Updated May 2019
Wondering how to sleep during pregnancy? We got your back.
Twenty-six weeks is about the time your belly will start to take on a life of its own. That little baby is alive and kicking. And kicking… and kicking some more.
You’ve probably been told by now that you should no longer sleep on your back. Is it true? The answer is that occasionally lying supine will not harm a developing fetus, but sleeping that way every night might.
When you lie on your back, your bulging uterus squishes the vena cava, the main vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart. Lying on your back for an extended period of time can cause dizziness and breathlessness, and may interfere (over the long term) with the flow of blood and nutrients to the placenta.
Therefore, it is recommended that you now sleep on your side. Having said that, DON’T freak out if you go to sleep on your side and wake up flat on your back. Just roll over. It’s not a huge deal.
There are a few fun things that make sleeping-while-pregnant even more of a joke:
1. Heartburn/Acid Reflux
Oh dear God, I could write a book on acid reflux. Puking for 16 consecutive weeks does nasty, wicked things to your esophagus and throat. Hell, my throat burns just thinking about it. Anywho.
If you have experienced the joys of acid reflux, you know that it only gets worse when you lie down. People with bad reflux will often prop the head end of their bed up so the bed tilts down at an angle (at one point, I had so many books propped up under the head posts of the bed, my husband was afraid he would roll right off the bottom. Need MOAR BOOKS!!!!).
Sleeping a bit upright will do wonders for reflux (I’ll write more about reflux later).
2. Stuffy nose for no reason: a.k.a. pregnancy rhinitis
About 30% of pregnant women will get this condition. It makes it so hard to sleep.
This is caused by increased levels of progesterone during pregnancy, which contribute to swelling in the mucous membranes lining the nose and even cause you to make more mucus.
When your nose is blocked, you breathe through your wide-open mouth and when you wake up, it feels like someone painted the inside of your mouth with honey. It’s that dry.
The Neti pot (sinus rinse, whatever you want to call it) is really great to have during pregnancy because you can use it to alleviate cold and allergy symptoms when you don’t want to pop a bunch of pills. In fact, I’ve used the NeilMed Sinus Rinse for years with great success.
3. Having to pee. A LOT.
This will only get worse the further along you get. Embrace it; there is nothing you can do about it (a bed pan? Hmm…).
4. Wicked nasty leg cramps
Oh, the leg cramps! I remember waking up one night screaming in pain and my husband jumped out of bed because he thought someone was attacking me.
Nobody knows why women get more cramps during pregnancy, but dang, it is NO joke. And worse, nothing has been proven to combat the cramping (not even magnesium). When you feel one coming on, slowly flex your foot back. I know, I know, it hurts like hey-elll, but the flexing will cause the spasm to stop.
How to Sleep During Pregnancy: Maternity Pillows
Most normal people would think that spending ~$60 on a pillow is ludicrous. I would agree. Normally…
But losing sleep for months straight is not normal. It takes a heavy toll on… everything. Being up at night can make you completely neurotic. For me, the cost of a good maternity pillow was priceless.
Here are the two pillows that mommies love (both made by Leachco):
1. The Snoogle ~ $69
This large, C-shaped pillow is amazing. It is the most popular pregnancy pillow on the market. This thing is huge, just warning you.
2. Back ‘N Belly ~ $85
Mind you, this pillow is LARGE and in charge, so it’s no good if you have a small bed. You may have to kick the dog out to make room for the BNB. This pillow is especially great for women who are having a lot of hip and back pain.
The other benefit of this pillow is that you don’t have to flip it over if you want to change sides (hey, Jethro, where is momma’s pryin’ bar?). This pillow can also be used for nursing (in theory).
Many, many will even resort to sleeping in a recliner, which is great for reflux too. This is fine: do what you gotta do.
Congrats on getting over the hump. Now, go forth and sleep!