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Safe sleeping techniques during pregnancy

You might have been a champion sleeper before you were pregnant. But a good night's sleep may be something you only dream about now that you're expecting—especially late in your second trimester and throughout the third.

That's why it's so important to find a comfortable—and safe—sleep position during pregnancy. But first, here's a look at why you may be tossing and turning.

Your bigger baby bump

If your favorite sleep position was on your back or stomach, nodding off may be increasingly challenging. In addition, your sleep may be disrupted by your baby's movements, bathroom runs and leg cramps. Back pain, heartburn, shortness of breath and insomnia can all cheat you out of sleep.

Some women also experience restless leg syndrome (RLS) during their third trimester. Symptoms include crawling or uncomfortable feelings in the feet and upper legs. That can temporarily disrupt sleep.

Your slumber sweet spot

For better rest, it may be tempting to sleep on your back at this point in pregnancy. But that's not the best choice from your second trimester onward. Why? Lying on your back may put pressure on your intestines as well as your major blood vessels—the aorta and vena cava.

Sleeping on your back can also cause a decrease in circulation to your heart and your baby. And it can also aggravate backaches and cause trouble breathing.

The safest position is "SOS—sleeping on your side," especially your left side. This can increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby.

While on your side, keep your knees bent and put a pillow between your knees. Also, if:

  • Your back hurts, try placing a pillow under your tummy or use a pregnancy pillow.
  • You have heartburn or shortness of breath at night, try propping your upper body with pillows too.

For leg cramps, make sure you eat foods high in magnesium and drink plenty of water. And if a leg cramp wakes you up, straighten your leg and flex your foot upwards. Doing this several times before you tuck in may also help prevent these painful spasms.

If you suspect you have RLS, talk with your doctor—and ask if you might have an iron deficiency.

More smart sleep habits

For better sleep overall, try to stick to a shut-eye schedule. Do your best to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

And if you just can't drift off? Don't try to force yourself to sleep. Instead, throw off the covers and do something relaxing until you're finally drowsy. Read, listen to soothing music, take a bath—chill.

Want more pregnancy tips?

Learn how pregnancy can affect your sex life, especially in the home stretch.

Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; American Pregnancy Association; March of Dimes; Office on Women's Health

Reviewed 1/16/2024

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