Pregnancy Sleep Positions: Tips for More Comfort, Less Pain, and Better Sleep

Why side sleeping is the best pregnancy sleeping position, how to make it more comfortable, and tips to help you sleep better during pregnancy.

Published Date: Apr 11, 2024

Pregnancy Sleep Positions: Tips for More Comfort, Less Pain, and Better Sleep

Why side sleeping is the best pregnancy sleeping position, how to make it more comfortable, and tips to help you sleep better during pregnancy.

Published Date: Apr 11, 2024

Pregnancy Sleep Positions: Tips for More Comfort, Less Pain, and Better Sleep

Why side sleeping is the best pregnancy sleeping position, how to make it more comfortable, and tips to help you sleep better during pregnancy.

Published Date: Apr 11, 2024

Pregnancy Sleep Positions: Tips for More Comfort, Less Pain, and Better Sleep

Why side sleeping is the best pregnancy sleeping position, how to make it more comfortable, and tips to help you sleep better during pregnancy.

Published Date: Apr 11, 2024
Table of Contents

Every pregnant mom hears this cliché advice: Sleep now while you can! Well-meaning, yes, but when it comes to sleeping well during pregnancy, all you can think is: yeah, right. If you’re not getting up to pee, you’re sitting up with heartburn. And the moment you lay down your weary head, worries about labor, your in-laws visiting, and a zillion other things begin to swirl. Plus, there’s that other minor detail: finding a comfortable pregnancy sleeping position with a growing bundle in your belly.

In one study of more than 7,000 pregnant women, 77% reported sleep problems. Other research shows that more than 40% of women in their third trimester deal with insomnia, or difficulty falling or staying asleep.

However, sleeping during pregnancy is a necessity, not a luxury. A good first step to getting your body the rest it needs: knowing how to position yourself in bed to help ease back pain and other discomforts. 

Read on to learn the best pregnancy sleeping position, which positions to avoid, and how lifestyle strategies and physical therapy can help you get a better night’s sleep.

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Our Hinge Health Experts

Samantha Charlotin, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Dr. Charlotin is a Hinge Health physical therapist and specializes in the treatment of orthopedic and pelvic health concerns.
Tamara Grisales, MD
Expert Physician in Urogynecology and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Grisales is a board-certified urogynecologist and surgeon and oversees the Women's Pelvic Health program at Hinge Health.
Kandis Daroski, PT, DPT
Pelvic Health Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Daroski is a pelvic health physical therapist who provides clinical expertise for the Hinge Health Women's Pelvic Health Program.

What Is the Best Sleeping Position During Pregnancy?

In general, healthcare providers recommend sleeping on your side after about 20 weeks of pregnancy, or halfway through your second trimester. One reason: better blood flow. Side sleeping allows for good circulation (which may help reduce swelling), and puts the least pressure on your veins and organs. Plus, it can help ease lower back aches, as well as help keep your pelvis in good alignment. That’s important because during pregnancy, your body releases hormones to loosen pelvic ligaments to prepare for labor, which can lead to pelvic pain.

Side Sleeping: Left side vs. Right side

You may have heard sleeping on your left side is better than the right because it increases the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta. However, research has shown that sleeping on either side is safe.

How to Side Sleep During Pregnancy More Comfortably

You might be new to side sleeping. Or maybe it’s always been your most comfortable sleep position. Here are some tips to help make your side sleep more comfortable, from early on in your pregnancy all the way to the end.

  • Get in the habit, from the start. During your first trimester and up to about 20 weeks, you can sleep any way you like. But if you’re not used to sleeping on your side, you may want to try it from the beginning to get accustomed to it before your belly size demands it.

  • Roll over slowly. When you shift from your left side to your right side, move slowly to help limit round ligament pain. Sudden stretching of the round ligaments that connect your uterus to your pelvis can cause sharp, but usually harmless, pain on the sides of your belly or groin.

  • Adjust pillows to ease symptoms. During the second trimester, as your body changes to make room for your growing baby, you may have back, pelvic, or hip pain. Add a pillow between your knees and under your belly to help reduce symptoms. Your third trimester may bring new discomforts, such as dyspnea (shortness of breath) and heartburn. Adding pillows under your torso may help.

  • Consider a pregnancy pillow. These large U- or C-shaped full body pillows are specially designed to provide extra support and help reduce pain in all the places most affected by your growing baby, including your back, neck, belly, knees and hips.

Sleeping Positions to Avoid During Pregnancy

In early pregnancy, any sleep position is fine. In mid to late pregnancy, it’s best to:

  • Skip sleeping on your stomach. Once your belly expands, this becomes uncomfortable and even impossible. If you’re normally a stomach sleeper, using a body pillow may help you adjust to sleeping more soundly on your side.

  • Avoid sleeping on your back. As your baby grows, sleeping on your back might compress major blood vessels, which can impair circulation. Back sleeping may also contribute to:

    • Backaches

    • Shortness of breath

    • Digestive issues

    • Hemorrhoids

    • Varicose veins

    • Other pregnancy complications

If you wake up in the middle of the night on your back, don’t panic. Moving around in your sleep is common. Simply roll over (slowly) onto your side and go back to sleep. If you need to lie on your back for longer than a few minutes or if you have symptoms like heartburn, try using pillows to prop up your torso by at least 30 degrees.

More Tips for Better Pregnancy Sleep 

Sleeping on your side is key. Other lifestyle strategies that can help you snooze more soundly include:  

  • Stay active. Exercise increases the production of your brain's feel-good chemicals and decreases stress hormones, which helps reduce pain and improves the quality of your sleep. Plus, exercise can help ease restless leg syndrome (RLS), an uncomfortable condition that causes an urge to move your legs and may disrupt your sleep. Walking for just 30 minutes a day, for example, can help you sleep better at night.

  • Eat dinner earlier. Aim to finish eating at least two hours before bedtime to help prevent acid reflux and heartburn. You may also want to cut back on foods that trigger heartburn, like spicy or fried foods. 

  • Limit fluids before bed. Staying hydrated is important when you’re pregnant and can help prevent leg cramps. But if the baby-on-bladder combo gives you trouble sleeping, restrict your liquids one or two hours before you hit the sack.

  • Cut down on bladder irritants. You can’t keep baby feet from nudging your bladder, but you can reduce bladder annoyance from food and beverage irritants.

  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Granted that can be easier said than done. Here are some simple ideas that may help you wind down and rest better:

    • Keep a journal to jot down to-dos or worries keeping you up.

    • Steer clear of electronic devices (and social media scrolling) close to bedtime.

    • Take a warm shower or bath.

    • Do a guided meditation.

    • Do gentle yoga, stretching, or exercises (like the ones available in the Hinge Health pregnancy program).

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy During Pregnancy

Good sleep is important for overall health, especially when you’re growing a baby! If you're experiencing low back pain, pelvic pain, or round ligament pain that is disrupting your sleep, a pelvic floor physical therapist (PT) can help. A PT can recommend exercises, small adjustments to daily activities and other strategies to improve symptoms.

Pelvic floor physical therapy is a comprehensive treatment that also includes education, behavioral and lifestyle strategies. 

You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT who specializes in pelvic health via telehealth/video visit.

PT Tip: ‘Pillows Are Your Friends’

“Sleeping during pregnancy is essential, but it’s definitely easier said than done. So try to give yourself grace,” says Samantha Charlotin, PT, DPT, a Hinge Health pelvic floor physical therapist. “Pillows are your friends! Experiment with different sizes and shapes to see what’s most comfortable for you. It can also help to be mindful of your daily routines and make adjustments to activities that cause an uptick in pain or discomfort at night when you’re trying to sleep.” 

How Hinge Health Can Help You

If you have pelvic pain or symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, you can get the relief you've been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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 References

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