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How to Sleep Better When Pregnant

Without question, pregnancy is an exciting time for moms-to-be. But your changing body weight and shape can bring discomfort — and disrupt your night’s sleep. It’s no surprise that many women seek advice on how to sleep when pregnant.

pregnant woman trying to sleep

How to Sleep When Pregnant: 5 Tips to Get Comfortable

  1. Sleep on Your Side (SOS)
  2. Avoid Back and Stomach Sleeping
  3. Surround Yourself with Pillows
  4. Prop Your Head to Counter Heartburn
  5. Elevate Your Legs to Reduce Leg Swelling or Pain

A good night’s sleep can feel elusive when you’re pregnant. You may not have many sleeping issues in your first trimester of pregnancy, but the later stages of pregnancy can be more difficult. Get to know smart sleeping tips early on to avoid sleepless nights and daytime sleepiness.

How to Sleep When Pregnant: 5 Tips to Get Comfortable

During pregnancy, hormonal and body changes can disrupt your normal sleep patterns. You may find it impossible to get rest in your typical sleeping positions. What are some challenges you may face? Pregnant women are susceptible to symptoms of back discomfort, heartburn, and shortness of breath when trying to sleep. Also, many women experience frequent urination that wakes them up at night and makes it difficult to fall back to sleep. At times, pregnant women can experience sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.

The many changes a woman’s body experiences during pregnancy are a recipe for insomnia. It can be hard to fall asleep at night and get the hours of sleep you need.

But don’t worry! By following good sleep practices for pregnancy, you can get a great night’s sleep. Resting up while pregnant is important so that you can prepare yourself to tend to the needs of your new baby.

Here are five must-know sleeping tips for pregnant women:

1. Sleep on Your Side (SOS)

How are you supposed to sleep when pregnant? The answer depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy.

Let’s start with some good news: You can probably maintain your usual sleeping position in your first pregnancy months. During the first trimester, your pregnancy belly isn’t likely to be too large, so you can sleep however you feel most comfortable. Some women do experience extra tiredness in early pregnancy. To keep yourself and your growing baby healthy, you may want to have an earlier bedtime to get some extra rest.

During the second trimester, your baby bump will start to emerge. You may also begin to feel those first precious baby kicks and movements. It can be a truly magical time for your pregnancy!

However, you may start to experience discomfort at night and problems falling asleep that persist into your third trimester. To get a good night’s sleep, remember this helpful acronym: SOS, which stands for “sleep on your side.”

Sleep on Your Left Side

Because of the size of your abdomen, you’ll likely find sleeping on your side with your knees bent to be most comfortable. Some experts specifically advise their pregnant patients to sleep on their left side. Why is this the case? Since your liver is on your right side, sleeping on the left helps keep your uterus from pressing on your liver. Also, sleeping on your left side aids digestion and enhances blood flow to your heart, uterus, kidneys — and to your baby.

You may not be a natural side sleeper, so you may need time to adjust. Some women find that placing a pillow between their knees or under their abdomen makes side sleeping feel more comfortable.

Although sleeping on your side is the norm, it’s always good to get professional advice on how to sleep when pregnant. If you have questions about the best sleeping position for you and your baby, ask your doctor.

2. Avoid Back and Stomach Sleeping

woman sleeping on stomach

Most experts recommend that every pregnant woman avoid sleeping on your back in the supine position. When you’re sleeping on your back, the entire weight of your abdomen rests on major blood vessels and your abdomen. As your pregnancy progresses, back sleeping will become more and more uncomfortable. You could even experience backaches, low blood pressure, digestive problems, and breathing issues from back sleeping. Many women stop sleeping on their backs after 20 weeks pregnant.

Don’t fret if you do roll on to your back during sleep. Movement at night is completely normal. Sleeping on your back for a short time is unlikely to harm you or your baby. Chances are, you won’t roll on to your back during your third trimester any way since that position can cause back discomfort. You can try placing a pillow behind you to help prevent you from rolling on to your back. If you do roll over, you’ll be on a tilt instead of being flat on your back.

What about sleeping on your stomach? It’s fine in early pregnancy. As your belly grows, you’ll likely find stomach sleeping uncomfortable — and completely impossible during late pregnancy. Most women stop stomach sleeping by the 24th week of pregnancy.

3. Surround Yourself with Pillows

Throughout all the stages of pregnancy, pillows can provide essential support for your changing body. Many women wonder how to pick the best pillow to help them get the rest they need.

There are special pregnancy pillows available that can help you feel more comfortable. These pillows come in many shapes and sizes. Some are long, rectangular pillows like body pillows, while others are wedge-shaped, designed to fit under a pregnancy bump. Another type of pregnancy pillow features a contoured design that wraps around your body.

Before you invest in pregnancy pillows, try using the pillows you already have at home. Keep in mind that you’ll be side sleeping on your side for the last half of your pregnancy, so you may want a pillow style that is optimized for side sleepers. The best pillows for side sleepers are made from supportive materials — like the Purple® Harmony Pillow, which is the world’s only pillow made with the Purple Grid™ Hex. The patented open-cell polymer material adapts to your head to provide cool airflow and personalized comfort, and includes a hypoallergenic Talalay latex core for premium response and support.

Some women find that keeping a pillow between their knees makes them comfortable. Placing a small pillow in the small of your back can soothe back discomfort. Elevating your head or legs can improve your comfort as well. You may find yourself surrounded by pillows when you’re pregnant. Many women do! That’s an important fact to know if you’re pregnant and trying to get comfortable sleeping.

4. Prop Your Head to Counter Heartburn

Pregnancy-induced heartburn is a common problem for many women. Heartburn can start as early as the second month of pregnancy. It’s an important issue to consider when learning how to sleep when pregnant.

Why does this happen? During early pregnancy, your body produces extra amounts of the hormones relaxin and progesterone. These hormones can smooth and relax muscles throughout your body, including in your gastrointestinal tract. As a result, food may move more slowly throughout your digestive system. Although this can cause you digestive discomfort, this process allows for your body to absorb more nutrients and deliver them to your baby.

Heartburn is one of the unpleasant side effects of a healthy pregnancy. During the day, you can combat heartburn by avoiding spicy foods, eating more slowly, and opting for smaller meals. You can also try propping up your head with a pillow or two during sleep. This position helps stomach acid flow down instead of up into your esophagus. If possible, you can elevate your entire bed with an adjustable bed frame.

5. Elevate Your Legs to Reduce Leg Swelling or Pain

woman with feet elevated

Throughout the day, the weight of your pregnant belly puts extra pressure on your legs and ankles. That’s why so many pregnant women experience cramps, aches, pain, and swelling in the lower parts of their bodies. You may find that the weight of your uterus triggers sciatic pain that affects your back and legs. Also, pregnancy hormones can cause increased aches and pains throughout your body.

One of the best remedies for these discomforts is to elevate your legs. Keep in mind that this isn’t advisable in the third trimester. You may be able to lay on your back and prop your legs during the early stages of your pregnancy, until approximately 20 weeks.

By elevating your legs, you increase blood flow in the veins in your lower limbs. This helps keep your blood circulating well and helps your heart deliver nutrients and oxygen throughout your body. During pregnancy, circulation can slow, leading to feelings of dizziness, fatigue, and general discomfort. Even if you don’t have leg pain, propping your legs up can improve your circulation.

Also, your body produces extra fluid during pregnancy. Often, this fluid can collect in your lower limbs and cause uncomfortable swelling and inflammation. Propping your legs while sleeping can soothe these discomforts. You’ll not only get a better night’s sleep, but you’ll wake ready to take on a new day.

How to Sleep Better When Pregnant

If you’re pregnant, you’ll likely spend time daydreaming about your new bundle of joy. You’ll need to consider names, baby showers, nursery décor, and that precious first outfit. Don’t let lack of a good night’s sleep stand in the way of those memorable moments.

It’s no surprise that sleeping is difficult during pregnancy. Your abdomen will grow and can put pressure on your internal organs and impair blood circulation. After a few months, you may find out that sleeping in your favorite sleep position is impossible. If you’re typically a stomach sleeper, you won’t be able to sleep easily on your stomach once your belly grows too big. And back sleeping can diminish blood flow and cause discomfort.

Don’t spend sleepless nights tossing and turning and wondering how to fall asleep. Instead, you should know doctors around the world recommend side sleeping for pregnant women, preferably on the left side.

Placing pillows between your knees can help you feel more comfortable. If you experience heartburn, propping up your head may help. Elevating your legs can ease pain or tension in your lower legs. Feel free to try different pillow configurations to find what works best for you. And don’t feel pressured to invest in special pregnancy pillows that won’t have much use to you over the long term. The pillows you use for everyday sleeping can work just as well, especially if you have high-quality pillows.

Take Time to Relax

Of course, there are other things you can do to improve your sleep during pregnancy. Go to bed at a consistent time and have a relaxing bedtime routine. Simple self-care rituals like reading, meditating, and washing your face can signal to your body that it’s time to relax.

It’s important to get a good night’s sleep — especially when you’re pregnant. If you find yourself struggling to fall or stay asleep during pregnancy, these five tips may help. Remember that getting enough rest is essential for your health — and your baby’s. You want to be well-rested before the baby arrives and you need to adapt to late-night feedings. Sleeping well when pregnant can prepare you for the beginning of your new adventures in parenting.

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