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The Best Position to Sleep in When You're Pregnant

by C. Giles

Fatigue can hit at different stages of pregnancy, and while every woman is different, most expectant mothers find that they need to sleep more than they did before they conceived. The rules are simple: sleep when you need to, for as long as you need to, and in the safest position for you and your baby. Remember, you may not get much sleep after baby arrives.

First Trimester: Anything Goes

The best sleeping position during the first trimester is whichever one you find most comfortable. Sleeping flat on your back is not recommended during the second and third trimesters, so if this is your preferred sleeping position, make the most of it while you can. The National Sleep Foundation advises sleeping on your left side during the first trimester to increase blood flow to your the placenta; your growing baby needs those nutrients.

Second Trimester: Learn SOS

When you reach the second trimester, it's time to adopt the "SOS" (sleep on side) position. If you're used to sleeping on your back, this may take a bit of getting used to. Sleeping flat on your back is not advisable now, because in this position your growing uterus puts pressure on your vena cava (the main vein directing blood flow from your lower body to your heart) and can lead to problems with breathing, digestion, circulation and blood pressure. Try to sleep on your left side, with your legs and knees bent, advises KidsHealth.org. According to sleep expert Donna Arand of BabyCenter.com, this position helps your kidneys rid your body of toxins and fluid, which may help reduce swelling in your ankles, hands and feet.

Third Trimester: Comfort Is Key

As your due date approaches, you may find it increasingly difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position. Adopt the "SOS" position, but try placing a pillow between your knees to reduce the pressure on them. A special U-shaped pregnancy pillow is designed to fit neatly between your legs. If nighttime heartburn or shortness of breath is an issue, try sleeping with your head or upper body elevated on pillows.

Sleep Survival Tips

Position may not be your only concern when it comes to pregnancy sleeping habits. You may find that cramping, restless leg syndrome and frequent trips to the bathroom disturb your sleep. You can't do much about urination, but avoiding carbonated sodas and drinks may reduce leg cramps, says the National Sleep Foundation. Restless leg syndrome may be linked to an iron deficiency, so eat lots of iron-rich foods, such as red meat and leafy green vegetables, and speak to your doctor about an iron supplement. If you're really struggling to sleep, get out of bed and take a warm bath or read a book.

About the Author

C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."

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