How to Sleep More Comfortably in Pregnancy

By Katie Roebuck

November 27, 2019

I am the mother of two children, an RN, Prenatal Educator, Lactation Counsellor, and Sleep Coach. My nursing career has been focused on Maternity and Obstetrics. I am based in the Niagara Region and I enjoy helping moms reach their goals with pregnancy and motherhood!

If you are or have been pregnant, you know that comfort is a relative term, especially in the later months. Sore hips and back, swollen feet, and heartburn all very very normal in pregnancy but being uncomfortable isn’t great for sleeping. And we all know how HUGE sleep is for overall physical and mental health. 

So here’s how to try and get better sleep in pregnancy.

Create Good Sleep Habits

First off, set your self up for success with some good sleep habits. Enjoy a warm shower or bath before bed can help your body relax and reduce aches and pains. Reducing or eliminating screen time leading up to bedtime is important because studies have shown that the blue light emitted from screens can disrupt melatonin which is an essential hormone for sleep.

Set your space and mind for sleep. Dim the lights and reduce noises if you can leading up to bedtime. If your mind is racing through the million things you need to do for baby, keep a notebook or journal by your bed to write it all down before you sleep to help clear your mind. There are also loads of meditation apps and youtube videos out there that can help you calm your brain before sleep. 

Pillows

The next tip is pillows. Like all of them. I had bad sciatica in my second pregnancy so I invested in a full-body pillow that was longer then I am tall. My husband called it my ‘boyfriend’ because I loved sleeping with it so much but that thing was amazing. You don’t need to invest in a full-body pillow unless you want to, all you need is some spare bedroom or throw pillows.

The three spots you want to support other than your head are between your knees/thighs, behind the small of your back, and under your tummy when sleeping on your side. This will help support your body in a neutral position during sleep and help reduce pain from muscle stretching. It will make rolling over difficult at times, so being creative. 

Avoiding Heartburn

Heartburn is very common in pregnancy, especially in the advanced stages. Simply put, there is less Realestate in your abdomen, and progesterone causes the valve that separates your stomach and the esophagus to relax, so the acid from your stomach can leak up causing heartburn. In addition to avoiding high acidity foods or large meals before bedtime, and taking antacids on the regular, keep your head slightly elevated during sleep. This will help gravity do its job and keep your stomach acid where it’s supposed to be. 

Avoid Sleeping on Your Back

Finally, you do not want to fall asleep flat on your back, especially after 20 weeks in pregnancy because the weight of the uterus can block the inferior vena cava and impair blood flow to the uterus. Studies have shown that prolonged periods on your back during the third trimester, like when sleeping, can be harmful to you and or baby and increase the risk of stillbirth.

This is where having a small pillow behind your lower back can help because it will keep your hips tilted and relieve the pressure of your uterus off the major blood vessels. Sleeping on your left side is ideal because of where the inferior vena cava and your organs sit and being on your left side allows for better blood flow. However sleep is important and if you are more comfortable sleeping on your right side then you are most likely ok to do so, as there has been no solid scientific evidence to prove one side is safer than the other. 

It may seem slightly obvious but sleeping on your stomach after the first trimester is not recommended (or very comfortable). If you’re normally a stomach or back sleeper, it may take you time to adjust to sleeping on your side. Use some of the tips above to set up yourself for success for sleep.

 

If you have questions about pregnancy and sleep for you or babe, reach out to your local mama coach!

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