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Is anyone else finding sleeping position really stressful?

(25 Posts)
CL1982 Mon 04-Dec-17 11:25:57

I'm not a stupid person and I'm pretty practical. I'm married to a scientist who has drummed into me the importance of always reading a study which has been peer reviewed and not getting bogged down in tabloid headlines.

This whole 'sleeping on your back during late pregnancy causes more stillbirth' has however really got me stressed to the point where I'm waking myself up in the middle of the night when I lie on my back. (original study here - and

It's very un-restful and very stressful. Not to mention the second study also claims that if you get up less during the night that can lead to increased rates of stillbirth - now, I sleep through the night and don't tend to get up, so that's yet another worry now I'm 28 weeks....

I will try using my special pillow more (although most times I have used it I wind up launched over it on my back anyway like some like of beached whale) and see what I can do but I do wonder if this is something others find stressful?

Funnily enough aside from monitoring movement nothing else is worrying me particularly. While this research is so important I also wonder how useful this is for increasing stress levels during pregnancy when we're already battling with everyone telling us what we should and shouldn't be doing.

Also any advice on how to keep myself in one place?

user1470147116 Mon 04-Dec-17 11:30:08

Buy the Dreamgenii Maternity Pillow, it will help you sleep on your side.

Wooders09 Mon 04-Dec-17 11:33:31

I thought that part of the new study said that 'not to worry if you wake on your back just roll on to your side and go back to sleep'. I believe it's more important to fall asleep on your side.

Fefifoefum Mon 04-Dec-17 11:42:36

Oh OP! I could of written this!
I am 27 weeks, and since all this has come to the news I’ve been so worried about my sleeping position. I’m a back sleeper, always have been and I’m finding it really difficult to even fall asleep on my side as it’s jusr not natural for me! I’ve taken to wedging myself on my side with a pillow in front of me too.
I can’t offer much practical advice, just empathy!
I’m usually very level headed, I’m a nurse and have not been stressed by much during this pregnancy, but I feel the pressure!

CL1982 Mon 04-Dec-17 11:44:23

@wooders09 The two studies are slightly conflicting (although both agree that back sleeping in T3 = bad) and the former study basically says babies are more stressed when you're on your back for long periods of time. I guess Tommy's have given that advice as honestly, what else are you supposed to say to women - 'bolt yourself on your side and set an alarm every 4 hours girls to move around'?

My main issue is this is yet another thing we need to be stressed about which most of us have very little control over. Honestly, nothing else has stressed me out like this! Do you think i'm being bloody ridiculous? You do start to get to the point when you can't see the woods for the trees with this kind of thing....Plus one study based on asking grieving mother's about their pre-stillbirth experience is far from accurate in my mind.

@user1470147116 I have one - that's the one i keep launching myself over :D I'll get it out tonight and give it another shot though....

CL1982 Mon 04-Dec-17 11:46:15

Thanks for your kind words and empathy. It's good to hear others are finding this stressful as well - well not good, but just nice to hear i'm not alone! See my comments above about one study. I might ask my midwife about it at my appointment next week.....

Rebeccaslicker Mon 04-Dec-17 11:56:33

How did women cope for thousands of years before these studies? Just try and remember that the odds are massively massively in your favour of it all being fine and if you do wake up on your back, curl up on your side and forget about it - otherwise you'll drive yourself mad!

Or if you are really worried do the tennis ball snoring trick - bra on back to front with tennis balls in the cups so you can't lie on your back wink

You are so lucky sleeping through. I need at least one wee a night angry

pastabest Mon 04-Dec-17 12:02:57

What that study actually demonstrates is that sleeping position does have some impact on the behaviour of the baby in the womb/ possible oxygen levels on the basis of studying 29 women.

All of the babies were born full term and healthy with good APGAR scores regardless of the sleeping positions adopted by the mother.

What it says is that there is a small amount of evidence that sleeping position does have some impact on oxygen levels and therefore this may possibly be one factor in some stillbirths. They use a lot of words like ‘we suggest’ and ‘we speculate’.

I will bear the study in mind (and others that have suggested similar in the past) in this pregnancy as I did with my last pregnancy, and whee possible will heed the advice, but I also feel I have to put my faith in the human body to not have such a catastrophic design flaw that lying on your back for a few hours is going to cause a huge risk of stillbirth.

Millions and millions of healthy babies are born to mothers who presumably haven’t read the study and do sleep in their back at times.

gamerpigeon Mon 04-Dec-17 12:10:30

I was told that it was pretty likely you would feel lousy way before the baby was affected and would wake up and adjust anyway.

You can wedge pillows and stuff behind your back to stop you rolling over if you are worried though. Good luck OP!

Rebeccaslicker Mon 04-Dec-17 12:11:00

I think also nature is quite good at telling us when something is wrong. I can't lie on my back for too long because at 22 weeks everything is quite heavy and it feels uncomfortable and makes me need yet another wee!

Wooders09 Mon 04-Dec-17 12:48:59


This is why I feel these studies can often cause more harm than good. I'm currently 38wks pregnant and will sometimes wake up on my back. I wake because I'm uncomfortable and actually can't breath very well so I believe it's my bodies natural way to tell me to move. Also I have no way of knowing how long I've been sleeping on my back before waking?!! It could be a matter of seconds.

Same as yourself, you say you wake on your back but you may have only just moved to that position. You have absolutely no way of stopping yourself going onto your back when you are sleeping. The study says you should not fall asleep on your back. But if you wake then to change positions.

I was concerned about it and spoke with the midwife and she said not to worry and just change positions if I woke like that.

It's easier said than done but I would try your best not to let it worry you.

CL1982 Mon 04-Dec-17 12:59:01

@pastabest I agree with you whole heartedly and honestly am so cross at myself for getting this stressed about it. I think the media really do need to take some consideration when reporting things like this - the second study actually worried me more as it was looking at the behaviour of women who had actually lost babies - as i said before however, relying on traumatised and grieving women remembering their day to day behaviour from months ago isn't very reliable. I agree - the human body would never have such a ridiculous design flaw as this!

Wooders09 You make a very good point. I certainly do get a lot of pressure on my lower back when i wake up there so i wonder if it's a recent position i've moved into..... thanks for the feedback!

@Rebeccaslicker I know and I agree - there is far too much to process on what to do and what not to do nowadays - don't even get me started on food and drink in pregnancy! Although when you think of high cases of maternal and infant death during pregnancy and childbirth even 50 years ago....I'll take the research any day ;) We've almost gone too far the other way though now....i have found pregnancy is sheer information overload in a lot of ways.

mindutopia Mon 04-Dec-17 13:02:19

Actually, to be factually correct, the article does NOT say that sleeping on your back CAUSES stillbirth. I'm a health scientist and have been following this research for several years. There is evidence to suggest that there is a correlation between going to sleep on your back (not how you wake up) and stillbirth, and there is some suggestion that certain positions produce more fetal stress than others (but no evidence that they CAUSE stillbirth).

But there really is no evidence at all that going to sleep on your back causes stillbirth. The study authors don't actually say this, and actually I think the NHS has been quite irresponsible in promoting this research without a sensible analysis of it and translation for non-scientists, but I suspect what the study shows is that there is a third factor that is related to BOTH back sleeping and stillbirth. So not like waking up on your back after accidentally rolling over for 20 minutes, but intentionally lying down and going to sleep on your back from the start. You know how you feel now being heavily pregnant and how uncomfortable it is to go to sleep on your back. Also, you're responsible, you've read some research and taken advice not to.

You have to try to imagine who these folks are who are going to sleep on their backs every night. They are likely women who have other pre-existing health issues (otherwise, why aren't they sleeping on their sides? likely they can't for some other reason). Or they don't care if they do or not, perhaps because they are young, stuggling with complex health issues that affect their coping skills, using drugs or alcohol and passing out in the position, etc. I'm not talking about mums in the sleep lab studies because those are just measuring fetal stress (which didn't seem to have any relation to stillbirth anyway), but I mean in the community-based studies of stillbirth. Most healthy pregnant women who care about their babies, are coping well in other ways, and otherwise low risk for stillbirth are not going to sleep on their backs anyway. So there's very likely some third factor or set of factors that explains this correlation that's being masked in these analyses.

Basically, just lie down on your side to go to sleep. That's all you need to do. It doesn't really matter how you wake up and you don't need to do anything special to prevent yourself from rolling. Just if you wake up on your back, roll back over on your side. Just by going to sleep on your side to start, you're eliminating the risk factor in these studies, so you have nothing to worry about.

CL1982 Mon 04-Dec-17 13:13:13

@mindutopia Thank you. I think i needed a scientist to tell me stop being an idiot about it and put the facts plainly!! You're 100% right and are an actual star star

I'm not a scientist (despite being forced to think more and more like one being married to one!!) so i can certainly get myself tied up in knots over things which i'm not 100 sure on. I'm with you, why have the NHS and Tommy's etc gone all out with this?! Surely it could have been done in a much less 'OH MY GOD' way......?

I feel like we need to pin this answer somewhere as i'm sure there are lots of ladies who are also worried!!

CL1982 Mon 04-Dec-17 13:38:59

For anyone interested my husband's take on it was this:

Okay I had a read of the first study with the following conclusions...
1. The supine position was a lot less likely to be seen in the study with 25 of the 29 women spending most there time in another state.
2. The quantity of measured data in the left and right state as such have much better statistics than the supine data.
3. Most of the women spend some part of there night sleeping in the supine position and move between the three states.
4. There is still evidence of high function and motion for around 1% of the time even in supine position.
5. There is no significant difference in the F1 quiet sleep state between the three positions.
6. The supine position had a high value of F2 active sleep.

Basically I think this study is struggling to see significant differences and I personally would recommend more statistics on the supine position in sleep as the length of time measuring in this position is 1/4 of the other two positions. Also no clear indication to me was made on the effect of body position on the measurement apparatus. Finally this is not a like for like study for yourself as this is for 35-36 weeks, so much heavier babies anyway.

I think the biggest thing to take away from this is that the ethical commitee allowed it to go ahead. This means that there is an extremely low risk of complications expected from this study.

You sleep in many positions during the night and have often been an active sleeper. I wouldn't think you spend any prolonged period on you back.

Will look at other later and research separately.

tommyscharity Wed 06-Dec-17 15:28:00

Hi, This is Deirdre from Tommy's here.

The study that was published on Nov 20th this year was the fourth research study that found a link between going to sleep on your back and stillbirth. It does not show that going to sleep on your back causes stillbirth but that there is a link. There are a number of possible reasons for the link, but these have not been proven. Please read more about the research here:

We developed the Sleep On Side campaign with NHS to give more information to women to help avoid the anxiety that the publication of the research would inevitably cause. As the campaign emphasises it is the going to sleep position that is the important one and not to worry if you wake on your back, just roll back onto your side.

There would not have been an ethics issue with this research because we did not ask women to sleep on their side. The research is based on questions asked of a large number of women who suffered stillbirth and a large control group. If someone did try to do a study in which women were asked to go to sleep on their backs in the third trimester there would absolutely be ethical issues.

CL1982 Thu 07-Dec-17 13:57:44

Hi Deidre-I think I've been emailing your colleague who has been lovely smile

I think the issue I and others have had from being on a lot of forums in the past 6 months is the information has got quite distorted. Once I watched your video (sent to me via email this week with a survey) I felt much better, but Google gave a much more drastic picture of the campaign when I first started investigating on hearing the rumours start at 10 weeks.

I know a trickle down effect has to occur via the NHS but the headlines have been so drastic and the information quite sketchy (I didn't even know Tommy's HAD a campaign until 2 weeks ago). I'm not the only mum to be who has worried themselves about it, especially as my midwife was also quite surprised at my concern and just told me 'side sleeping is better but not the end of the world'-it makes me wonder if the campaign couldn't have been handled better by the NHS in particular (poor NHS I know-I'm not bashing them-they are modern day heroes!). It's wonderful that you do so much to look after us and where on earth would we be without the awesome Tommy's who support women in all stages of life?! You also can't help what is printed in the press. Still.

I've read all of the studies and while I agree there is a link I also have felt the publicity over it has been overblown and has panicked a lot of women who were already pretty highly strung and hormonal. I don't know what the answer is really as you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. I just know I worried myself a LOT, especially when I'm already frantically monitoring kick counts like a demon- also recommended- on top of panicking about the way I sleep while trying to maintain my full time job and normal life simultaneously, and it has made me personally far more anxious than I felt necessary.

Of course some women will have not been worried by it I know! That was just my experience.

Hopefully that helps and thank you so much for your direct response! I for one really really appreciate it, I love what you do at Tommy's (you supported me through 3 miscarriages) and thanks for all you do for us.

CL1982 Thu 07-Dec-17 13:58:24

I should have replied @tommyscharity smile

Bellamuerte Fri 08-Dec-17 17:50:05

I'm normally a back sleeper. I've been forcing myself to sleep on my left hand side for months and it's killing me. At times the pain in my hips from sleeping on my side has been unbearable. Sometimes I can't cope with it any more and have to switch to the right hand side for a bit. Desperate for baby to be born so I can sleep comfortably on my back again! I do sometimes wake up having rolled onto my back but I just roll back onto my side.

It's important to remember that they're not saying if you sleep on your back your baby will die! Back sleeping just increases the risk of stillbirth, which is tiny anyway, so even an increased risk is still fairly small.

Her0utdoors Fri 08-Dec-17 17:55:31

Maybe I'm jealous you're getting a full night's sleep, bit it probably won't be long until you're having more trips to the loo than you can count!

CL1982 Fri 08-Dec-17 22:41:32

Ha ha- @Her0utdoors I think I'm just a very deep sleeper!! I wouldn't worry about the right hand side or left hand side as I understand it-it's just SIDE! Our premium snuggle position is me on my right hand side so I do tend to flip! Have you tried having a pillow between your legs? I find that helps my hips.....

MadeForThis Fri 08-Dec-17 22:57:33

I think the sleep on your side advice has been about for a while. When I was first pregnant over 2 years ago the advice was to sleep on your left side whenever you can. Something to do with blood supply to the placenta or where your organs were. Right hand side was ok too. They advice was to roll over if you woke on your back but the likelihood of harm was incredibly low. The weight of the baby would make you feel faint before there was any effect on the baby.

Mortigua Fri 08-Dec-17 23:16:02

Does anyone know whether the risk is the same for sleeping propped up but on your back? I tend to read sort of propped up on pillows -quite high up(due to a combination of neck issues and heartburn it's the only way that's not painful one way or another ) i often fall asleep like this but go on my side when I wake and realise .
Is the risk from being flat on your back? If so I can't imagine being comfortable like that anyway at this stage (35weeks) but propped upright on pillows is definitely my most comfortable position - now I'm worried!

CL1982 Fri 08-Dec-17 23:30:52

@Mortigua I think flat on your back smile Propped up should be fine....??

Mortigua Fri 08-Dec-17 23:39:09

Thanks CL1982. Just tried to read on my side and propped up but it really hurts my back !

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