One of the biggest struggles many expectant mothers face is getting comfortable enough to sleep through the night. Between your growing belly, tender breasts, and the frequent need to use the bathroom, sleep can be elusive.
You’re hot and sweaty, uncomfortable, your hips ache and your heartburn gets worse when you lie down. Your body is changing in such dramatic ways and you’re starting to feel the aches and pains that come along with it. But don’t worry, with some experimenting you can find sleeping positions during pregnancy that are comfortable and safe for you and your baby.
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
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.
Why Sleeping Positions Matter During Pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, your sleeping position can have a big impact on your comfort and health. As your belly grows, certain positions become less ideal and even potentially dangerous.
Side sleeping maybe the best. Most experts believe that lying on your left side is optimal, as it improves circulation to your heart and gives your baby the most space. Place a pillow under your belly for support and between your knees to relieve lower back pressure.
Avoid back sleeping positions, as it can compress major blood vessels, limiting blood flow to you and your baby. It may also exacerbate back pain, acid reflux, and varicose veins.
Skip the stomach sleeping position, this isn’t an option for obvious reasons! this position can be harmful as your baby grows.
Experiment with different sleeping positions and pillows. A pregnancy pillow, wedge pillow, or just an extra regular pillow can make a world of difference. Find what works best for you and body.
Pay attention to your body’s cues. If you experience lightheadedness, chest pain, or your baby is less active, contact your doctor. Your sleeping position could be a contributing factor to these symptoms.
The key is making your comfort and safety top priorities. While pregnancy brings many sleep challenges, focusing on good sleep hygiene and the optimal position for restorative rest will help you feel your best during this time. Follow your maternal instincts and don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for guidance.
The most common sleeping positions during pregnancy:
Common Sleeping Position #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 accommodate your belly which may allow you to keep sleeping on your front well into your third trimester.
Common Sleeping Position #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.
Common Sleeping Position #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.
The Best Sleeping Positions for Each Trimester
The First Trimester
During your first trimester, the best sleeping position is lying on your side, preferably your left side. Lying on your left side improves circulation and blood flow, providing more nutrients to your baby. It also relieves pressure from your lower back. Use a body pillow for extra belly and back support.
The Second Trimester
In your second trimester, lying on your side is still a top position, but you have more flexibility to change sleeping positions during the night. You may find lying on your right side with a pillow between your knees for belly support comfortable too. Some women like elevating their upper body with an extra pillow to help relieve heartburn at night. You can also try lying on your back with pillows under one side of your body to tilt slightly. This takes pressure off your back or propping yourself up with lots of pillows in a semi-reclined position. This is cozy and helps with breathing.
The Third Trimester
The final stretch, you’ll want all the support and comfort you can get. Stick to side lying positions, tilting to your left side as much as possible. Place a pillow under your belly and between your knees for support. An extra pillow behind your back may relieve pressure. Some Third Trimester tips:
- Try using a pregnancy pillow or body pillow for full support.
- Sleep with your upper body elevated to reduce heartburn and make breathing easier.
- Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or a warm bath before bed to relieve stress and make sleep more restful.
- Ask your partner for a gentle massage. Back and foot massages can do wonders for relaxation and sleep.
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.
To find out more about Sleeping, you can read BellyBelly’s article: