Women need to sleep comfortably, especially when they are pregnant. Unfortunately, it becomes challenging for them to find a comfortable sleeping position as the baby bump grows and not all sleeping positions are ideal during pregnancy.
This blog is a comprehensive understanding of the sleeping difficulties women can face during pregnancy and the ideal sleeping position for them.
Why do women find it challenging to sleep during pregnancy?
The most significant reason behind sleeping issues during pregnancy is the growing fetus size, making it challenging for women to find a comfortable sleeping position. Women who have always slept on their backs or stomachs may find it challenging to get used to sleeping on their sides. As the pregnancy progresses and the bump gets bigger, it is also challenging for them to shift their position in bed. The other common physical symptoms that can interfere with sleep include:
- The frequent urge to urinate – The kidneys work more to filter the increasing volume of blood moving through the body. The filtering process produces more urine, and the pressure on the bladder increases as the baby grows and the uterus enlarges, resulting in frequent bathroom visits throughout the day and night. The number of times they go to the restroom at night depends on if the baby is active at night.
- Elevated heart rate – The heart rate increases during pregnancy because the heart must pump more blood. As the blood supply to the uterus increases, the heart works extra to adequately supply blood to the rest of the body.
- Shortness of breath – increased pregnancy hormones mean that women breathe more deeply. They can feel as though they are working more to get air. Breathing can get more difficult as the enlarging uterus exerts pressure on the diaphragm (the muscle below the lungs).
- Leg cramps and backaches – women carry extra weight during pregnancy, which can cause leg or back pain. During pregnancy, the body also produces a hormone known as relaxin, which prepares it for the baby’s birth. One of the relaxin’s effects is loosening ligaments throughout the body. It makes pregnant women less stable and more vulnerable to back injury.
- Heartburn and constipation – several pregnant women have heartburn when the stomach contents reflux back into the oesophagus. During pregnancy, the entire digestive system functions slow, and food remains in the stomach and intestines much longer, leading to heartburn or constipation. These symptoms can worsen later in the pregnancy when the growing uterus exerts pressure on the stomach or the large intestine.
Women can have sleep issues due to other causes as well. They may include stress, anxiety, nightmares, and vivid dreams. All these feelings are normal and may keep expectant mothers up at night.
What is the ideal sleeping position for pregnant women?
Women must try to develop the habit of sleeping on their side early in pregnancy. Women may feel most comfortable lying on their sides with bent knees as the pregnancy progresses. It also makes it easy for the heart since it prevents the baby’s weight from exerting pressure on the inferior vena cava, a large vein that transfers blood back to the heart from the feet and legs.
Some doctors urge pregnant women to sleep on their left side since the liver is on the right side of the abdomen. Sleeping on their left side prevents their uterus from putting pressure on the liver and improves circulation to the heart, thus offering the blood and nutrients the best route from the heart to the placenta for nourishing the baby. Women must not worry too much about shifting positions since it is a natural part of sleeping that cannot be controlled.
When should pregnant women consult the doctor regarding their sleeping position?
During regular consultations, pregnant women can ask the doctor about the ideal sleeping position.
What are the other sleeping positions during pregnancy?
1. Sleeping on the stomach
Women may not be able to sleep on their stomachs during pregnancy. They will have to switch positions when the baby bump makes it uncomfortable or impossible for them to sleep on their stomach.
2. Sleeping on the back
Some doctors advise pregnant women to avoid sleeping on their backs in the second and third trimesters since it puts the entire weight of the growing uterus on the intestines and vena cava. This pressure can worsen backaches and haemorrhoids, make digestion less efficient, interrupt blood circulation, and cause hypotension (low blood pressure), making women dizzy.
What are the steps women can take to sleep comfortably?
Pregnant women can take specific steps to manage sleep disturbances. They must:
- Ensure that the setting in their room is dark, quiet, and relaxing because it improves sleep.
- A regular sleep schedule is vital. Sleep and get up at the exact time on all days since it can improve sleep. They must avoid using or keeping any electronic devices in their bedroom.
- Exercise regularly because it makes them fall asleep more easily.
- Consume small, frequent meals. They must also avoid eating anything three hours before they sleep.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks, including coffee, tea, and soda, especially in the morning or early afternoon.
- Practice relaxation techniques before bedtime.
Pregnant women need not worry about their sleeping position. Doctors advise them to sleep on their side (right or left) to receive optimal blood flow along with their baby. They can also use pillow props to get into the most comfortable sleeping position.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How does pregnancy affect sleep?
Several symptoms during pregnancy can affect or disturb a woman’s sleep. They include nausea and vomiting (morning sickness), fetal movement, leg cramps, heartburn, snoring, restless legs syndrome, difficulty breathing, irregular uterine contractions, frequent urination, anxiety about labour and delivery, and physical discomfort such as tender breasts and back pain.
2. How can pregnant women use pillows to improve their sleep?
Pregnant women must try the following methods using pillows since it can improve their sleep:
- Use many pillows – they must try to cross one leg over the other and put one pillow between them and another one behind their back. Pregnant women can also try different combinations that improve their sleep.
- Get a special pregnancy pillow – they must try using a wedge-shaped pillow or a five-foot full-body pregnancy pillow for additional support.
- Prop themselves up – they can try sleeping in a semi-upright position in a recliner (if they have one) rather than sleeping on the bed if pillows do not improve their sleep.
3. Does the sleeping position or the side a pregnant woman sleep indicate the baby’s sex?
Pregnant women may have read or heard a myth stating that the side they sleep on indicates the baby’s sex. However, no studies suggest that the pregnant woman’s sleep position correlates to the sex of the baby.