If you were a serial napper during your first trimester, your third might be a rude awakening. Your growing belly can make it hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in, plus hormonal changes can trigger insomnia and you’ll probably have some general discomfort (hello, tiny bladder and recurring heartburn). Getting a good night’s rest in the last stage of pregnancy can feel like mission impossible.
First and foremost, for sleeping be sure to wear loose, comfortable clothing in a breathable fabric, like cotton. Calgary-based midwife Christy LeBlanc also says it’s a good idea to limit how much you drink right before bed so you don’t find yourself waking up to pee every hour on the hour.
The best sleeping position during pregnancy is on your left side, because it improves circulation for both you and your baby. “It ensures that you’re not compressing the inferior vena cava, which can restrict blood flow to the placenta,” says LeBlanc.
If you find sleeping on your left side uncomfortable, a pregnancy pillow, which can support your bump, back, neck and knees, might help. Or try wedging a pillow under your belly or between your knees to ward off back and hip pain.
It's best to avoid sleeping on your back late in pregnancy. A new study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that pregnant women who go to sleep on their backs in the third trimester have double the risk of having stillbirths. (But if you go to sleep on your side then wake up on your back, don't beat yourself up—researchers say it's the position you go to sleep in that matters most, because that's where you spend the most time.)
Having trouble sleeping? LeBlanc has plenty of experience with sleepless moms-to-be and her first piece of advice is to take a proactive approach, before you find yourself lying awake and watching the hands on the clock. “If you’re having a difficult time sleeping, I recommend journaling to help get your thoughts out,” she says. “And reading something boring—like a phone book—can help distract your mind and put you back to sleep.” LeBlanc also recommends a daily 30-minute walk, or another form of gentle exercise, like prenatal yoga, for stress relief and improved circulation. Massage or chiropractic treatments can also help.