stay awake at work while pregnant

It should be clear by now that you’re not the only one as millions of people battle fatigue on the job every day.  Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to ward off fatigue and stay more alert.

Some of the remedies are obvious and simple.  Others will take time, money, or require a bit of organization.

And you’ll likely have to mix and match to fit the unique challenges of pregnancy to help you stay awake at work:

photo of woman getting extra sleep to help her stay awake at work while pregnant

1) Get more sleep

This one is pretty obvious but it had to be at the top of list.  It’s likely you’re not getting enough quality sleep given one in three people struggle with insomnia.

Since you’re pregnant, you’re likely getting even less sleep than you normally do.

For that reason, it’s by far the biggest thing you can do to help you stay awake at work while pregnant.

Try pushing up your bed time.  If 7 hours is usually your sweet spot, you may want to up it to 8 or 9 hours.

photo of lady taking a nap in the car to stay awake at work while pregnant

2) Sneak in a power nap

A quick snoozer can do wonders if it’s workable for your situation.  You can try sneaking in a nap before work, during a break, or over lunch. If it’s not doable in your work area, relocate to your car.

Sleep experts recommend you keep your naps under 15-20 minutes so you don’t wake up in a brain fog. You also don’t want to be late returning back to work, so set an alarm.

More power nap tips

photo of women taking a walk

3) Talk a walk

Getting the heart rate up and the blood flowing can raise your energy.   If pressed for time, try a 10 minute walk.

photo of lady taking a break in office to help her stay awake at work while pregnant

4) Get up and move around

Sitting still or standing for long stretches can make you feel tired.  It’s also not best for you ergonomically.

Get up and take breaks to move your body every few hours.

photo of glass of water which might help you stay awake at work while pregnant

5) Drink water

Fatigue can be a symptom of dehydration and dehydration can make it more difficult to concentrate.  As a healthier alternative to caffeine in the afternoon, try a glass of water.

6) Take vitamins

Vitamins are one way to boost energy.  It’s a good idea to check with your doctor before taking a vitamin supplement.

Learn more

photo of trail mix , a healthy snack to keep up the energy levels

7) Keep a stash of healthy snacks

Healthy snacks can help keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady during the day.  Avoid over sugary snacks that lead an energy crash hours later.

Instead, look for foods with a mix of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats such as:

  • trail mix
  • hard boiled eggs
  • fruit and nuts
  • seeds
  • raisins and peanuts
  • fruit and peanut butter
  • veggies and humus
  • Greek yogurt
  • beef jerky (without the added sugar)
  • popcorn

More snack ideas

photo of music earphones which can be used to help moms stay awake at work while pregnant

8) Music

The right music can be energizing and help you make it through a lull in the day.

9) Avoid computer fatigue

Staring at a computer screen for hours on end can strain your eyes and be tiring.  Be sure to take regular breaks.

Learn more

photo of sugary donuts which you want to avoid if it’s hard to stay awake at work while pregnant

10) Watch the sugar!

Too much sugar can lead to blood sugar spikes, energy crashes, and leave you drowsy.

11) Mix things up!

Doing the same thing for long stretches can sometimes lull you to sleep, especially if you showed up to work behind the eight ball on sleep and you’re doing something monotonous.

Try adding variety to the tasks of the day.

12) Try a change of scenery

Looking at the same thing every day can be monotonous.  Switching to a new setting can sometimes be energizing.

Try taking your work to a lounge, conference room, or outdoor setting.

photo of thermostat

13) Keep your work space cool

A warm room can lull you to sleep, especially after lunch.  Try a cooler room temperature or cracking a window.

14) Adjust your lighting

Working in a dim low-light room can also lull you to sleep.  Try brightening up your work area with a lamp or with natural daylight through the windows.

photo of iron rich spinach which may help moms stay awake at work while pregnant if they’re anemic

15) Eat more iron rich foods

During pregnancy, fatigue can be a symptom of iron deficiency anemia.  Eating more iron rich foods such as red meat, poultry, seafood, green leafy vegetables, and beans may help.

Your doctor can test whether you’re iron-deficient.

Learn more

16) Make adjustments to help keep your energy up

Sitting still or standing for long stretches can be extra tough and draining when you’re pregnant.

Try making some adjustments:
Sitting – use an adjustable chair with good lower back support
Standing – Wear extra comfortable shoes, compression socks to massage the muscles and promote better circulation.  Take extra breaks too!

Caffeine alternatives worth a try to help you stay more awake at work while pregnant

A quick cup of coffee can do wonders if you’re struggling to stay awake at work.  However, if you’re pregnant it’s recommended that you limit your intake of caffeine.

The good news is that there are plenty of caffeine-free alternatives worth a try.

 

I’ve already mentioned plain water, but there are others worth checking out:

1) Sparkling water:

It gives you pop and fizz without the caffeine or sugar.

can of flavored carbonated water

2) Flavored sparking water:

You can find fizzy water flavored with lime, strawberry, and many other flavors.  You can also just add slices of your favorite fruit to a glass of fizzy water.

glass of carbonated water mixed with fruit juice

3) Sparkling water with juice :

Add your favorite fruit juice to fizzy water for something that may also help satisfy your sweet tooth.  Make sure you use juice with no added sugar.

photo of sliced coconuts which has nutrients which can help keep from falling asleep at work

4) Coconut water:

A popular drink with natural vitamins and electrolytes.

photo of cup of ginger root tea which help fight fatigue so you don't fall asleep on the job

5) Ginger root tea:

Ginger root has been linked to many health benefits.  It’s believed to fight fatigue by improving blood circulation and blood sugar levels.

photo of cup of rooibos tea for alertness and to keep from falling asleep at work

6) Rooibos Tea:

Slightly sweet and caffeine free, Rooibos tea is made from leaves of a shrub native to South Africa.

Underlying issues you shouldn’t ignore if you’re really struggling to stay awake at work while pregnant

Let’s assume you’ve gotten the green light from your doctor to keep working and that your job doesn’t pose any risks to your baby.  There are plenty of other things going on besides pregnancy that could be making harder to stay awake at work.

There are all sorts of underlying issues that can cause daytime fatigue.  If you ignore them, you may just be sticking a band aid on things.

Poor sleep hygiene:

Unfortunately, there’s a long list of things that can cause problems for sleep.  This makes it important to practice good sleep hygiene, the everyday habits that set the stage for deep restful sleep. 

For better sleep hygiene, you should:

  • keep consistent wake up & sleep times
  • avoid naps
  • exercise during the day
  • avoid large meals, alcohol, or stimulants such as caffeine before bedtime
  • maintain a regular bedtime routine
  • avoid using TVs, laptops, or other electronics before
  • sleep
  • keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet, & relaxing

Undiagnosed sleep disorders:

If poor sleep has become a fact of life for you, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.  In the US alone, this is the case for 50-70 million adults.

There are many different types of sleep disorders, some more common than others.

During pregnancy, many pregnant women start snoring and develop obstructive sleep apnea because of the weight gain.  Restless leg syndrome, an irrepressible urge to move the legs, is also common among expecting moms.

If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, your doctor can refer you to a sleep specialist.

Learn more

Shift work disorder:

Speaking of sleep disorders, working nontraditional hours such as on an evening, night, or rotating shift is a common cause for fatigue on the job.   It’s just hard to keep your natural sleep clock on schedule when you’re sleeping at odd hours and out of sync with the sun.

Learn more:
Shift Work Disorder (American Sleep Association)
Tips for Shift Workers (sleepfoundation.org)

Other health issues:

There’s a long list health issues that could be making it harder for you to stay awake at work during your pregnancy.

First, there’s the ones that can directly cause day time fatigue:

  • anemia (iron deficiency)
  • underactive thyroid
  • celiac disease
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • diabetes
  • too much calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia)
  • infections

And then there’s all the health issues that ruin your sleep at night.  Most people aren’t aware of how many different things are linked to poor sleep.

The list includes chronic pain, heartburn, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, and asthma.

A doctor can check for underlying health issues..

Learn more

Mental health challenges:

Stress, anxiety, and depression can leave you feeling drained.  They are also linked to poor sleep.

And it turns out that people who sleep poorly are more at risk for stress, anxiety, and depression.  If you’re not careful, you can get in a vicious cycle where more of one leads to more of the other.

A type of counseling known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective for both anxiety and depression.  It focuses on changing thinking and behavioral patterns.

Learn more

Medications:

Some commonly used medications can make it harder to stay awake

Among the medications known to cause drowsiness are:

  • antihistamines
  • allergy meds
  • anti-psychotics
  • antidepressants
  • anxiety meds
  • muscle relaxants
  • heart meds
  • prescription pain meds

Sources:

1. “Workplace Fatigue Statistics and its Staggering Costs”, 2020, ErgonomicTrends.com

2. “Sleeping at Work”, 2020, Amerisleep.com

3. “Working while pregnant is much more common than it used to be”, 2015, Pew Research Center

4. “Fatigue During Pregnancy”, American Pregnancy Association

5. “Talking Points”, World Sleep Society website

6. Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, Am Fam Physician. 2009 Mar 1;79(5):391-396.

7. “7 Medications That Can Make You Tired”, 2020, goodrx.com

8. “What to do when medication makes you sleepy”, 2019, Harvard Health Publishing

9. “What causes fatigue, and how can I treat it?”, medicalnewstoday.com

10. “Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe): a review of recent research”, Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Feb;46(2):409-20.

11. “Sleep and Sleep Disorder Statistics”, American Sleep Association

12. “Pregnancy and Sleep”, 2020, sleepfoundation.org

13. “10 medical reasons for feeling tired”, NHS website for England

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