Why Sleep MattersPulling all-nighters has consequences during pregnancy (and they look a lot different than they did when cramming for final exams or enjoying happy hour for a few too many hours). The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that lack of sleep puts you more at risk for gestational diabetes. Women who slept less than 6 hours a night also reported longer labors and were 4.5 times more likely to have a C-section.
The amount of sleep you get can even impact your baby’s birth weight and APGAR score, according to the Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine. They also linked sleep deprivation during pregnancy to an increased risk of preterm labor. So, as you’re well aware, sleep is much more than beauty rest—but betcha didn’t know it was this important.
Positioning is (Almost) EverythingNow that the scary part’s outta the way, let’s get you sleeping! Of course, pregnancy will always make this more challenging, but it’s a battle you can win (we know bc we’ve been there…). So how do you find the best and safest sleeping position when it’s so much harder to get comfy? It’s all about trial and error. Now let us present a little sleep position 101 for ya…
Attn: Stomach SleepersIf this is you, know that it might be easier than you think to give up because it will eventually become way too uncomfortable to do. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you’ll find other sleep positions all that comfy either ;) Some clever mamas have used donut pillows to buy themselves extra tummy time, but eventually, know that it’s not going to work or remain safe. Thank ya, next.
On Your Back Ain’t BestYou might be wondering, just how bad is it to sleep on your back when you’re pregnant? Not the answer you want but back sleeping can cause more problems than it’s worth. The full weight of your womb compressing the vena cava—which carries blood from your lower body to your heart—isn’t the best choice for a preggo-safe sleeping position. You’ll also notice this one gets increasingly more uncomfortable as you advance through the trimesters (don’t worry, it’ll be right there for ya as soon as babe’s out). Now let’s try this again…
The “Right” SideFinally, some good news. Many experts now agree that sleeping on your right side during pregnancy isn’t the bad move it was once advertised as. Is the left better? Yes. There’s a slight risk of compressing the vena cava if you’re a right-side sleeper. Is it horrible to sleep on this side? No. A 2019 review showed equal safety with sleeping on the right or left. Most moms end up alternating sides, and most doctors find this acceptable. *Whew*
To the Left, to the LeftLeft-side sleepers, rejoice! It’s long been said this is the ideal sleeping position for pregnancy since it gives you the best of the best circulation. When you sleep on this side, babe gets all those great nutrients via your placenta, and you get less problematic side effects like swelling and (ugh) cankles thanks to decreased pressure on your liver and kidneys. Basically, when you sleep on the left, the increase in blood flow helps everything function properly. No detox necessary.
Timing is EverythingDuring the first trimester, it’s safe for you to sleep in whatever position that feels the most comfy for you. Then once you hit the second trimester, it’s time to switch things up if you’re a stomach or back sleeper (sorry, these positions aren’t safe from the second on…). As your hormones stabilize and your breasts start feeling a little less tender, you should get some relief when it comes to sleep quality. Use this time to spruce up your sleep hygiene and invest in a great pregnancy pillow that’ll keep you comfortably on your side. Keep reading for tips on how to find the best one :)
Don’t PanicDon’t freak out if you’re past the first trimester and wake up on your right side or even flat on your back. These positions aren’t harmful enough that you need to worry about you or babe’s health when it happens on occasion. Today, a popular belief among experts is that it’s more important for pregnant women to get enough sleep however they can, especially during the third trimester, so please don’t stress about doing it perfectly.
Best Supporting RoleNow that you understand why certain positions are better than others, let’s dive into how you can adapt to these preggo-safe sleeping positions with ease. Meet the props…
Make Pillows Your BFF
When lying on either side, bending your knees can help alleviate pressure on your hips. So place a pillow between your legs, plus one behind you for low-back reinforcement. Some expectant mamas also find relief by wedging one under their belly to support those pesky round ligaments. Pillows are pretty much the MVP of pregnancy and when you’re breastfeeding too—you’re going to need a lot of them.