Did you know that when you are pregnant, you might get very tired. I'm kidding! Of course you know. Growing a baby is hard work. You are supplying your baby with all the nutrients he or she needs in order to grow into a healthy little human being and that takes a lot of eating (woohoo!) and resting on your part. I get kind of exhausted just thinking about it. My youngest will be 4 in a few days and I‘m still tired.
So why is it that the nine months of a woman's pregnancy is the hardest time in a woman's life to get some decent sleep? Well, there are several factors that can affect a woman's sleep when pregnant. (I‘ve written about tons of them already so check out my other posts for more sleep tips.) Aside from the obvious expanding waistline (and everything else), here are a few things that prevent you from getting a good night's sleep when pregnant and the best sleeping position for each.
Back Pain or PGP in pregnancy
Many pregnant women suffer from back pain, or more specifically, Pelvic Girdle Pain. Pelvic girdle pain (or PGP formerly known as Symphysis Pubis dysfunction, SPD) can range in severity from a mild discomfort to an extremely painful sensation. The pain is mostly caused by your growing baby expanding your hips and pelvic bones, and the hormone Relaxin loosening up your joints. If lower back pain is your main cause of discomfort at night, sleeping on your side is the most optimal position to get a good night's rest. Placing a pillow under your abdomen and between your legs can also provide additional relief.
Doctors recommend sleeping on your left side, as it improves the blood flow throughout your body, and therefore improves blood flow to your ever-growing baby. Staying in one position during the night is hard if you‘re in pain so don‘t be afraid to switch it around a bit.
Heartburn is another common ailment during pregnancy and can be particularly bothersome at night when you lie down. Heartburn occurs when the acid from the stomach has been pushed back up into the oesophagus. In pregnancy, it is caused by the extra pressure your growing baby is putting on the muscle that closes off the stomach from the oesophagus. One of the best sleeping positions to provide relief from heartburn is on your back, either with your upper body propped up with pillows or with the head of the bed itself propped up higher than the foot of the bed.
Doctors do not recommend sleeping flat on your back during pregnancy, however, as it can put pressure on your blood vessels and lower your blood pressure so you might wake up with a very uncomfortable suffocating feeling. It‘s not bad if you‘re propped up, though. You can buy antacid pills at the pharmacy (ask if they‘re ok for pregnancy and/or read the label) or even get stronger prescription medication if needed.
Shortness of Breath
During pregnancy, and especially near the end of your pregnancy, you may experience an increased shortness of breath. This is also caused by your growing baby increasing the pressure on your insides, in this case your diaphragm, which is located under your lungs and controls your breathing. The best sleeping position for shortness of breath in pregnancy is on your side. Some would also argue that lying on your back (again, propped up with pillows) may provide some relief as well. However, sleeping on your side, especially on your left side, helps increase your blood flow and reduces the feeling of not getting enough air in your lungs.
If you are accustomed to sleeping on your back or stomach, you may find that sleeping on your side is awkward or uncomfortable for you. You may end up tossing and turning throughout the night. A tip that helps many pregnant women is to get a maternity slide sheet like the Snoozle to aid you in shifting around in bed during the night. You simply place the maternity slide sheet on top of your regular sheet, and its slippery interior slides against itself, making it much easier to shift around during the night, especially without waking up the other half (who‘s usually annoyingly sleeping soundly beside you).
Good luck to you in finding your most comfortable sleeping position, and sweet dreams!