Sleep in Pregnancy

Woman sleeping

As your body changes throughout the course of your pregnancy, hormonal changes and physical discomforts can affect the quality of your sleep. During each trimester you will experience differences in sleep patterns, and it is important to recognize how these may change.

Is it safe to sleep on my back during pregnancy?

Early in the pregnancy, sleeping on your back is safe. In the third trimester (starting around 28 weeks), it is not recommended that you lie flat on your back for a prolonged period of time because the weight of your uterus presses on the major vein in your back. When you are sleeping, it is hard to control your position. If you wake up on your back, you probably awakened because your body was telling you to shift position. Some people wake up feeling dizzy, short of breath, or with heart palpitations. These symptoms should resolve quickly if you shift to either side. As your pregnancy progresses, try to sleep on one side or the other, or use a cushion to ensure that you are not completely flat on your back to avoid nighttime awakenings and ensure proper blood flow to your baby.

Is it safe to sleep on my stomach during pregnancy?

There is no problem with sleeping on your stomach in early pregnancy, as the uterus is protected by your pubic bone. As the pregnancy progresses, sleeping on your stomach will become uncomfortable, which is the cue to stop.

What about sleeping on my side during pregnancy?

Sleeping on your side will promote good blood flow to your baby. You may also want to consider bending one or both of your knees and elevating your head slightly.

Is it safe to use sleeping medications during pregnancy?

Some prescription sleep aids can be used in pregnancy but should be discussed with your OB provider before starting. These medications can be habit forming, and in general, are used sparingly in pregnancy. There are overthe- counter sleep aids that are safe to use during pregnancy, including Benadryl, Tylenol PM, and Unisom. These medications should be taken according to the directions on the package and should be discussed with your provider.

Pregnancy Sleep Tips

  • Drink plenty of fluids during the day but cut down in the evening before bedtime to minimize getting up at night
  • If approved by your physician or care team, exercise in the morning can give you energy during the day, help you to stay fit and improve circulation, and reduce nighttime leg cramps
  • Maintain a consistent sleep routine. If you establish a soothing and comforting evening routine you’ll be able to relax and get to sleep more easily. Try a cup of caffeine-free tea or hot milk, reading, or taking a warm shower
  • Try stretching before bed to help ease muscle cramps
  • Keep heartburn at bay. See page 7 for tips.
  • Nap during the day. If you’re not getting enough rest at night, take a nap to reduce fatigue. Find a quiet spot and relax, even if only for a half-hour.
  • Support your body. Use a special pregnancy pillow or regular pillows to support your body. Try placing a pillow under your upper back or hips, or between your knees.
  • Watch your diet. Completely eliminate caffeine if insomnia is a problem for you. If nausea is a problem, eat bland snacks throughout the day. Keeping your stomach slightly full helps keep nausea at bay.
  • Be sure you are sleeping as many hours as you need to feel rested.