Chris is a professional osteopath who qualified from the European School of Osteopathy with an Integrated Masters of Osteopathy (D.O. M.Ost.), so what he doesn’t know about your body isn’t worth knowing. Learn more about our team.
When you are pregnant, your body changes in various ways to accommodate the baby growing in your womb. For a significant percentage of pregnant women, sleeping becomes harder as their bellies get bigger.
By the third trimester, sleeping on your back or your stomach is not even an option. That is why you should try different sleeping positions to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.
Getting the best pillow for sleeping sitting up is a good place to start if your growing uterus is interfering with your sleep quality. You can also try sleeping on a recliner for when you need to get up at night.
Table of Contents
Why You Need To Sleep Well During Pregnancy
Getting enough rest is highly recommended especially when pregnant. Sleep helps you not only rest but also rejuvenate.
It’s important to have enough sleep when you are pregnant because it is an essential part of your health in general. Sleep affects your mood and energy levels in addition to being good for your immune system.
Sleeping well is important for pregnant women because it can help to manage their stress levels. When you are sleeping well, you are less likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. These symptoms are common in pregnant women, so getting as much sleep as possible is essential.
Sleeping helps your fetus to grow and develop properly. When you are pregnant, your body produces more progesterone, which can make you feel sleepy. The extra sleep will help you to feel more rested and energized during the day.
Benefits of Sleeping Sitting Up for Pregnant Women
Many pregnant women struggle to get enough sleep whether they lie on the back, stomach, or left side. Here are a few benefits of sleeping sitting up as the baby grows in the womb.
Prevents Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is a condition that is often experienced by pregnant women. Those pesky hormonal changes cause the esophegal muscles to work more slowly, meaning that food sits for longer in the stomach, and acid levels build up.
The symptoms of acid reflux can include heartburn, chest pain, and regurgitation. Pregnant women can often experience an increase in the symptoms of acid reflux as the weeks go by.
One of the worst things you can do while you’re pregnant is sleep on your back because this worsens acid reflux.
When you sleep sitting upright, the acid reflux reduces because gravity keeps the stomach acids down where they belong. This is a good position to sleep in when you are pregnant and experiencing acid reflux symptoms.
The position/posture of your stomach is vital when you are pregnant, especially during the last trimester, because it can affect the baby’s position in the womb. If you sleep on your back, it can cause the baby to move down into the birth canal, which can increase the risk of a C-section.
When you are pregnant, sleeping upright or propped up by pillows is an excellent way to ensure that you give your baby enough room to move and improve blood circulation.
Manage Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a relatively common condition that affects the nervous system. It can cause an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, making it difficult to sleep or relax. Some people also experience cramps, jerking motions, or an itchy feeling in their legs.
RLS is more common in pregnant women, and it can be uncomfortable and disruptive. However, there are several things you can do to help manage the symptoms. For example, you can try out regular exercises, take baths before bedtime, and (as always) avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Sleeping in a sitting position can help reduce restless leg syndrome because it increases the blood flow to the legs and takes stress off of the body.
Improved Blood Circulation
Blood circulation is essential when you are pregnant to help the baby’s cells, tissues, and organs grow properly. This is because pregnancy causes your heart to pump more blood than usual. To make sure there is enough oxygen in the bloodstream, the body does three things:
- It makes more red blood cells
- It makes more platelets
- It uses a hormone called estrogen to make new blood vessels.
Sleeping upright when you are pregnant improves blood flow and can help with morning sickness. It is also recommended that you drink plenty of fluids, avoid eating spicy foods, and eat light snacks throughout the day.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is caused by a blockage in the upper airway. This blockage can decrease the amount of air that reaches the lungs, leading to a reduction in the amount of oxygen delivered to the body.
For pregnant women, getting enough oxygen is very important. Research has shown that sleep apnea may increase the risk of stillbirth, preeclampsia, miscarriage, or other complications during pregnancy. Therefore, doctors recommend that pregnant women diagnosed with sleep apnea be treated early in the pregnancy.
Sleeping sitting upright can help reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea. This is because, the position keeps the airways open, reducing the chances of a blockage. Thus keeping you and the unborn baby safe!
However, if sleeping upright does not solve your sleep-disordered breathing, consult a doctor on alternative solutions.
Sleeping upright also reduces snoring. Snoring is a sound that is usually produced when air flows through the nose and mouth during sleep. It is generally accompanied by the vibration of soft tissues in the nose, mouth, or throat.
If you sleep sitting upright, you will snore less because your tongue is not lying against the back of your throat.
It is not uncommon for pregnant women to feel sore because of the extra weight that they are carrying, the unborn child that is pressing on their nerves. Sleeping sitting up will put your body in a more natural position and lessen any soreness that may result from the pressure of weight on the lower extremities. It also helps to keep blood flowing to your legs and away from your abdomen.
Disadvantages of Sleeping Sitting Up
Unfortunately, sleeping sitting up also has drawbacks, as we will see below:
Leg cramps can be caused by long periods of sitting up, not getting enough fluids, and dehydration. This is why pregnant women who are experiencing prolonged periods of sitting experience leg cramps because the baby presses on the nerves that usually control leg muscles. Sleeping sitting up may help lessen or prevent leg cramps in pregnant women by keeping blood flowing to the legs.
This is a habit that pregnant mothers might need to adopt to minimize any risk of a condition called hypoxia, which is a deficiency in the amount of oxygen going to the brain. Sitting for too long will cut off fluid circulation and will increase pressure on your legs under your weight.
It Should Only Be Temporary
Although it may be very comfortable to sleep sitting up, especially when you are in the late pregnancy stages, it is not a comfortable position to get used to.
Therefore do not sleep sitting up for long; you can try other sleep positions as long as you sleep comfortably and wake up refreshed.
Can Hinder Blood Flow
Sleeping with your head raised, such as when you are sleeping sitting up, can reduce the amount of blood that flows to your heart and can make it more difficult for blood to reach your brain. This may also make it more difficult for healthy oxygen levels to reach your baby.
Ways Pregnant Women Can Sleep Sitting Up
You should ensure that you support your neck and shoulders well when you want to sleep upright when you are pregnant. Additionally, you should ensure that you sleep at an angle that supports your spinal alignment so that you don’t wake up with back pain and sore shoulders and neck. Here are various ways you can sleep sitting upright when you are pregnant:
On An Adjustable Bed
An adjustable bed is a bed that has electricity mechanisms that allow you to adjust the bed to suit various sleeping positions.
When you are pregnant, you can adjust your bed so that you sleep with your head elevated. Elevating your head while you sleep can bring several benefits, including:
- A reduction in the number of nighttime trips to the bathroom
- Fewer episodes of heartburn and acid reflux
- Reduced swelling in the extremities
- Improved circulation
- Easier breathing
On A Recliner
You can also sleep comfortably on a recliner by using pillows. A body pillow can be placed between your legs, and a pillow can be placed behind your back. You can also place a pillow under your head.
By Propping Yourself With Pillows
If you don’t have a recliner or an adjustable bed, you can use a pillow to cushion your back and neck to sleep on your back on your bed or couch. You can make do with regular pillows or buy sit up pillows for extra support, especially during the last trimester.
For the first few weeks of pregnancy, you can sleep in whichever position you want because the baby is still very small and isn’t affected by your movements.
But as the baby grows during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, it’s often too uncomfortable to sleep on the stomach. When the uterus becomes big due to your growing baby bump, you should try to sleep sitting up. It might not be so easy in the beginning, but you will eventually get used to this position and enjoy more hours of sleep.
Although you may feel that sleeping sitting up is the best sleeping position when you are pregnant consult with your doctor if it is safe for you. Do not hesitate to consult them about the best maternal sleep position and any other questions you have about what is a safe or unsafe way of falling asleep when you are pregnant.
Lastly, each woman’s body is unique, and during the first or last weeks of pregnancy, it can be difficult. You must get good quality sleep and find positions that are comfortable for you. If you cannot get into a comfortable sleeping position, family physicians can provide medical advice about the best sleep position as your pregnancy progresses.