Adventures along the journey to parenthood

Sleeping on the left

Sleep is increasingly a struggle (which is why I’m awake right now and writing this) and thus a topic of conversation. I’ve been surprised by how few people are familiar with the benefits of sleeping on your left side. I’ve done this since childhood whenever I have any sort of belly discomfort — I remember seeing something about it on the news at my grandparents house when I was really little. (Weird, the things we remember). So for those of you who have been asking, here’s some more info about it – Sleeping on the left can be beneficial for anyone, pregnant or not, and for pregnant women this is the recommended sleeping position.

New York Times: Lying on the Left Side Eases Heartburn

excerpt: “… sleeping position affects heartburn pain. Studies show that sleeping on your left side is best.

The reason is not entirely clear. One hypothesis holds that right-side sleeping relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, between the stomach and the esophagus. Another holds that left-side sleeping keeps the junction between stomach and esophagus above the level of gastric acid.”

American Pregnancy Association: Sleep Positions During Pregnancy

excerpt: “The best sleep position during pregnancy is “SOS” (sleep on side). Even better is to sleep on your left side. Sleeping on your left side will increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby. Keep your legs and knees bent and a pillow between your legs.”

The Guardian: Link Found Between Stillbirth and Sleeping Position in Pregnancy

excerpt: “Mothers who sleep on their back or right-hand side on the night before giving birth are twice as likely to have a stillborn child compared with those who slept on their left, according to a study.

Researchers found that the risk of stillbirth for those sleeping on the left side was 1.96 per 1,000 births, and 3.93 per 1,000 births for any other position.

Tomasina Stacey, a midwifery lecturer at University of Auckland, who led the study, cautioned pregnant women not to be over-concerned by the finding. “It was an observational study, not one that can show cause and effect – all it does is show an association. It would be premature to jump up and down and say that everyone has got to sleep on their left. It’s a starting point for future research.”….

“The researchers wanted to examine the effects of sleep disorders in pregnant women, such as sleep apnea or snoring, which could be a factor in stillbirths, because these conditions can reduce the amount of oxygen getting to the baby.

Instead, the study showed that sleep position on the night before birth was the decisive factor. Stacey said a possible explanation could be that when a woman does not sleep on her left side, the foetus could compress her inferior vena cava taking blood back to the heart, and a reduced flow means less oxygen gets to the mother’s – and in turn the baby’s – other organs.

“If you’ve got a strong healthy baby, then the slightly reduced blood flow is fine; but if you’ve got a baby that is compromised in some other way, then maybe that reduction in blood flow can be the tipping point,” said Stacey.

The left lateral position is known in clinical settings to be the optimal position for looking after a woman in labour and is associated with foetal wellbeing in labour, she added.”

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Now that I’ve taken time to write this, maybe I can go back to sleep!

P.S. We’re at 30 weeks! Christmas day will mark 7 months. I’m gaining a pound a week now and I’m feeling the difference. Impressive belly photos coming soon.

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