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Better sleep tips for pregnant women

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Sleep tight!

Ginger Garner is a mother and physical therapist who specializes in prenatal and postpartum health. "If an expectant mother cannot sleep," she says, "she will not be able to function optimally and will be susceptible to colds, illnesses and depressive symptoms." Getting a good night's sleep when you're pregnant is no easy task, but it's possible. These tips will help you get comfortable in bed no matter how large your tummy is.

Pregnant woman sleeping

sleeping positions

Expectant moms are inundated with information about what and what not to do during pregnancy. Even something as natural as sleeping comes with pregnancy guidelines. Simply put, some sleeping positions are better than others for you and your baby.

  • on your Stomach: uncomfortable

    In the early stages of pregnancy, your breasts are tender. By the time you reach your third trimester, your breasts and belly are much larger than usual. Sleeping on your tummy isn't dangerous, but it can be quite difficult and uncomfortable!
  • on your Back: not good for you or your baby

    Avoid sleeping on your back when you're pregnant. It puts all the weight of your growing uterus on your back muscles, intestines and major blood vessels, causing backache, hemorrhoids, indigestion, blood pressure problems and impaired circulation.
  • on your side: a definite "do"

    Lie on your side -- your left side. This improves the flow of blood and nutrients to the baby and helps your kidneys rid your body of waste and fluids. As a result, you may have less swelling in your feet, legs and hands. Lying on your right side will not necessarily harm you or your baby, but it is less beneficial than lying on your left.

As you sleep, you'll likely change positions, rolling from one side to another or onto your back. This is perfectly fine. Don't keep yourself awake for fear that you might accidentally end up on your back. Focus more on getting proper rest than on whether you'll roll over.

If you're dealing with pregnancy complications such as preterm labor, preeclampsia or placenta problems, you may find yourself ordered to full or partial bed rest, making these sleeping position guidelines even more important.

Pillows

The pillow will become one of your greatest allies in your quest for a good night's sleep. Massage therapist Hali Chambers says pillow support is key. "Place a pillow to support the belly," says Chambers, "and a pillow between the knees."

  • Small pillow

    A body pillow like the Boppy Cuddle Pillow keeps the back properly aligned by supporting the belly and legs. Tuck the pillow between your bent knees to take pressure off your lower back and make side-sleeping more comfortable. Tuck one behind your back, and you'll find it easier to maintain a side-lying position throughout the night. Mom Sarah Caron put one Boppy Pillow under her stomach and one between her legs. "It was a total godsend," said Caron, whose pregnancy belly was huge from six months on.

  • Wedge

    Wedge-shaped pillows support your belly, too. Slide one under your tummy as you lie on your side, and you'll instantly align your back and prevent rolling forward and straining your neck and back. Boppy's Pregnancy Wedge is ideal for keeping the belly lifted; you also can use it to keep your head higher than your chest to relieve and prevent pregnancy heartburn and shortness of breath.
  • Bean

    A sleeping bean serves the same purpose as a small pillow or wedge but is shaped like a column. The sleeping bean makes an excellent nursing pillow, too.
  • Body pillow

    A full-length pillow (try Boppy's Total Body Pillow) is designed to realign and support the neck, belly, back and hips. The body pillow supports the back and cradles the belly at the same time.

Mattress pad

If lying on your side hurts your hips or shoulders, try using a soft egg-crate mattress pad. This foam pad goes on top of the mattress under the sheet and provides cushioning and air circulation.

Maternity belts and bras

If back pain is keeping you up at night, consider wearing a maternity belt to bed. Maternity belts can decrease lower back pain, reduce pressure on the bladder, increase circulation, decrease swelling and provide overall comfort.

Some maternity belts lift the belly, while others provide comfortable compression. Some consist of a simple pelvic wrap while others feature over-the-shoulder support. You can even find Lycra bodysuits with built-in support.

A sleeping bra -- soft, nonrestrictive and typically made of cotton -- is ideal for a little nighttime support and a less heavy feeling.

Making the baby comfortable

Don't lose sleep worrying about your baby's comfort. You may be tossing and turning and feeling completely miserable, but your baby is floating around in a weightless environment, feeling no discomfort whatsoever. So rest easy!

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