Sleeping for Two

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As pregnancy progresses, heartburn, backaches and a growing baby bump all contribute to restless nights. If a good night’s sleep is becoming increasingly elusive, here is what you need to know.

From managing heartburn to finding comfortable alternatives to sleeping on your stomach or back, your pregnancy sleep woes can end with a little creativity and an extra pillow or two.

Positioning for Better Sleep

During your second and third trimesters, you may discover that your usual sleeping positions are no longer practical. Sleeping on your stomach isn’t an option past your first trimester. According to the American Pregnancy Association, sleeping on your back is also discouraged because it places extra pressure on your intestines and two major blood vessels: the inferior vena cava and aorta. As a result of sleeping on your back, your blood pressure may rise, or you may feel dizzy or light-headed, find it difficult to catch your breath, or have an upset stomach. So which position is best?

Doctors agree that side sleeping is typically safest for mom and baby. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health recommends sleeping on your left side when possible to improve blood flow to your baby and minimize pregnancy-related swelling. To make side sleeping more comfortable, place pillows under your stomach, behind your lower back or between your knees. If you are congested or feel as though you cannot catch your breath, place a pillow under your side to elevate your chest.

Taming Heartburn

Heartburn is a common complaint for many moms, especially during late pregnancy. If heartburn keeps you up at night, the American Pregnancy Association recommends using pillows to elevate your upper body, which prevents stomach acid from traveling upward into the esophagus. Some women also find sleeping propped up in a reclining chair more comfortable than lying in bed when dealing with indigestion.

To help prevent heartburn, eat lighter meals at night and avoid common triggers — such as chocolate and spicy or fatty foods — prior to bedtime. If heartburn continues to interrupt your sleep, speak with your doctor.

Easing Backaches

Finding a sleeping position that alleviates your aching back may seem impossible, especially during your third trimester. Many moms find relief by lying on their side with their knees bent when their back hurts. For extra support, place a pillow between your knees or consider hugging a body pillow. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also recommends placing a board between your mattress and box springs if a too-soft mattress is contributing to your backache.

Prior to bedtime, taking a warm bath or using a heating pad on your lower back may alleviate pain and help you relax.

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