Sleep Posture for Pregnancy

This blog was adapted from its original post on by the author.

If you train with BIRTHFIT, you may hear us say posture is vital. Our posture influences how we move, think, and recover. Good posture is not a given – you have to actively work to improve it. Did you know it’s a skill you can work on while you sleep? Many don’t realize how you sleep plays a big role in your overall posture and physical well being. Think about it. You spend a lot of hours on that mattress. That position you habitually sleep in is a big contributor to the mobility issues you have to deal with during your waking hours. Do you sleep on your stomach? This often creates a very asymmetrical cervical spine range of motion that influences the rest of the spine all the way down to the lumbar and sacrum (low back pain anyone?). Pile those pillows high?  Look for forward head posture issues. Do you curl your wrists in and hug an imaginary teddy bear while on your side?  Watch for neck pain, diminished wrist mobility, and a whole lot of shoulder of issues. Tuck your feet tight into your sheets so they point down like a ballerina?  Check your ankle mobility… you see where I am going here.

Sleep posture should not be taken for granted.

How should you sleep then? The answers vary. The two most ideal positions are either on your back or on your side.

Side Sleeping

If you choose to sleep on your side, you’ll need enough support under your neck to keep your spine neutral and hips aligned. If you’re uncomfortable, you can add a pillow between your knees. Some like to use a body pillow such as a Snoogle (which also supports a growing belly). If a big body pillow doesn’t suit you, you can get away with a regular pillow or a bolster pillow for the knees, and a pillow under the neck. When you are in a neutral position, you should not feel the need or desire to curl your wrists towards your head, bring one leg down in front of the other, or sleep with your head on top of your arm or shoulder for height.

Back Sleeping

For those able to sleep on your back, ensure that your neck is not pushed too far forward by too many pillows. If someone were to look at you from the side, your neck should be in line with your body and not in front of it. You can lie with your head flat on the mattress if you’d like. For pregnant mamas, be aware that lying on your back is typically frowned upon because of the possibility of decreased blood flow. Rest assured that you would feel symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, or queasiness if this was the case, and would be able to alter your position before any harm would come to you or your baby. Make sure the sheets aren’t pulling your feet down, and if desired, you can place a pillow under your knees for support.  Some people prefer two pillows or a bolster to elevate their legs a bit more. This position will maintain a neutral, supported spine while promoting optimal blood flow.

Now that you know how you should sleep, how do you make the change? After all, you’re asleep. Rest assured, sleep posture, just like regular posture, is something you can train more simply than you might think.

First, set yourself up so you have an optimal sleeping position on your side or back. Once you are set up, it is time to set up your training devices. I recommend placing a lacrosse ball on the side you tend to roll towards. You can also use a pillow or a foam wedge. This will be uncomfortable at first, but it will prevent you from rolling. If you plan on starting sleep training, warn your significant other so that they don’t think you are building a fort to keep them away (unless you are). As we’ve said before, sleep posture can make a significant difference in the way you move and feel throughout the day. Training posture can be a little uncomfortable and frustrating in the beginning, but it is well worth giving it a shot.

Changing your sleep habits takes time, but happy, healthy slumbers are well worth the effort.

Have you dialed in your sleep posture?  What tips and tricks can you offer?


Jenny Elkins Werba


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