Welcome to the fun world of pregnancy, where you have to re-learn how to do many of the day-to-day (or night-to-night) actions that we all take for granted. Even sleep will become more tricky, and not just because of your growing belly. Having a baby in your belly brings with it changes in your body and life that affect sleeping and even sleeping positions in pregnancy that are optimal for your baby’s growth. Pregnancy is also a time when sleep is more vital than ever, so it’s best to address the matter early and head-on.
First, let’s take a look at sleep issues that may pop up during pregnancy. We will then explore the best position to sleep during pregnancy according to each trimester and even some safe pregnancy sleep aids.
In 1998 one of the most extensive studies was done on pregnant women and sleep patterns to date. It indicated that approximately 78% of women experience sleep issues during pregnancy. The study also explored each trimester and discovered that different issues impacted each. Some general issues pregnant women face include:
Heartburn is a pesky problem that many women experience during pregnancy, especially in the later months. It occurs in pregnant women as increased levels of progesterone cause the valve between the stomach and the esophagus to relax, trapping stomach acid from passing to the esophagus. The problem can be exacerbated in the third trimester as the heavy uterus puts pressure on the intestines and stomach.
Heartburn can cause sleep disruptions because the foods that lead to its onset are often consumed at night and because the burning sensation is so uncomfortable. There are many ways to address it, however. We will look at a few as we dive into the third trimester.
As your belly grows, tossing and turning to find just the right position will become difficult if not impossible. Lot’s of work-arounds and pregnancy sleep aids will be discussed below to help cope.
Insomnia is described by Mayo Clinic as “a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep. You may still feel tired when you wake up. Insomnia can sap not only your energy level and mood but also your health, work performance and quality of life.” The causes are often hard to pinpoint, but can often be tied to life stressors. Because it can hinder your wellbeing so much during pregnancy, it is important to address it if you find yourself unable to sleep for more than a few nights in a row.
Women often experience back pain beginning late in their second trimester of pregnancy. While there are many effective treatments, the discomfort may still reappear during the night, when gravity and pressure irritate. Extra pillows and other tricks described below will help combat the issue and let you get in a good night of sleep during pregnancy.
You may just have a lot on your mind as you journey through your pregnancy. Stress is a major factor contributing to difficulty settling into a good sleeping position during pregnancy and can lead to insomnia. While it is perfectly natural to experience stress and anxiety as you prepare for a new precious little one to join your family, it’s also important to address it, as your baby needs you rested and tip-top while it’s growing in your belly and beyond.
In the first trimester, your baby will be small enough to allow you to sleep in whatever position is most comfortable. This is particularly preferable as the main issue causing sleep disruption is stress, which we address below. If your racing thoughts are keeping you wide awake, finding a familiar position may be a good way to relax.
That being said, while sleeping on your stomach is safe, you may want to consider getting comfortable with other positions. The stomach will quickly cease to be an option and you want to be prepared.
Stress is the leading factor contributing to changes in sleep patterns and insomnia during the first trimester. And it makes sense, the fresh news that a baby is going to be joining you in nine short months is a lot to process.
Because your body will be changing quickly over the next three months and because you will still be going to work and about your normal routine, it is important to nip nighttime stress in the bud and get as much rest as you can. Here are a few ways to clear your mind during your first trimester and get the sleep you need:
The second trimester will bring a growth spurt in your baby that will herald in the beginning of getting to love your left side. This is the best sleeping position in pregnancy for the following reasons:
Do note that while the left side is considered the most healthy option, there is no risk of sleeping on your right side. It doesn’t allow as much blood flow to the IVC, but it will not harm your baby’s growth. Get comfortable with your left side, but don’t stress if you find yourself rolling to your right from time to time.
The left side will continue to be the best position to sleep for the rest of your pregnancy. It is important for the reasons mentioned above, but also because sleeping on your back is to be avoided in the third trimester. The back is a no-no because:
While all of the above are good reasons to become close friends with your left side, do not panic if you wake up on your back. Waking up is just a signal that it is time to shift positions and it will not harm your baby. The left side is the best sleeping position in pregnancy, but it is also just a guideline.
The third trimester is its own ballgame. While things may have returned somewhat to normal during your second trimester, a variety of new (and annoying) problems may pop up once you put on your nighty in the last months of your pregnancy. Here are a few issues to watch for and how to address them:
Heartburn: For many women, heartburn becomes most severe in the third trimester. If this is your ailment de jour, try attacking it with the following:
Increased need to urinate: Unfortunately, this is a very commonly reported symptom of pregnancy in the third trimester, and one that will keep you getting up at night. The best way to combat the problem is simply to limit fluids in the two hours before you head to bed.
Hello, baby bump! Your belly is going to pop during your third trimester, and pop big time. This extra weight and the bulge can make it hard to get comfortable to sleep for obvious reasons. Prepare for a good night’s rest by investing in some or all of the following:
Sleep may never be quite the same as before you were pregnant and your baby has become a part of your life, but developing some healthy habits during your pregnancy will go a long way in helping you get the sleep you need as your journey as a mother.