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Preventive Care
Women's Health

Optimal Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy

08 April 2024 · 6 mins read


As your body changes during pregnancy, sleeping positions that were once comfortable may no longer be suitable. Learn about the best pregnancy sleeping positions.

Pregnancy marks a thrilling yet apprehensive period for expectant mothers. However, it brings inherent challenges, with sleep positioning ranking among the most troublesome.

As the body undergoes changes during pregnancy, formerly comfortable sleeping postures may become unsuitable. Hence, discovering the most conducive sleeping position becomes paramount for a restful night.

This comprehensive article aims to furnish actionable insights into optimal sleeping positions during pregnancy, positions to eschew, and other crucial tips.

Why Is Sleep Crucial During Pregnancy?

Studies have revealed that up to 78% of pregnant women encounter some form of sleep disruption, including difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings, or daytime fatigue.

Quality sleep is pivotal for the physical and mental well-being of expectant mothers. In fact, inadequate sleep correlates closely with an elevated risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, prolonged labour, and heightened rates of caesarean section.

Poor sleep can also precipitate mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, influencing both the mother's and baby's development.

How Many Hours Should Pregnant Women Sleep?

Adequate sleep duration during pregnancy is indispensable for maternal and foetal health. Similar to the general population, pregnant women necessitate between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

What Are the Optimal Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy?

1. Sleeping on one’s side

Sleeping on one's side enhances blood circulation to the placenta and the foetus while mitigating the risk of stillbirth. Preferably, the left side is advocated as it maximises blood flow to the foetus and uterus. Nevertheless, sleeping on the right side is also deemed acceptable.

Although sleeping on the left side is generally deemed optimal during pregnancy, there is no concrete evidence suggesting harm from sleeping on the right side. Indeed, some women find sleeping on their right side more comfortable, particularly in early pregnancy stages.

If uncertain about the preferred side, alternating between sides during the night is advisable to avert excessive pressure on any one side and alleviate potential muscle or joint discomfort.

2. Sleeping position in early pregnancy

During the initial trimester, sleeping on either side is suitable. Nonetheless, many women find stomach or back sleeping comfortable during this phase. As the uterus expands, stomach sleeping becomes increasingly uncomfortable, and back sleeping may induce backaches, haemorrhoids, and low blood pressure.

3. Second-trimester pregnancy sleeping positions

In the second trimester, side sleeping gains importance. With foetal growth, the uterus' weight can exert pressure on the vena cava, impeding blood flow back to the heart. Sleeping on the left side may alleviate or prevent this pressure, enhancing blood and nutrient supply to the baby.

For those struggling with side sleeping, employing a pregnancy pillow could offer support for the growing belly and aid in maintaining a comfortable position throughout the night.

4. Third-trimester pregnancy sleeping positions

Throughout the third trimester, continuing to sleep on one's side is crucial. However, as the belly enlarges, finding a comfortable position may prove challenging.

One approach is bolstering oneself with pillows, placing them behind the back and under the belly to provide support and enhance comfort. Additionally, positioning a pillow between the knees can alleviate pressure on the hips and lower back.

5. Sleeping position in pregnancy with twins

Expectant mothers of twins should persist with side sleeping throughout pregnancy. However, accommodating the additional weight of twins may make finding a comfortable position more challenging. Consider utilising pillows to provide support behind the back and under the belly, aiding in maintaining comfort.

What Are the Sleeping Positions to Avoid During Pregnancy?

While certain sleeping positions are recommended during pregnancy, others should be avoided. Incorrect positioning may exert pressure on organs and impede blood flow to the foetus.

  1. Sleeping on the back

    Back sleeping during pregnancy imposes pressure on the spine, back muscles, intestines, and other organs. It also hampers blood flow to the foetus, potentially leading to reduced oxygen supply, resulting in low birth weight, premature birth, or stillbirth.

    It is imperative to eschew back sleeping after the 20th week, as research suggests it is a significant risk factor for stillbirth. It is recorded that 1 in 4 pregnant women sleep in a supine position.

  2. Sleeping on the stomach

    Stomach sleeping is inherently uncomfortable and impractical for expectant mothers. Besides discomfort, this position may pressure the uterus and organs, impeding breathing. Hence, it is advisable to avoid stomach sleeping during pregnancy.

How to Find a Comfortable Sleeping Position During Pregnancy?

Discovering a comfortable sleeping position amidst pregnancy's bodily changes can be challenging. Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Utilise pillows strategically

    Position pillows beneath the belly, behind the back, and between the legs for added comfort.

  2. Use a pregnancy pillow

    Specialised pillows offer additional support, aiding comfort in various positions.

  3. Experiment with different positions

    Explore sleeping on the left or right side or in a reclined posture to find what suits best.

  4. Elevate the upper body

    Wedge pillows or elevating the upper body with pillows can alleviate heartburn and acid reflux.

  5. Adjust room temperature

    Maintaining a cool, comfortable bedroom temperature promotes better sleep.

How Can I Improve My Sleep During Pregnancy?

  1. Maintain a sleep schedule

    Strive to stick to a consistent sleep routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps regulate your body's sleep-wake cycle and enhances sleep quality.

  2. Reserve your bedroom for sleep

    Avoid using your bedroom for activities that might disrupt sleep, such as working, watching TV, or using your phone or tablet. This practice can establish a strong association between your bedroom and sleep, facilitating easier sleep onset and maintenance.

  3. Nap if you experience poor nighttime sleep

    A daytime nap can compensate for inadequate sleep at night and leave you feeling refreshed. Ensure your nap lasts between 20-30 minutes and avoid napping too close to bedtime.

  4. Limit caffeine consumption

    While many enjoy the stimulating effects of coffee, it is less desirable when trying to sleep. Restrict your caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening, as it can hinder your ability to fall asleep.

  5. Eat smaller meals in the evening

    Consuming large meals or spicy, acidic, or fatty foods close to bedtime can lead to indigestion and heartburn, disrupting sleep.

  6. Practice relaxation techniques if stressed

    Engage in relaxation exercises before bedtime, such as using relaxation apps or listening to soothing music, to ease stress and promote better sleep.

  7. Stay physically active

    Aim to remain active during the day, even if you feel fatigued. Activities like yoga, swimming, or leisurely walks are ideal during pregnancy.

In conclusion, finding a comfortable sleeping position during pregnancy can be challenging, but following clinical recommendations can help. It is generally advised to sleep on your left side during pregnancy, as it enhances blood flow to the placenta and foetus.

Moreover, it is encouraged to avoid the supine and prone positions, as they may cause discomfort and pose potential health risks.

Remember that maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a serene sleep environment, limiting caffeine intake, and practicing relaxation techniques are all conducive to better sleep during pregnancy.

Schedule an Appointment at Pantai Hospitals

If you are struggling with sleep issues or have concerns about your sleep during pregnancy, it is crucial to consult your healthcare provider. They can offer personalised recommendations and ensure you and your baby receive optimal care.

Contact us to schedule an appointment with our team of gynaecologists today or learn more about our Obstetrics and Gynaecology Services at your nearest Pantai Hospital.

Pantai Hospitals have earned accreditation from the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for their dedication to patient safety and service quality.

This article has been medically reviewed by Obstetrics & Gynaecology (O&G) specialist, Dr Anjalai A/P Pathmalingam.

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