A good, restful sleep is essential for good health and well being, which needs much more attention especially during pregnancy. Various studies have come up with data which shows that poor sleep, such as poor sleep quality, sleep disordered breathing and insomnia have a negative impact on pregnancy and the baby as well.
Increased risk for gestational diabetes, maternal high blood pressure, stillbirth and growth retardation of the baby in the womb, have all been linked to the expectant momís sleep disturbances. The last thing one would want to add to the pregnancy woes is poor sleep.
For over 60 years, it has been standard practice to advise pregnant women to sleep on the left side, called left lateral tilt position. This is advised to shift the weight of the growing uterus with the baby from pressing on the largest vein in the body i.e. the inferior vena cava which helps improve the maternal circulation. Despite this knowledge, expecting moms often do not pay much attention to understanding sleeping positions during pregnancy, although we spend around one-third of our life snoozing!
Problems associated with sleeping on oneís back include reduced blood flow to both mother and baby due to pressure on major blood vessels. Other problems include muscle pains, piles (hemorrhoids), fall in blood pressure causing giddiness and snoring which may result in sleep apnea. Studies have shown that sleeping on the back can even cause serious complications such as stillbirth i.e. a child born dead.
If sleep positions can cause several health problems including affecting the outcome or fate of pregnancy, it is imperative that pregnant women receive proper education regarding the best sleeping positions to be followed during pregnancy. Let us learn about the sleep positions that will enhance the sleep comfort as well as help in a safe and healthy pregnancy.
During pregnancy your body undergoes various changes and these changes tend to disrupt the everyday sleep patterns. Sleep may be disturbed due to factors such as increased size of the belly, difficulty in breathing due to the bulging belly, back pain, heart burn, among others. Adjusting the sleeping positions in pregnancy will help in overcoming these problems.
The best sleeping positions while pregnant that are recommended are to sleep on sides (S.O.S), more preferably on the left side. Try keeping the legs and knees bent and place a pillow between the legs.
This position allows maximum blood flow to the growing baby and does not put pressure on the motherís liver. It will also ensure a good blood flow to the kidneys. This helps to eliminate the waste and fluids from your body, which prevents swelling in hands and legs.
Similarly, if you suffer from the back pain, you should sleep in S.O.S left position with legs and knees bent and place a pregnancy pillow under the leg and abdomen as well.
If you tend to experience heartburn, then you should follow the same S.O.S position and try to keep the upper body in an elevated position by placing an additional pillow under the head.
Again, if you have shortness of breath during later stages of pregnancy, propping yourself up on pillows behind the back will help to maintain undisturbed breathing. A special extra long pregnancy pillow is available in market which will help in comforting ladies during their pregnancy, or you can use any pillow from the closet at home. Placing a pillow will help in preventing you rolling onto your back or stomach.
Sleeping Position During First Trimester:
The first trimester is a mix of surprises and excitement, especially for first time moms. It is a phase of adjustment to the changes mentally as well as physically. Increase in progesterone (one of the hormones essential for the maintenance of pregnancy), may be one of the reasons pregnant women feel drowsier and tired than usual. The sleep-inducing and heat producing effects of increased levels of progesterone are known to cause fatigue and earlier sleep onset.
The first trimester is the best time for you to start cultivating a habit of sleeping on left side, so that it is easier in the later stages when your belly starts bulging. Sleep during first trimester is disturbed due to frequent urination, recurrent nausea, tender breast etc. Listed below are the survival tips to overcome these challenges in your first trimester:
- Plan and prioritize your sleep schedule. Try taking day time or afternoon naps, as and when required.
- Drink at least 3-4 liters of water during day time and limit your water intake 2 hours before going to bed to avoid waking up at night for urination frequently.
- To prevent waking up with morning sickness, try eating bland food (avoid hot and spicy food) throughout the day.
- Practice sleeping on left side to improve the flow of blood and nutrients to the fetus.
How to Enhance Sleep in the Second Trimester:
As compared to the first trimester, the second trimester comes as a relief especially to the first-time weary mother, who wasnít expecting to experience tiredness throughout her pregnancy. Although many women start feeling more energetic and start getting back to their usual routine during the 4th to 6th month, it is advisable to give your body much needed rest and sleep to support the developing fetus.
With nausea subsiding and hormones leveling off, women also find they have to use the bathroom less often during the 2nd trimester. This is because the compression of bladder by the growing uterus is reduced as the uterus moves up into the abdomen in the second trimester. Mothers may experience new challenges like heartburn, shortness of breath and constipation instead. Listed below are the survival tips to overcome these challenges of second trimester:
- Get adequate rest, take minimum of 8 hours of sleep and more if your body demands for it.
- To avoid heartburn during sleep, along with avoiding spicy, acidic and fried food, one must avoid sleeping on their abdomen or on their back. Try elevating your upper body by placing pillows under your head, so as to avoid food pipe reflux and heartburn.
- As discussed earlier, sleep on the left side with knees and legs bent. Use special pregnancy pillows or place regular pillows between knees and under your abdomen.
Sleep Position in the Third Trimester:
Similar to the first and second trimesters, it is best to sleep on the left side in the third trimester as well. Lying on oneís stomach is out of question and sleeping on oneís back puts undue pressure on the inferior vena cava (the major vein that transports venous blood from the lower half of the body back to the heart). Studies have shown that sleeping on the back increases the risk of stillbirth.
Lying on the left side and placing a pillow between the legs with the knees bent may be the most comfortable position. Additionally pillows may be kept behind the back and in front of the belly as well.
Trivial as it may seem, adopting the right sleeping position during pregnancy and having a restful sleep will go a long way in improving the health and well-being of the mother as well as the baby and keep the mother better prepared to cope with the challenges of caring for the newborn.
- If you experience a cramp in your leg, try to straighten your leg and bend your foot upwards. Do this several times before going to bed, to prevent further cramps.
- Avoid consuming hot, spicy or fried foods, carbonated sodas and drinks to avoid heartburn. Finish your meal at least 3 hours before bedtime
- Drink more liquids during the day and lesser during evening and nigh time to avoid waking up to go to the bathroom
- If you start snoring, get your blood pressure and urine protein checked, especially if you are experience ankle swelling and headaches. This might be a warning signal for pre-eclampsia and needs immediate medical intervention.
- Practice relaxation techniques to help fall asleep easily
- Join a class if you feel anxious. Sharing your concerns and the company of other pregnant women will help reduce worries and stress
- Avoid sleeping on back for a long period of time.
Latest Publications and Research on Best Sleep Positions During PregnancyEfficacy of intrauterine administration of autologous peripheral blood mononuclear cells on the pregnancy outcomes in patients with recurrent implantation failure: A systematic review and meta-analysis. - Published by PubMed
Use of Laparoscopic Slip Knot with Purse-String Suture in Surgical Management of Unruptured Heterotopic Interstitial Pregnancies. - Published by PubMed
Pregnancy and neonatal outcomes in women with HIV-1 exposed to integrase inhibitors, protease inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors: an observational study. - Published by PubMed
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