If you’re already having trouble sleeping during pregnancy, you might be extra stressed out about sleeping in the right position.
Many people say that sleeping on your back is bad. And sleeping on your left side is good. But is that true?
In this guide, we’re delving into the best pregnancy sleep positions. To learn about pregnancy sleep on your side, back, stomach and sitting up, keep reading.
Pregnancy Sleep on Side Position
Doctors often recommend sleeping on your side during pregnancy, especially if you’re further along. That’s because it gives you and your baby the best circulation. It places less pressure on your internal organs and veins, allowing blood and nutrients to flow easier to the placenta.
Good circulation is important during pregnancy for a number of other reasons.
- Varicose Veins— Varicose veinsare swollen veins that become larger. Although you might not have seen them before, the veins may become noticeable during pregnancy. Sometimes painful, the swelling is caused by poor blood flow, often from the pressure of your enlarged uterus.
- Swelling— Swelling, especially in the ankles, is a common pregnancy symptom.
- Blood clots— Pregnant women are 5 times more likely to experience a blood clotthan women who are not pregnant, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Taking steps to ensure good circulation can reduce your chances.
Altogether, up to 80% of pregnant women experience some sport of venous insufficiency. In essence, that means your blood may easily make its way to your feet, but has a harder time getting back to your heart. Sleeping in other positions might contribute to this problem, making blood flow worse, causing symptoms described above.
For more tips, read Poor Circulation Pregnancy: 9 Hacks for All Trimesters
Pregnancy Sleep on Left Side
When it comes to sleeping in a side position, which side is better during pregnancy?
People often recommend sleeping on your left side during pregnancy. That’s because the inferior vena cava vein (IVC) is on the right side. Since it carries blood to your heart, sleeping on the other side relieves it of pressure, allowing blood to flow freely. With better blood flow, you’re more likely to get the good circulation benefits listed above.
Laying on your left side also takes pressure off of important organs, like your liver and kidneys.
Although there’s reasons to believe left side sleeping is the best, the research isn’t conclusive.
Pregnancy Sleep Right Side
With the dos and don’ts of pregnancy, sleeping position don’ts might feel a little too specific. Not only do you need to lay on your side, but it needs to be your left side. Does science really back this up though?
Despite left side sleeping being the supposed ideal position, a small review of research found there was no difference between sleeping on the right or left side during pregnancy. However, there isn’t enough research to say whether the sides hold any true benefits or risks.
While some experts and people may recommend sleeping on your left side when possible, don’t stress about it too much.
Pregnancy Sleep on Back
You may have heard that sleeping on your back during pregnancy is a no-no. The main reason people give is that it may affect your baby, increasing your odds of stillbirth. While there’s some data to back that up, other studies challenge it.
Pregnancy Sleeping on Back and Stillbirth
A 2019 review of research suggested that sleeping on your back was associated with more risk. Past 28 weeks, there appeared to be an increased risk of stillbirth. However, since the study was small, it’s unclear whether these findings represent a real risk.
Other data also hints at a connection. A 2011 Auckland Stillbirth study found that women who slept on their back from 28 weeks onwards were at a 2.6X risk of stillbirth.
However, researchers point out that there’s a few big flaws in the current studies available. Since they include a small number of women and are open to recall bias, their results might not be representative.
Another 2019 study found that there was no connection between sleeping position and stillbirth.
In summary, a lot of the research on sleeping on your back during pregnancy is contradicting. Some research suggests there might be an elevated risk; however, it’s still not proven.
Other experts reassure mothers that it’s okay to sleep on your back during early and mid-pregnancy. This may be comforting news to those who have trouble sleeping in any other position.
Pregnancy Sleeping on Back Position & Other Problems
Whether or not sleeping on your back actually impacts pregnancy outcomes, there’s other reasons why it may not be an ideal position.
Sleeping on your back can worsen or cause back pain during pregnancy. Think about it: Your big baby belly is resting on your back the entire night!
After sleeping for a period of time, you may wake up feeling more sore. If this is the case, try another position that puts less strain on your back.
Since the weight of your belly is constricting, it might also contribute to poor circulation, according to the American Pregnancy Association. It puts pressure on the IVC vein, possibly making it more difficult for the blood to travel back to your heart.
As noted above, when your blood can’t flow easily, several problems can occur, like swelling, or in extreme cases, blood clots. Sleeping on your back can also put pressure on your intestines.
Most doctors will say it’s okay to sleep on your back during early pregnancy. But as your baby belly grows, consider changing positions and finding something more comfortable.
If you can only fall asleep laying on your back, talk to your doctor. If changing positions is causing pregnancy insomnia, they may suggest continuing to sleep on your back.
Also consider that you may wake up laying on your back. During sleep, we can’t necessarily control the position we end up in and that’s okay.
Pregnancy Sleep on Stomach
In your first weeks, you might sleep on your stomach during pregnancy. But as your belly continues to grow, it will become uncomfortable. Laying on your baby belly and tender breasts won’t be doable anymore and you might need to find other positions. While there’s no known general risks of stomach sleeping, most pregnant people naturally avoid it.
If you like the stomach position, consider getting pregnancy sleep on a stomach pillow. These are donut-shaped cushions that you can fit under your belly. The hole in the middle of the pillow can allow your belly to rest comfortably. This can give you the comfort of the stomach position without the pressure of your belly.
Pregnancy Sleep Sitting Up
Some people also get pregnancy sleeping using a sitting up position. If you like lying on your back and can’t adjust to laying on your side, this is a good one to try.
Instead of fully laying down in your bed, prop yourself up using some pillows. Adjust them so you’re comfortable in a reclined position.
If you’re taking a nap in the living room, try the recliner instead of laying on the sofa.
Pregnancy Sleep Aids and Tips for Side-Sleeping
It can be difficult to get comfortable enough to fall asleep during pregnancy. To lessen your aches, there’s a few pregnancy sleep aids you can use.
Even if you’re used to sleeping on your stomach or back, sleeping on your side can be made more comfortable. Consider these tips:
- Place a pillow below your stomach when you’re in a side laying position
- Try placing pillows behind your back to give you support and prevent rolling backward
- Try a long pregnancy pillow between your knees
- Try to be conscious of your sleeping position during the night. If you wake up in a different position, notice it and switch back to side laying
- Be mindful of your sleep positions during naps if you’re experiencing back pain
Summary: Pregnancy Sleep on Back, Sides, Stomach
During pregnancy, you might have been told it’s best to sleep on your left side and bad to sleep in any other position. As we’ve outlined here, there’s some evidence to back that up. However, the research isn’t conclusive. Many experts advise that sleeping positions don’t matter until later pregnancy.
During your third trimester, it might be a good idea to avoid sleeping on your back. Even if it doesn’t increase your risk of stillbirth, it might contribute to poor circulation, causing pregnancy symptoms to worsen. It’s thought that the best position for blood flow is sleeping on your left side, although both sides are recommended.
Remember that it’s normal to change sleeping positions during the night, so don’t worry if you wake up in one less ideal. If you’re only comfortable sleeping on your back, talk to your doctor for recommendations.
P.S. Have you heard your baby at home yet? Fetal heartbeat monitors are pocket-sized devices that you can use to hear your baby’s heartbeat. Similar to an ultrasound, you’ll see her fetal heart rate displayed on the screen.