Sleeping Positions In Pregnancy – What You Need To Know

Sleeping Positions In Pregnancy - What You Need To Know

One of the hardest things about pregnancy is trying to get a good night’s sleep.

None of the positions you usually sleep in are comfortable.

You’re hot and sweaty, uncomfortable, your hips ache and your heartburn gets worse when you lie down.

Sleeping Positions In Pregnancy – What You Need To Know

You end up wedged in with no fewer than fifteen pillows holding you in place.

Only to realise you need a wee as soon as you’ve turned the light off.

On the rare occasions you are tired enough to overcome all of these sleep hurdles, the baby starts doing acrobatics and using your bladder as a trampoline.

Why Is Sleeping So Uncomfortable During Pregnancy?

If you haven’t already noticed, when you are pregnant your body goes through some pretty major changes. It’s these changes which begin to make sleeping uncomfortable:

  • The size of your belly
  • Increasing pressure on your bladder
  • Aches and pains in your back
  • Heartburn/acid reflux
  • Shortness of breath/snoring
  • Leg cramps
  • Insomnia.

While there are times when you enjoy pregnancy, trying to get to sleep is often not one of them. You are not only uncomfortable, but worrying about what is safe for the baby.

Below are the most common sleeping positions during pregnancy:

#1: Sleeping On Your Tummy During Pregnancy

During the early stages of pregnancy, it’s fine to sleep on your tummy. You can do this for as long as you find it comfortable, as there is no danger to your baby. But as your belly and baby grow, you’re likely to find this position much too uncomfortable.

You can buy donut shaped pillows to accomodate your belly which may allow you to keep sleeping on your front well into your third trimester.

#2: Sleeping On Your Back During Pregnancy

During your first trimester it is safe to sleep in any position you find comfortable. As your baby grows and you get into the second and third trimester, it’s best to avoid sleeping flat on your back. This is because the weight of your uterus and baby put pressure on the large veins that return blood to your heart.

If you lie flat on your back for long periods, it can reduce the amount of blood flow, which causes you to feel dizzy, short of breath and increase your heart rate. The pressure of baby and uterus can contribute to backaches, haemorrhoids, slow down digestion and circulation – all good reasons to avoid sleeping on your back!

The reduced blood flow can potentially affect your baby, meaning they have less oxygen and nutrients. Most often babies will kick their mothers awake if this happens, and many women find themselves waking suddenly feeling like they are short of breath if they happen to fall asleep on their backs.

It’s not unsafe to sleep on your back for short periods or occasionally but over a prolonged period of time it can have negative effects. The best way to avoid sleeping/rolling onto your back is to use pillows to keep you slightly tilted off your back. Some women will use a few regular pillows, others try wedge shaped pillows of a full body pillow. You may need to experiment to see what works best for you.

#3: Sleeping On Your Side During Pregnancy

During the second and third trimesters it’s recommended you sleep on your side during pregnancy, ideally the left side.

Side sleeping prevents your uterus and baby from putting pressure on the large veins next to your spine. It’s recommended if possible you should sleep as much as possible on your left side, which reduces pressure on your liver (which is on the right). It also improves circulation so your body is not working as hard to move blood around and to your baby.

To encourage left side sleeping, utilise pillows or a body pillow. It’s ok if you fall asleep on your left and wake up on your right – you can’t prevent yourself from turning over in your sleep.

Just remember to turn back to your left again. If you are lying down on a couch for a nap, always aim to lie on your left side.

Having A Good Night Sleep During Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be very restrictive when you’re tired and need to get decent sleep. It can be frustrating to know you need to stay in one position all night and that knowledge can even contribute to finding it hard to get to sleep.

To optimise your chances of getting a good night’s sleep, you can try the following things:

  • Wind down before bed – try a relaxing bath, meditation or reading
  • Massage or acupressure can help ease muscle pain and aches
  • Drink a comforting warm herbal tea
  • Invest in comfortable PJs that don’t restrict or overhear you
  • Grab extra pillows or buy a special pregnancy pillow to help you get into the most comfortable position
  • Prop yourself up. If you are really struggling to sleep, trying sleeping semi upright in a recliner if you have one.
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Sam McCulloch Dip CBEd CONTRIBUTOR

Sam McCulloch enjoyed talking so much about birth she decided to become a birth educator and doula, supporting parents in making informed choices about their birth experience. In her spare time she writes novels. She is mother to three beautiful little humans.


54 comments

  1. I’m 33 weeks and it’s so hard for me to sleep 😴 😪 😪 😪 😪 😪 🙀 🙀 🙀 my favorite position is on my tummy no matter what way I sleep my back be killing me!!!!!!!!

    1. Is baby breech? I had the same issue until she finally turned. I. Was in excruciating pain and could barley walk after rolling out of bed lol use lots of pillows and massage

  2. I am a tummy sleeper but also toss and turn a lot. So sleeping just on my left side has been a challenge. What helps me is when I first lay down I lay on my right side just for a few minutes and then switch to the left for my full nights sleep. Kind of trick myself into thinking I am not being restricted. Just dont fall asleep before you turn over 😀 I am 39 weeks and anxiously awaiting our first child, a (already very active) little boy!

    1. I’m early in my pregnancy(going into my 2nd trimester ) and I do the same when going to bed. I lay on one side and then switch. Boy when I get up there it’s going to be hard. That’s the only way I can fall asleep now!!!

  3. I am 25weeks and I find it’s frustrate that the only way feel comfortable is sleeping on my back and right side :'(. Though it hurt my back but I can’t resist. :'(

  4. I also toss and turn a lot. I try so hard to sleep on my left side but everytime I wake up I find myself either sleeping on my back or right side. and sleeping is the most uncomfortable part of my pregnancy.

    #39 weeks preggo and can’t wait to meet our first baby

  5. I followed all the rules and slept on my left hand side, and according to my doctors this is what cause blood clots all down my left leg, causing me to be hospitalised. I am more prone to clotting since we have a family history of it but I would check this out ladies. Hope everyone has a great pregnancy!!!

    1. I am also struggling to get a good nights rest,whether i start of sleeping on the right ,then left…., wish there was an option of putting the belly aside at night

    2. I know how you feel. I can never fall asleep because I’m always too hot or cold or have to go to the bathroom. And my partner and I sleep on a twin bed at the moment (I’m 33 weeks and 4 days and I’m huge) so he always had me pressed against the wall in his sleep so I can’t move. Just lay there trying to breathe. I can’t sleep well until he leaves for work (about 7 am). Needless to say, I was so mad when his ain’t woke me up yesterday before 1 pm.

  6. with all three of my pregnancy I slept on my back only way I could sleep. My olders is 9 my youngest is 5 months. All births was good children was a
    Good birth weight.

  7. I find sleeping on my right side is the most comfortable for me. It hurts to sleep on my left side. Any suggestions on how to make the left side more comfortable?

    1. Hia, im 34 weeks now. I cant sleep on my left either and wake up crying cause of sore ribs on left so have to roll over to my right. Have you had your baby yet? How did you manage with sleeping in the end? Still happier on tour right?

    1. Am 30weeks old and really finds it difficult being on just my left. I toss both left and right and most times with my back to feel myself at times. They say seeing your partner lying with your back is not all that good, but thats how i enjoy it most. Please any solution?

  8. From early in my pregnancy I find myself sleeping on my right side if I turn on the left when I realize I’m back on my right it’s the only way I fell comfortable and I have no complications whatso ever I’m hoping for a girl

  9. I’m in the 2nd trimester of my pregnancy, and lying on my back was give me pain on it.and also lying on the right side makes me feel numb. Lying on the left side was the best position for me, but I can’t sleep as well.

  10. I’m currently 28 weeks pregnant and have found that I need to rotate between sleeping on my left and right otherwise during the night I wake up and my hip feels like its on fire. I’ve also woken up to find myself half on my tummy half on my side, but have never noticed any discomfort

  11. 38 weeks and I have so many issues, I sleep on both sides but still cant get comfortable…ITS CRAZY ANNOYING!!!!!!! Everything hurts on my body! I even have a body pillow, and sleep with a heating pad! Also im 1cm dilated and baby is head down, feeling really bad tighting in my low area, maybe shes ready to come!!!

  12. I have always slept on my back or tummy but since being pregnant I’m taking every bit of info in from midwife and baby books. By god I’m 7 months pregnant now and wot I would give to get a goodnight a sleep because it’s really niggling now laying on my left side my whole body aches!! suppose it the joys of becoming a mummy plenty more restless nights before I’m done

  13. im on the 12th week of pregnancy and sometimes i cry myself till morning cause im having terrible insomnias.. ive been awake for hours almost days.. and also i have heartburn a terrible morning sickness and backaches.. i cant do anything but cry.. 🙁

    1. so sorry your going through that , I’m in the same boat as you. I am 11 weeks and have been sick since week 4 , nothing seems to help not even the medication, I looked up ways to help alleviate it and what has helped me is deep breathing method and acupressure for the nausea and eating really small meals, ginger candies , mint gum and I don’t know if your religious but prayer has comforted me as well , just know your not alone and hope it gets better.

  14. I currently have a very sore left shoulder, so I cannot sleep on my left side atm. I’m scared to sleep on ny right or my back but it hurts too much on left and ill wake up crying in pain just for trying. I’m only 15 weeks n 4 days pregnant with my first.

  15. Good one, it’s just that it always hurt sleeping on my left side. The only comfortable position is my right side and sometimes on my back. I just hope and pray it won’t affect my first ever baby. Am in my 28 weeks.

  16. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been one to sleep on my stomach, now I’m 20 weeks and it hurts.. Even sleeping on my right side or my back seems to keep me up all night.
    I sleep on my left side now, and every morning I wake up I find it hard to roll out of bed without my stomach feeling like it weights 500 pounds, and is being jabbed..

  17. am 38weeks and cant sleep on my right side…totally.on my back ifeel like i dont breath….but the gudness is its not a lifetime thing…soon i wil.b a happy mom…take heart my dears it wil b over soon

  18. I tried sleeping on my right side and it was so uncomfortable I cant sleep like that anymore. I cant really say its a pain when I do, but it gets ti a point of me scared to.

  19. Now this is my 38th week of pregnancy.at each and every night i am unable to sleep properly.from the beginning of my pregnancy itself i used to sleep at the right side.nw my belly becomes too big.if i sleep at the same side for a long time i feel a great pain in my thigh.and if i sleep at the left side for a long time i could have the feel of pushing the baby and creates a fear in me.wil it affect the child’s growth and movement.?

  20. Am 32wks gone,find it uncomfortable sleepin on my left side;everytime I attempt,after a while my ribs begin to hurt.about sleepin on my back,someone said its not the best,that d chord will go round my baby’s neck.How true is it?

  21. I don’t really have anyone to talk to about this but I’m almost 18 weeks and the only way I sleep is if I’m sleeping on my right side. So am I going to hurt my baby?

  22. My doctor told me that despite popular discourse, sleeping on either side is fine. I am 25 weeks and slept on my tummy until 20 weeks.

  23. I can’t sleep with any side, I put a pillow sumtime to feel comfy.
    I get so anxious that now my baby is not kicking and rolling as he use to becoz of the way am sleeping.
    I wud drink water (cold or hot) to check which1 makes him active, still can’t tell..
    *sad*

  24. Im 38weeks now and having a hard time sleeping every night..i usually sleep on my left side as they told me its the better position..but lately its been uncomfortable especially on my right side..theres no way i can get comfy..my back aches plus d baby keeps on kicking and moving sometimes its painful..aw! ☹️ How can i sleep now? No way,really!!!!

  25. I’m 33 weeks and classed as at risk. Sleeping has been a major issue since the beginning of my pregnancy. I’ve not really been bothered about my sleep positions till now. I’m trying to adopt sleeping on my left following others advice that it’s beneficial but my left side is becoming numb. Has anyone experienced this? Wishing you all a safe and healthy delivery

  26. I’m 8weeks pregnant and I stay in bed day and night, if I get up I feel nauseated,and straight to vomiting. I only can handle eat a biscuit,avocado,and strawberries. I slept on my back then giving me a heartburn, I can’t sleep on my right otherwise I can smell my hubby. I slept/on my back/left. My 4weeks pregnant is worse I vomit 24hrs and can’t eat without medication for nausea. Is it safe to stay in bed 24hrs?

    1. im in the same boat.. metalic taste of food… cant eat anything.. lethargic as i vomit all day… cant drink water as it feels someone put antibiotic in eat… unable to allow my hubby to get closer toe..as his smell which i was fond off irritate me and make me nauseatic . sleeping on left side looks a joke as my body gets numb 🙁 perks of being prego but still worth it to have our first baby. inshahAllah.

  27. I’m 34 weeks and 2nd days. Ive taken ambien for abt 10years now.. It helps get u to sleep but I struggle w always having to sleep on my left side all the time…I havew already had neck and hip surgery which makes it hard on me!! But i am tryin my best to do what’s best for baby boy!! Love everyone’s post! God bless and best wishes

  28. I slept on my right side throughout my whole pregnancy and everything was perfectly fine my baby was/is perfectly healthy and my body/organs are healthy as well my doctor told me since I was an “active” sleeper aka tossing and turning throughout sleep it was perfectly fine to sleep on my right side, just to let the tossing and turning pregnant ladies know

  29. Am 25 week and I sleep on my left but keep turning on my right it hard to stay one way for the whole night got cramps in my leg as well it pains me a lot I keep waking up true the night

  30. Im 36 weeks pregnant and it is very difficult for me to sleep in night , when I try to sleep on left hand my righy leg Pain start and same thing happened if i sleep on right. Now im reaĺy worried how i will get sleep for 8-9 hrs …..is there any other way to complete my sleeping hours

  31. I am 31 weeks pregnant its my 3 rd baby my last child is 15 an my eldest is 17 i have trouble sleeping at nights my back aches if i turn to my sides and it aches if i lie on my back really could do with some advice

  32. Am 20 weeks pregnant. I feel more comfortable sleeping on my right side than on left side,,, even thou I know that left side is the best but I find It soo difficult for me… #WORRIED

  33. im in the same boat.. metalic taste of food… cant eat anything.. lethargic as i vomit all day… cant drink water as it feels someone put antibiotic in eat… unable to allow my hubby to get closer toe..as his smell which i was fond off irritate me and make me nauseatic . sleeping on left side looks a joke as my body gets numb 🙁 perks of being prego but still worth it to have our first baby. inshahAllah.

  34. Am 28 weeks pregnant with my first, can’t sleep well at night that Wakeup crying, my both side hurts really hard, can’t sleep on tummy and back, also having heart burn at night. please what can I do to help my situation?

    1. Hi, I have the same problem; including toss and turning throughout the night because my legs tend to hurt through the night. I am 21 weeks; so I talked to my doctor and they all said the same thing; it’s not much I can do. So, my grandparents brought me a sleeping pillow and I also put pillows under where the pregnancy pillow opens. This helps a lot. I would also suggest to trying to listen to ur body by trying different things. When I am off I tend to try to stay busy throughout the day; that way I be so tired I take a hot shower and get in bed and fall straight to sleep.

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