Pregnancy sleeping positions: How to sleep safely and comfortably while pregnant
Sleeping comfortably while pregnant can be difficult, yet it’s a time when you may need more sleep than usual. You may have heard that certain sleeping positions are better than others for you and your baby, but are there positions you should avoid altogether? Here’s everything you need to know to sleep in comfortable and safe pregnancy sleeping positions.
Why is sleep so important during pregnancy?
Trouble sleeping during pregnancy is common: more than 78 percent of pregnant women have insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep).
Not getting enough sleep while pregnant has been linked to a higher risk of gestational diabetes. This may be because sleep regulates how your body reacts to insulin, which helps maintain a steady blood sugar level. Sleep also helps keep your immune system healthy, which is especially important when pregnant as your immune system is suppressed.
If you are sleeping well but still feel tired, there’s no need to worry. Many pregnant women feel unusually tired during the day, and although feeling tired won’t harm you or the baby, it can make your daily life more difficult. You’ll likely feel tired even if you’ve slept well.
What is the best sleeping position for pregnant women?
As your bump gets bigger, it can be increasingly difficult to sleep well, often due to needing to urinate more frequently and being uncomfortable. But the sleeping position you find most comfortable, and therefore get the best sleep in, is not necessarily the safest position for you and your baby. So, what position should you sleep in?
Which side to sleep on in early pregnancy
Sleeping on the left side during pregnancy was thought to help improve blood flow to the placenta, but this isn’t well supported by science. A small study found that women who slept on their left side had a 50 percent lower risk of stillbirth compared to women who slept on their right side. However, this result has never been found again in any subsequent study, and the NHS says sleeping on either side is equally safe. Choosing which side to sleep on in early pregnancy should therefore be decided by what is most comfortable for you.
Which side to sleep on in late pregnancy
Just as in early pregnancy, there’s no conclusive evidence to say that sleeping on one side is better than the other. However, there is some evidence to suggest that sleeping on your side (either side) in your third trimester may help reduce the risk of your baby being stillborn.
Why can’t you sleep on your back while pregnant?
Some experts recommend that the best pregnancy sleeping positions are on your side in the second and third trimesters. This is because research found going to sleep on your back after 28 weeks of pregnancy doubles the risk of stillbirth. Experts suggest lying on your back may compress your vena cava (a large vein that carries blood back to the heart from elsewhere in your body), lying on your side may make it easier for blood to return to your heart, and so help oxygenated blood to reach the foetus.
However, more recent research has given a more mixed view of the best sleeping position for pregnant women. A 2019 study suggested it is no riskier to sleep on your back than your side up until 30 weeks. Currently, the NHS recommends that you avoid going to sleep on your back from week 28 of your pregnancy, so you should follow this advice if you can.
Can you sleep on your front while pregnant?
The answer to can you sleep on your front when pregnant is yes – as long as it is comfortable. This position can become uncomfortable as your bump grows, so you may want to switch position anyway.
How to find a comfortable sleeping position
It can be frustrating at the best of times when you can’t find a comfortable sleeping position, but lack of sleep during pregnancy can be detrimental to both mother and baby. Some women find pregnancy pillows helpful, and others prefer to prop themselves up a bit. Here are some tips to help you sleep comfortably during pregnancy:
- Use pillows: When you are lying on your side, it may be more comfortable to sleep with a pillow supporting your bump and a pillow between your knees. This helps take pressure off your lower back. This can help if you have pelvic pain during pregnancy, such as pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PGP). Placing a pillow behind your back can also help prevent you rolling over in the night.
- Prop yourself up in bed: Some women find that sleeping in an upright position is more comfortable during pregnancy. You can use pillows to prop yourself up, or use an adjustable bed to make finding a comfortable, elevated sleeping position simple.
- Use an adjustable bed to make side sleeping more comfortable: Sleeping on your side can put a lot of strain on your shoulder and hips. Often, your waist ends up collapsed into the mattress, and your shoulder scrunched up underneath your torso. Using an adjustable bed to create a gently contoured sleeping surface helps support your back when sleeping on your side.
What if I wake up in an ‘unsafe’ position?
Studies on sleeping position during pregnancy generally look at the position women fell asleep in, as this is the position you spend most of the night in. So if you wake up lying on your back, there’s no need to worry, just roll back over to go back to sleep.
Learn more about comfortable sleeping positions
Whether you are pregnant, have a health condition, or are finding it harder to get to sleep than you used to, we’re here to help. Find out everything you need to know about sleeping in a healthy, comfortable posture in our Good Sleeping Posture Guide.