When should I start sleeping on my side?
Falling asleep and staying asleep doesn’t come easily for everyone, and it can be particularly challenging to get the rest you need while pregnant. Before pregnancy, you may have been able to sleep on your stomach, but as your belly grows, you’ll need to rethink your position. Though it’s unlikely to harm your baby, you’ll likely find it too uncomfortable by the end of the first trimester — or potentially earlier.
According to a report published by The Lancet, it’s safest for you and your baby to sleep on your side by the 28-week mark, as it helps you both get the blood flow you need.
Why the side and not the back?
It’s reasonable to think catching Z’s on your back is just as good as your side, but it’s actually not recommended during pregnancy. Sleeping on your back can put pressure on your uterus and restrict blood flow from your lower body to your heart. This can make you feel dizzy, cause backaches, and lead to digestive and circulation issues, but the concerns don’t end there.
It can also make it harder for nutrients and blood to make their way through the placenta and reach your growing baby. The most concerning thing is that restricted blood flow from back sleeping is associated with an increased risk of stillbirth.
Your safest, most comfortable sleeping position
Safety aside, many pregnant folks transition to side sleeping earlier than 28 weeks because it’s the most comfortable. Changing positions might seem easy, but when you’ve been sleeping a certain way your entire life, it can take some getting used to.
That said, the position you fall asleep in is usually the one you’ll remain in for most of the night, so it’s best to try to fall asleep on your side. If you’re still able to comfortably sleep on your stomach or are normally a back-sleeper, it might be worth trying out side sleeping sooner than later so you’re used to it when it becomes a matter of safety.
Some healthcare providers recommend sleeping primarily on the left side. Since your liver is on the right side, this keeps pressure off it, which might make you more comfortable. While there’s some debate about whether the right or left side is better for medical reasons, the research says both sides are equally safe.
For most pregnant folks, some level of physical discomfort is unavoidable. However, there are a few things you can do to make yourself a little comfier. You might try a pregnancy pillow, which supports your neck and hips while cushioning you from all sides. Another option is to place a wedge-shaped pillow under your belly while side-sleeping. You can also experiment with rolled-up blankets, folded pillows, and other cushions. And if it’s possible, try sleeping closer to the door or bathroom as you’ll likely be getting up more in the night to go to the bathroom.
Your due date might seem like light-years away, but before you know it, you’ll be back to your preferred slumber position.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- National Sleep Foundation. Choose a comfortable sleeping position that keeps you and your baby healthy and safe. Web. https://www.sleep.org/best-pregnancy-sleep-position/
- Cronin, R. S. et al. An Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis of Maternal Going-to-Sleep Position, Interactions with Fetal Vulnerability, and the Risk of Late Stillbirth. EClinicalMedicine, The Lancet. 2019. Web. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2589537019300549?via%3Dihub
- American Pregnancy Association. Best Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy. 2019. Web. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/sleeping-positions-while-pregnant-1012/
- KidsHealth. Sleeping During Pregnancy. 2016. Web. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sleep-during-pregnancy.html#