If you’re struggling to get a good night of quality sleep as you await the arrival of your newborn, learning about the best position to sleep in when pregnant may well make a big difference.
That’s precisely why we’ve put together this guide.
Below, you’ll not only learn about the best way to sleep during pregnancy but also why you may be having so much trouble nodding off in the first place.
We’ll also share with you the sleeping positions that may be doing you and your baby more harm than good, as well as offer more helpful suggestions to help you better enjoy the peaceful, restorative rest you both need and deserve.
Why Is It So Hard to Sleep When Pregnant?
While being pregnant is undoubtedly a wonderful miracle, there’s no denying it can make sleeping difficult, if not sometimes completely impossible.
There are a number of reasons for this:
1. General Physical Discomfort
The further along we go in our pregnancy, the more our bodies begin to change as the baby grows inside the womb.
The more the baby grows, the more likely it is to feel awkward and uncomfortable wherever we are and whatever we’re doing.
Simply getting our bodies into a beneficial sleeping position in the first place can seem like a Herculean challenge, let alone being able to stay there comfortably for long enough to rest.
2. Hormone Changes
When we’re pregnant, it’s par for the course that our bodies undergo all manner of physical and psychological changes, which result in a number of unwelcome side effects such as nausea, heartburn, or back pain.
While these are uncomfortable enough during the day, they can wreak havoc with our body’s ability to sleep.
According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, fluctuations in our levels of the hormone Progesterone can have the unfortunate effect of making us feel tired all day and then unable to sleep at night, leaving us with pregnancy-related insomnia.
Meanwhile, our levels of Oxytocin, a hormone that regulates our uterine contractions, tends to peak in the night hours, which can have a further negative impact on our ability to get enough hours of quality, restorative sleep.
3. Stress and Anxiety
Being pregnant can be tough going as it is without all the added day-to-day pressures of work and home life.
If you’re an expectant mother with a lot on her plate right now, all that added stress, coupled with any anxiety about the upcoming birth, may be keeping your mind racing at such an unrelenting rate that it’s impossible to switch off.
Later in this guide, we’ll share with you a few useful suggestions to help you drift off feeling mentally calm and relaxed.
4. Disturbed Dreaming
If you’re in your third trimester, you may begin to experience vivid dreams, which can be disturbing or upsetting.
Naturally, such powerful dreams can negatively affect our ability to sleep restfully and, if they’re particularly frequent or distressing, may even prevent us from enjoying uninterrupted sleep.
Why Lying on Your Side is the Best Position to Sleep in When Pregnant?
The best way to sleep when pregnant is to lie on your left side, as this ensures you enjoy optimum blood flow for both you and your baby, which not only helps you both stay healthy but can also minimize the chance of developing other conditions such as swelling and varicose veins.
Sleeping on your left side also makes it easier for your body to deliver all the nutrients the baby needs while simultaneously ensuring that there’s as little pressure as possible on your veins and internal organs.
If you do find it difficult to sleep on your left, there’s no problem with sleeping on your right-hand side.
It may not be as beneficial as lying on your left, but if it’s comfortable for you, it can only help you to finally drift off to sleep.
How to Sleep on Your Side During Pregnancy?
The way to sleep on your side that’s most conducive to quality rest is to curl up your knees slightly. This position facilitates optimum circulation and allows you to enjoy the full health benefits of side sleeping.
To make yourself more comfortable, you may find it beneficial to grab a few extra pillows.
Placing one between the knees can help you to maintain your spine’s natural alignment, which in turn can prevent and/or alleviate lower-back pain when sleeping.
It might also be useful to use a pillow to support your belly or hug a body pillow when going to sleep.
Two Sleeping Positions to Avoid When Pregnant
You need to avoid falling asleep in these two sleeping positions to avoid any kind of discomfort.
1. On Your Back
If you’ve heard that sleeping on your back can cause stillbirth, we may have something to mention that may bring you at least a modicum of peace of mind.
A study carried out by Robert M Silver of the University of Utah School of Medicine in 2019 found that sleeping on your back through to the 30th week of pregnancy does not cause stillbirth.
Yet even though that may be a huge weight off your shoulders, sleeping on your back during pregnancy can still be problematic for other reasons.
Namely, lying in this position can put pressure on a principal vein known as the vena cava. Too much pressure on this vein can negatively impact circulation.
In late pregnancy, in particular, lying on your back can simply be too uncomfortable and result in back pain.
2. On Your Stomach
Though Sleeping position during early and mid-pregnancy does not affect the risk of complications, stomach sleeping is best to avoid anyway simply because it can be too impractical and uncomfortable, especially as your bump gets bigger.
How to Treat Insomnia When Pregnant: Do’s and Don’ts?
So, by now, you know the most effective and most harmful positions to sleep in when pregnant, but even though sleeping on your side may make a big difference to your nightly rest, the way you lie may not be enough on its own to ensure you get the best sleep possible.
With that in mind, combine side sleeping with the following suggestions to enjoy optimum sleep quality.
Do: Stay Hydrated
One of the main side effects of dehydration is that it can leave a person feeling tired, run down, and lethargic.
What’s more, a low hydration level in your body can cause a whole wealth of health problems that may further exacerbate your existing pregnancy-induced sleep issues.
There’s also a vicious circle going on with the sleep-hydration relationship, as one study of over 20,000 participants in the US and China showed that a lack of sleep can lead to dehydration.
In other words, if you’re already not sleeping well, that may be causing you to be improperly hydrated, which, in turn, may end up making it even more difficult to sleep.
Of course, there’s a simple solution to this:
Drink more water and -if you haven’t already- cut out or limit caffeine as it has a diuretic effect which can make your dehydration first.
It’s best to drink water regularly throughout the day, but begin to gradually limit your intake as the evening goes on. As you’ll read in our guide to the most important things to avoid before bed, drinking too much water before you go to sleep can cause you to wake up multiple times in the night for the bathroom.
Don’t: Forget to Relax
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, day-to-day stresses and pressures can take a big toll on our mental well-being and make it challenging to rest.
High stress levels can also cause us to take longer to fall asleep. It can also keep our natural stress response system highly active, meaning we’re often on full alert when we should be resting.
It’s for this reason that it’s always important to try and reduce stress and unwind properly before your head hits the pillow.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything that’s going on right now, talk to a partner about how they can help lighten the load or bring in a family member or supportive friend for extra help.
You can also help to go to bed feeling mentally calm and relaxed by taking a relaxing bath, using relaxing oils, or learning the best way to meditate in bed.
Though it’s important to relax, that doesn’t mean you don’t do anything at all, as even moderate physical activity can be hugely beneficial for getting a good night’s rest.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that pregnant women should aim to get 150 minutes of exercise each week to keep themselves and their babies healthy.
Yes, we know, trying to exercise while pregnant is much easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Even spending half an hour walking around the block a few times per week can be helpful in boosting your oxygen levels, while the fresh air and sunlight can increase the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates your circadian rhythms and plays a significant role in sleep.
Don’t: Use Screens Before Bed
Regardless of whether you are pregnant or not, your pre-sleep screen time is one habit that’s certainly worth dropping.
Remember how we just said that being out in the fresh air and sunlight can improve melatonin production? The blue light emitted by cell phones, tablets, and other devices can have the opposite effect, ultimately making it more difficult to fall asleep.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sleeping When Pregnant
Can I hurt my baby by sleeping on my right side?
The latest research doesn’t support the idea that sleeping on your right side harms your baby. You can sleep safely on your right side, but you’ll enjoy more health benefits by sleeping on your left.
What happens if you accidentally sleep on your back while pregnant?
If you accidentally sleep on your back while pregnant, don’t worry about it. Your baby won’t be harmed, and increasing numbers of studies tend to debunk the idea that back sleeping leads to stillbirth.
However, back sleeping can cause back pain and other issues, so it’s still better to switch back to your side once you’re aware that you’re on your back.
Does the Sleeping position affect labor?
Sleeping on your side can help place your baby into the anterior position, which is the best position to help babies navigate their way through during birth.
Overcoming Insomnia in Pregnancy: A Final Word of Advice
If you’ve read all of this guide, you’ve hopefully learned as much as you need to learn to help you beat insomnia when pregnant and enjoy a peaceful night of quality rest.
You’ve learned that lying on your side is the best sleep position when pregnant, while back and stomach sleeping are the ones to avoid.
You’ve also learned about the importance of taking care of your physical and well-being and how taking small steps like increasing your physical activity and drinking more water can make a big difference.
However, before we go, we’d like to offer you one final piece of advice:
Though quality sleep is important for all of us, it’s even more important when we’re pregnant.
Sleep deprivation can batter our immune system, compromise our mental and emotional well-being, and has even been shown to cause high blood pressure in early pregnancy.
In other words, getting some serious shuteye is essential for you and your baby to remain fit and healthy throughout the pregnancy and beyond.
With that in mind, if you’re struggling with insomnia in pregnancy and find none of the above suggestions are the magic cure, be sure to reach out to your trusted medical professional.
They’ll be able to help you not only identify what could be the cause of your sleep issues but also offer you a safe, healthy treatment plan to ensure you get all the rest you need.
Finally, for more useful insights and suggestions, be sure to see our guide on how to overcome insomnia.