Sleep Habits in Pregnancy

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 women 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.


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 over-the-counter sleep aids that are safe to use during pregnancy and are not habit forming, including Benadryl, Tylenol PM, and Unisom.  These medications should be taken according to the directions on the package.


Is it safe to sleep under an electric blanket during pregnancy?
Electric blankets are safe to use in pregnancy as long as the temperature setting is not too high.  In general, this means high enough to keep you warm, but not so high as to burn you or elevate your temperature.  If you are concerned, you can take your temperature to make sure it is in normal range, under 100 degrees.


Pregnancy Sleep Tips

  • Drink up. Drink plenty of fluids during the day but cut down in the evening before bedtime to minimize getting up at night.
  • Keep moving. Exercise regularly to stay fit and improve circulation, and reduce nighttime leg cramps.
  • Get into a 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.
  • Keep heartburn at bay. To prevent heartburn, don’t recline until 1-2 hours after a meal.  If heartburn is a problem, sleep with your head elevated on pillows.  Avoid spicy, acidic (such as tomato products), and fried foods as they may worsen symptoms.  Safe over-the-counter medications include Tums, Mylanta, and Zantac.
  • 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.  Eating a well-balanced diet, not only helps you and your baby’s health, but makes you less prone to nighttime snack attacks that contribute to restlessness and insomnia.