Pregnancy Sleep

Sleeping in a recliner during pregnancy can be done safely with a pillow, experts say.

How To Sleep In A Recliner Safely During Pregnancy

A pillow can make all the difference.

by Mishal Ali Zafar and Abi Berwager Schreier
Originally Published: 

With the plethora of discomforts you go through during pregnancy, finding a comfortable position to sleep in can be one of the toughest — I remember how hard it was to sleep on my side (I’m a back and stomach sleeper), and I felt like I needed a crane to pull me out of the bed from being so stiff. Sleeping in a recliner during pregnancy feels like a good option for your comfort levels, especially to help with back pain and that lovely overnight heartburn and acid reflux, but is it safe?

Why is it so hard to sleep while pregnant?

You may be having a harder time getting comfy and getting to sleep because of the elevated hormonal changes due to pregnancy, according to Dr. Daniel Boyer.

“Hormonal changes are the main cause of sleep irregularities in pregnant women and are responsible for major physical changes that lead to discomfort during sleep, and also pregnancy related symptoms like increased body temperature, insomnia, shortness of breath, vomiting, breast tenderness, and increased heart rate,” he tells Romper.

Sleeping on a bed can exacerbate these challenges, requiring you to surround yourself with millions of pillows, while you toss and turn to get comfy. While recliners may look like an appealing alternative, there are a few things that need to be considered.

Is it safe to sleep in a recliner while pregnant?

In an interview with Romper, Dr. Eva Martin, CEO of Elm Tree Medical, Inc., says that sleeping on your back during pregnancy causes worry because the weight of your baby can compress a major blood vessel called the Inferior Vena Cava (IVC), which is responsible for returning blood to your heart.

"If the IVC can't return blood to your heart, then the heart won't have sufficient blood to pump back out to the body and the baby," says Martin. She says that sleeping in a recliner may possibly be a safe alternative, as long as you don't lay flat on your back.

"If you are in a mostly upright position when sleeping in the recliner, it is probably safe. But, if the recliner leaves you flat, then this position could compress the IVC," Martin notes.

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How To Sleep Safely In A Recliner While Pregnant

Martin says, in any case, the safest way to sleep on your back is to place a cushion, pillow, or towel under the right side of your back, so that you are tilted towards the left. She says that this leftwards tilt should shift your weight away from the IVC.

So as long as you remember to keep yourself upright, and avoid lying flat, sleeping on a recliner can be safe. Just remember to relax, and get as much sleep as possible, because once your little one arrives, sleep may become something you dream about. (Figuratively speaking.)

How To Ease Back Pain & Overnight Heartburn

For all of that back pain and glamorous heartburn and reflux that hits at night, Boyer says to use the right gear (like using proper pillows and placing them in the right spots when you sleep), go for complementary therapy like acupuncture, do an appropriate physical activity regularly, lift appropriate weights, and get massages to help.

You can also try drinking more water and limiting caffeine, along with avoiding any kind of foods that usually trigger your heart burn or reflux, like spicy foods or huge meals in one sitting rather than smaller meals throughout the day. Tums and other over-the-counter heartburn medications can help as well, along with — maybe — sleeping in your recliner in an elevated position.


Dr. Daniel Boyer, a practicing medical doctor specializing in molecular biology, histology, pharmacology, embryology, pathology, pediatrics, internal medicine, surgery, gynecology, and obstetrics for Farr Institute.

Dr. Eva Martin, CEO of Elm Tree Medical, Inc.

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