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The Best Sleep Positions While Pregnant

The Best Sleep Positions While Pregnant

by

Aoife O.
 | 
May 20, 2021

Sleeping while pregnant can be elusive and frustrating. Nausea, cramps, insomnia, and a growing bump can make it almost impossible to sleep. Finding a comfy sleep position can be achieved with a little help from pillows and relaxation techniques. However, you should talk to your doctor before making any changes to your sleep or daily habits during pregnancy.


Do I Need to Sleep More During Pregnancy?

Your sleep position during pregnancy can help you get better sleep quality which is important for a healthy pregnancy and labor. Increased risks of preeclampsia (affects blood pressure and kidneys) could occur from pregnancy sleep disorders and cause premature birth. Increased progesterone during pregnancy causes overwhelming exhaustion, especially in the first trimester. Good quality sleep is essential at every point of life, especially when pregnant. During sleep your memories are cataloged and stored, energy is replenished, hormones are regulated, and health restored. Pregnancy is tiring, sleep as much as you can and nap during the day if possible.


What Are the Best Sleep Positions for Pregnancy?

Side Sleeping 

Experts recommend sleeping on your side during pregnancy. Sleeping on your left side can ease acid reflux symptoms, which plague most pregnant women, and allow unimpeded blood flow from the vena cava (in air-breathing vertebrates that carries blood to your heart). Sleeping on your left side puts less pressure on your kidneys and liver and could ease feet, ankle, and hand swelling.

Back Sleeping

Back sleeping pregnant women can enjoy their favored sleeping position during the first trimester. It is best to avoid sleeping on your back in the second and third trimester as back sleeping is linked to late pregnancy stillbirth in some small studies. You may suffer more back pain when sleeping on your back. Try sleeping on your left side with a body pillow behind your back.

Stomach Sleeping

A pregnant stomach sleeper can enjoy their beloved sleep position but it may not be the most comfortable during the later stages of pregnancy. Your baby is well protected by the amniotic fluid and uterine walls so fear not if you are sleeping on your tummy during pregnancy. A stomach sleeper pregnancy pillow has a cut-out for your belly so could make you feel comfier.


Trimesters and Sleep Position

First Trimester

The first trimester of pregnancy is an exciting time but super exhausting. Tender breasts, bouts of nausea and acid reflux, progesterone increasing have you craving daytime sleeps. Insomnia is common during the first trimester but thankfully eases off in the second trimester. During your first trimester, you can enjoy any sleep position.

Second Trimester

During the second trimester you will be feeling a little better, nausea may ease off and your normal sleep patterns return. Doctors typically recommend sleeping on your left side starting in the second trimester. Start a new sleep hygiene routine that involves a wind-down well routine of relaxation before sleep. A body pillow, pregnancy pillow, or additional pillows will help you feel comfier.

Doctors typically recommend sleeping on your left side starting in the second trimester.

Third Trimester

The third trimester and final weeks of pregnancy can make sleep difficult. Constantly running to the bathroom, heartburn and acid reflux rear their ugly heads. Avoid caffeine which is a diuretic and spicy food which can cause heartburn. Stick with your side sleeping with a pillow between your knees for added comfort.


Pregnancy Sleep Disorders

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is the sensation of crawling or itching in the legs when trying to sleep. This can occur most often in the third trimester of pregnancy. In some instances, increasing iron and vitamin D intake can ease symptoms. Consult your doctor before adding supplements to your diet.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Pregnant women with blood pressure issues could be at greater risk of developing sleep apnea. Pregnancy weight gain and nasal congestion could cause snoring and disturbed sleep quality. Sleep apnea is a gasping for air while sleeping, it may not fully wake you up but disturbs your sleep, potentially leading to further illness and insomnia. The best sleeping position for sleep apnea is elevated back sleeping or side sleeping.

Acid Reflux

Heartburn and acid reflux are more common in pregnancy and a major cause of sleep disorders. It may be more apparent in the first trimester. Sleeping on your left side with your torso slightly elevated and a pillow between your knees may bring some comfort. Antacids could offer some relief too so keep some on your bedside table with a glass of water. A spoon of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) in water is a good alternative if you have no antacids to hand. Baking soda is high in sodium so ask your doctor if it is safe for you, especially if you are on a low salt diet.


Pregnancy Sleep Aids

  • A pressure-relieving mattress will take you through each stage of pregnancy in comfort, add some breathable pillows and cooling bedding for maximum comfort.
  • A body pillow or pregnancy pillow will be one of your favorite investments, many women take it into the delivery room too.
  • Finding ways to relax and destress is especially essential when pregnant, walking in the fresh air is a highly favored exercise, as is swimming, pregnancy yoga, and even strength training if that was your exercise routine before becoming pregnant.
  • Enjoy calming activities before bed, enjoy a hot shower, read a book, meditate, do some gentle stretches, even giving yourself a manicure will help you relax and feel good.


FAQs

Can I Lay on My Right Side While Pregnant?

Laying on your left side is favored when pregnant as it eases acid reflux and sleep apnea. However, sleeping on your right side is acceptable if you find that more comfortable. Put a pillow between your knees for greater comfort. Use a body pillow or pregnancy pillow behind your back to stop you from rolling onto your back.

What Happens if I Sleep on My Back While Pregnant?

Experts recommend avoiding sleeping on your back while pregnant, especially in second and third trimesters. Sleeping on your side is favored during pregnancy as it eases acid reflux and sleep apnea. Add a pregnancy pillow behind your back and a pillow between your knees for added sleep comfort.

Conclusion

The best sleeping position while pregnant allows unobstructed blood flow. When blood vessels become strained, varicose veins can occur that can be itchy and uncomfortable. Sleeping on your stomach can put pressure on your back and neck so best to sleep in your left side of you can. Don’t worry if you find sleeping on your left uncomfortable at first, it can take some getting used to. Use a body pillow or pregnancy pillow for added comfort. A pillow between your knees will keep your hips aligned and feel cozy and sleep-inducing.

Disclaimer: Nolah does not provide medical advice. All resources on the Nolah blog, including this article, are informational only and do not replace professional medical counsel. Talk to your doctor about any health, mental health, or sleep-related issues.

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