Sleep is important to everyone, but during pregnancy it’s even more important. That’s because, when you’re pregnant, your body is under a lot of strain, and so you need plenty of extra rest to allow you to refuel and keep going.
Finding the best position to sleep can be the key to successful sleep.
Getting – and staying – comfortable in bed may be one of your greatest challenges during pregnancy, particularly if you’re used to sleeping on your stomach or back, since both positions present problems during pregnancy.
Early on in your pregnancy, try to get into the habit of sleeping on your side. At this stage, you may find that any sleeping position will do, such is the level of the fatigue! But as your pregnancy progresses, finding a comfortable arrangement that supports a big belly becomes a little more tricky.
If you sleep flat on your back, you’re putting the full weight of your uterus on your back, intestines, and your inferior vena cava (the vein that transports blood from your lower body to your heart). Sleeping on your back can also increase the risk of backache and haemorrhoids, inefficient digestion, and impaired breathing and circulation. Lying on your back in the second and third trimester can also cause changes in blood pressure. For some women, it can cause a drop in blood pressure that can make them feel very dizzy; while, for others, it can cause an unwanted increase in blood pressure.
For all of these reasons, lying on your side with your knees bent is likely to be the most comfortable position as your pregnancy progresses. It also makes your heart’s job easier because it keeps the baby’s weight from applying pressure to the inferior vena cava.
Lie to the left
Some doctors specifically recommend that pregnant women sleep on their left side. Although there’s no real harm in sleeping on your right side, lying on your left side is actually good for you and your baby, as it not only improves the flow of blood and nutrients to the placenta, but also helps your kidneys to eliminate waste products and fluids from your body. That, in turn, will help to reduce swelling in your ankles, feet and hands.
Since your liver is on the right side of your abdomen, lying on your left side also helps to keep the uterus off that large organ. Sleeping on the left side also improves circulation to the heart and allows for the best blood flow to the foetus, uterus, and kidneys.
Ask your GP what he or she would recommend in your case. In most cases, lying on either side will help to take some of the pressure off your back.
It goes without saying that, if you train yourself to sleep on your left side early on, you’ll have an easier time falling asleep when your belly is bulging later!
Maternity pillows are certainly growing in popularity. These pillows are actually two pillows, which are attached with fabric and adjustable Velcro tabs: allowing them to provide simultaneous support both at the front and back. If you’re thinking about purchasing one, talk with your doctor first about which one might work for you.
It can also be worth experimenting with ordinary pillows to discover a comfortable sleeping position. Some women find that it helps to place a pillow under their abdomen or between their legs, while others find that using a bunched-up pillow or rolled-up blanket at the small of the back can help to relieve some pressure. Other pregnancy pillows include:
- A pregnancy wedge. This is a wedge-shaped pillow, which supports your belly when you lie on your side. You can also use it to prop yourself up to a semi-recline when you’re lying on your back
- Full-length body pillow. These pillows are at least five feet long and are designed to support the back and cradle the belly
- Sleeping bean. This column-shaped pillow allows you to wrap your body around it. It then supports your belly and back, but is also good for breastfeeding support after your baby arrives