How To Sleep When Pregnant: The Best Positions, Plus Tips For A Restful Night

Picture of Robyn Rosenblum, MD, FAAP

Expecting mom trying to figure out how to sleep when pregnant

You hear all the buzz about not sleeping well (if at all!) when you have kids, but it may come as a shock to hear that the same can be true while they’re growing in your belly. Learning how to sleep when pregnant is a whole new ballgame!

Nausea, insomnia, anxiety, and growing pains are just a few reasons you may be lacking in the sleep department during your pregnancy.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into common sleep troubles, reveal the best sleeping positions for pregnant women, and offer some tips to help you get a good night’s sleep the whole nine months!

Table Of Contents

The Importance Of Good Sleep When You’re Pregnant

Pregnant woman sleeping on yellow couch

Even if you’re not pregnant, you need a good night’s sleep. Sleep is the time when your body and organs reset and renew.

Plus, your body needs sleep to perform its basic functions, like thinking (pregnancy brain, anyone?). And it helps your mood!

But how does sleep affect you when you’re carrying your little one?

As you may know, your blood flow significantly increases during pregnancy, and adequate sleep helps the blood flow properly to your baby. Your pregnant body also needs rest to fight off any infections and build your immune system.

Getting the right amount of sleep also helps regulate your blood sugar levels. Because of that, the quality of your sleep can play a big role in the outcome of your glucose screening test, which screens for gestational diabetes by checking for high levels of sugar in your blood.

One reason some otherwise healthy moms-to-be fail this test or have to repeat it is that they’re not getting enough (or good) sleep and their blood sugar levels have gotten off track.

Also, don’t forget the obvious reason you need quality sleep every night: your body is growing a baby! And before you know it, you’ll be going into labor, a big event that your body needs sleep to prepare for.

Researchers found that women who got less than six hours of sleep per night during their final trimester experienced longer labor compared to their well-rested peers. In addition, these tired mamas were more likely to experience preterm labor.

Now that you know the reasons behind getting good sleep while you’re pregnant, let’s talk about why it’s so challenging.

Why Sleep Is Hard When You’re Pregnant?

If you’re having trouble sleeping during pregnancy, you’re not alone. Most women (nearly 80%) report sleep disturbances while expecting.

Here are some common reasons behind this phenomenon:

General Discomfort

Your body is rapidly changing to make room for your new baby. And as your womb grows, it pushes against other organs, like your bladder, creating pressure and making it hard to get comfortable.

In addition, you may experience heartburn, leg cramps, and backaches that make it difficult to relax.

Changing Hormones

The hormones surging in your body can impact your sleep cycles. In particular, progesterone, which increases to help maintain your pregnancy, causes you to be drowsy during the day. Unfortunately, studies have also linked this hormone to more frequent night wakings.

If you wake up for short periods each night, your progesterone could be to blame. Thankfully, your hormone levels even out a bit more toward the end of your pregnancy.

Congestion And Snoring

Unfortunately, those pregnancy hormones can impact your sleep in another way. They can cause your mucous membranes to swell. And swollen nasal membranes can quickly cause congestion.

Because of this, many women start snoring during pregnancy, even if it’s never been a problem before. You might even snore so loudly that you wake yourself (or your partner) up at night.

Try not to be embarrassed by the noise. It’s a common part of pregnancy that typically goes away after delivery.

Weird Dreams

Those pesky hormones aren’t done yet. They have even more in store for you to make sleeping harder — your dreams.

But we’re not talking about sweet dreams that make you want to stay in bed forever. These dreams are vivid and strange. They can make your heart pound and fill you with enough fear to make you bolt upright from a deep sleep.

If you experience one of these nightmares, try to remind yourself that it was only a dream. And then get up and use the bathroom before trying to doze off again.

Anxiety And Stress

Pregnancy is one of life’s biggest transitions. As such, you may feel anxious or stressed about the changes happening.

When you combine these stressors with other fears, like money worries or relationship concerns, it’s no wonder you’re tossing and turning.

Restless Leg Syndrome

A sudden, uncontrolled urge to move your legs is known as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). This condition is common during pregnancy, and some experts suspect it’s related to anemia. If you’re experiencing RLS, talk to your doctor about potential solutions.

Increased Urine Output

Your baby is sitting on a nice, bouncy trampoline known as your bladder. Holding your urine for several hours gets harder as they get bigger and put more pressure on it.

Thus, as your pregnancy progresses, you’ll pee a lot. When you gotta go, you gotta go – even if it’s in the middle of the night. So plan on spending a lot of time in the bathroom.

How To Sleep When Pregnant: Positions

Woman showing how to sleep when pregnant with pregnancy pillow

With so many things interrupting your sleep, what’s a tired mom-to-be supposed to do? Get the best sleep possible when you can.

One way to maximize your sleep is to pay attention to your positioning in bed. You want to sleep in a way that’s both comfortable for you and beneficial for your growing babe.

To help you accomplish that feat, let’s look at a few common sleep positions.

Sleeping On Your Side

There’s been quite a bit of back-and-forth banter between which side is the best to sleep on during pregnancy.

We’re here to put your mind at ease! The general consensus is that the left side is the best sleeping position for pregnant women.

While sleeping on your right side is not unsafe, sleeping on your left side helps promote better blood flow to your baby. Plus, your liver is on your right side, so if you sleep on your left side, it can keep your heavy uterus off of that important organ!

Sleeping On Your Stomach

If you’re an avid stomach sleeper, we’re sorry to tell you that it’s not the best sleeping position for pregnant women, and for obvious reasons.

But all is not lost! Studies have shown that it’s OK to sleep on your stomach during your first trimester, but consider a new sleeping position past that point.

Sleeping on your stomach eventually becomes uncomfortable and impossible, anyway. It’s sort of like trying to sleep on a bowling ball. When you reach this point, try other possible sleep positions and see what works best for you.

Sleeping On Your Back

Pregnant woman sleeping on back

You might also want to avoid sleeping on your back, especially during your third trimester. It’s not ideal during your last few months of pregnancy.

Think about it:

  • Your uterus is heavy.
  • Your baby is getting bigger by the day.
  • Your organs are under all of that weight, and it presses on them during the night, including your bladder.
  • And your back is probably not feeling too great.

This sleep position could possibly be one of the reasons you wake up so much at night. To start with, you’re probably uncomfortable. And you’re probably getting up to empty your bladder pretty frequently.

To top it all off, sleeping on your back might make it hard for you to breathe, which isn’t safe for you or your baby. For an alternative sleep position, try our next one: sleeping propped up.

(Note: Don’t worry if you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you’re sleeping on your back. Simply switch positions and get back to snoozing!)

Sleeping Propped Up

Nobody wants to sleep sitting up, but it might be the best way to get some shut-eye while you’re pregnant, especially if sleeping on your back is your go-to position.

For this sleep position, grab a few pillows and make sure the top part of your body is propped up. Avoid lying in a way that puts pressure on your back or belly.

The easiest — and probably most comfortable — way to sleep propped up is to use a cozy reclining chair.

Sleeping However You Can

Though some positions are more recommended than others, a recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) study might give you some peace of mind.

It found that your sleep position in early or mid-pregnancy doesn’t increase your risk of complications. Researchers found that women who slept on their back, stomach, or right side had no adverse effects on them or their babies.

The study recommended that women sleep in whichever position they find most comfortable. It concluded that not sleeping at all is worse for you and your baby than sleeping in a less-than-ideal position.

How To Sleep When Pregnant: Tips For A Restful Night

Pregnant woman with her two children in nursery

Sleep during pregnancy is hard. But you aren’t destined to be a mommy zombie for nine months. You can do a few things to increase the amount of sleep you get.

Here are some practical tips for getting some more shut-eye.

Use A Pregnancy Pillow

To help you sleep better at night, consider using a pregnancy pillow. This type of pillow supports your belly and might even help alleviate some back pain. The Newton Baby Pregnancy Pillow is a U-shaped pillow filled with a revolutionary blend that offers support where it’s needed the most.

Lie on your left side with the pillow between your legs and propped up under the side of your belly for the best quality of sleep.

Tip: Don’t have a pregnancy pillow? Use two or three regular pillows in the same spots

Eliminate Screen Time At Night

Pregnant or not, staring at a screen before bed disrupts the quality and quantity of your sleep.

To get the best possible sleep while you’re pregnant, stop using any form of technology about an hour before you want to fall asleep.

You’ll also want to avoid picking your phone back up if you wake at night. As tempting as it is to scroll through TikTok or Instagram, doing so will only make falling back asleep harder.

It might be helpful to keep your phone in another room overnight. That way, it’s out of sight and out of mind.

Drink Plenty Of Water

Make sure you’re getting your water intake for the day!

Now that you’re carrying a baby, it’s even more important to drink a lot of water — not just for you, but for your baby, too. And if you’re not getting enough water, you could wake up with different pains due to dehydration.

It can lead to Braxton Hicks contractions and other signs of false labor, so drink up.

That being said, you might want to consider not drinking anything two hours before going to bed so you don’t have to make a few unwanted trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Pregnant woman staying hydrated during her workout

Exercise During The Day

Exercise is important all the time, but especially when you’re pregnant. It keeps your body in good shape and helps you gear up for delivery. Plus, it gives you much-needed energy to fight pregnancy fatigue.

Keep your body moving (safely) throughout the day so that when bedtime comes around, you’re ready to crash and won’t have any trouble falling asleep.

Save your exercises for the morning or afternoon, and skip doing them in the evening. Since exercising can give your body a boost in energy, it might hinder your ability to fall asleep once your head hits the pillow.

Finally, always check with your OBGYN before beginning any exercise routine.

Take Up A Relaxing Activity Before Bed

Pregnancy can cause a lot of anxiety in moms-to-be. It’s important to find something that helps your brain shut down and unwind, like reading a book or listening to relaxing music.

Pregnant woman reading before sleeping

Schedule Your Sleep

Just like you set an alarm to wake up at the same time every day, schedule the time you want to go to sleep every night.

And if you’re taking naps during the day, also pencil them into your schedule. But don’t take a nap too late in the day since that may disrupt your nighttime sleep!

Stash Some Snacks On Your Nightstand

Despite its name, morning sickness doesn’t just show up in the morning. Surprisingly, it can even show up in the middle of the night.

If your belly is keeping you up in more ways than one, keep a healthy snack nearby, like on your nightstand, to help with unwanted nausea.

Saltine crackers are a good option. Here are some others:

  • Gingersnaps
  • Peppermint candies
  • Dark chocolate squares
  • Almonds or cashews

Limit Caffeine

Pregnancy can leave you feeling exhausted around the clock, so many women turn to coffee, energy drinks, or other forms of caffeine for a pick-me-up. Unfortunately, this can interfere with both the quantity and the quality of your sleep.

Since it can take several hours to leave your body, look at the clock before you indulge in a cup of joe. If it’s after noon, consider a decaffeinated option.

Turn On A Fan

You have an onboard heater right now, so you might be getting too warm at night. Turning on a fan can help keep you cool enough to sleep.

The white noise it creates can also help you relax, making it a win-win.

Create A Bedtime Routine

If your body and mind have difficulty shutting down for the night, a simple bedtime routine can help get them in the habit of going to sleep.

Here are a few things you could include in your routine:

  • Drink a cup of warm tea (not caffeinated) about two hours before you want to go to sleep
  • Unplug from electronics
  • Do a brain dump on a piece of paper to get all your thoughts and worries out of your head
  • Draw a bath or take a shower
  • Apply moisturizer to your skin
  • Get into some comfy pajamas
  • Read or draw for a bit
  • Brush your teeth
  • Get a massage from your partner
  • Crawl into bed and turn the lights out

You don’t have to do each one of these things. Pick your favorites and try doing them each night for a couple of weeks to see if it helps you sleep better.

What To Do When You Wake Up At Night

No matter how many of the above tips you implement, you’ll still have nights where you wake up and can’t fall back asleep.

When that happens, here are a few things to try:

  • Go potty. You just went a few hours ago, but go again. You likely need to.
  • Take a few sips of water. A dry mouth can keep you from falling back asleep. But don’t drink too much, or you’ll be right back in the bathroom.
  • Rearrange your pillows. They probably fell when you got out of bed, so pick them up off the floor and put them back where you want them.
  • Get back in bed. Crawl underneath the covers and find the position you want to sleep in.
  • Close your eyes and try breathing exercises. Breathe in and out slowly while you do some meditation or other relaxation techniques.
  • Think about your baby. Spend a few minutes imagining your little one is here, resting peacefully in a Bassinet & Bedside Sleeper next to your bed. This positive mental imagery can help you fall asleep again.

Pregnant woman sleeping on a pregnancy pillow

While these actions can get you back to sleep, you can also do some things that’ll keep you awake. During the night, you should avoid:

  • Playing on your phone. Just leave it charging in the other room, OK? Otherwise, you might scroll for hours without realizing what you’re doing.
  • Turning on the light. Keep it dim in your room so your brain doesn’t think it’s morning.
  • Watching the clock. Thinking about how much sleep you’re missing out on isn’t helpful. It can make you more anxious, making it even harder to get back to sleep.
  • Trying to work. The dishes will still be there in the morning, so let them sit. Try to relax instead of getting things done.

What To Do If You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

Pregnant woman holding her belly

If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough sleep while you’re pregnant, first try the different sleep positions we mentioned above and put our tips into practice.

Every mom-to-be is carrying around extra weight during their pregnancy, which can disrupt your sleep patterns and your overall health. Judge your sleep by quality, not quantity, during your pregnancy.

One way to do this is by evaluating how you feel during the day. If your exhaustion is beyond the expected pregnancy fatigue, you might not be getting good sleep.

Sleep apnea could also be contributing to your trouble sleeping. This is a common sleep condition that affects sleep patterns among pregnant women. It can lead to cardiovascular issues and gestational diabetes.

If you have any sleep concerns, discuss them with your doctor right away. They might recommend further testing, or a mild, pregnancy-safe sleep aid.

A Good Night’s Sleep For All

Mom holding sleeping newborn

Quality sleep is extra important during your pregnancy!

As you think about how to sleep when pregnant, consider your sleep position and how it affects the quality of your sleep. Try putting our tips into practice to see if that helps you sleep better during your pregnancy.

Remember, mom, it’s important to get good, quality sleep when you’re pregnant and discuss any concerns you have with your doctor.

Everyone needs a good night’s sleep, especially your newborn because once that precious bundle of joy enters the world, the quality of your sleep will depend on the quality of their sleep.

To give your baby the best sleep, give them a comfy, breathable Newton Baby Crib Mattress, and let them sleep close to you in our Bassinet & Bedside Sleeper.

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