Heavy-duty menstrual cramps can leave you curled up in bed in the fetal position, but is this necessarily the most comfortable way to situate yourself? Any physical pain can make getting some much-needed relief from your agony difficult, if not impossible. Is there any way to get your needed shut-eye without taking a Xanax or asking your partner or child to knock you out via sledgehammer? What are the best sleeping positions for menstrual cramps?
When you have the monthlies, the position you choose to sleep in can influence how much rest you receive. But what are the best sleeping positions for menstrual cramps? Much of it depends upon the configuration of your body and uterus, but by evaluating your choices, you can pick the best position to help you get the rest you need.
1. Side, No Pillow
If it feels like you can’t find relief any other way than curled up in the fetal position, go right ahead and indulge the urge. Curling up this way transports the human nervous system back to the days when it safely floated pain-free in their mother’s wombs. While science doesn’t confirm this comforts you, intuitively, many people feel this way.
Though Western funerals traditionally feature the deceased laid out supine, in earlier cultures, humans often buried their dead in the fetal position to symbolize the cycle of life and rebirth. When you hurt, you want your mother, and if this position subliminally returns you to neonatal bliss, seize that comfort where you can get it.
2. Side With Pillow
Often, women who have undergone C-sections find sleeping on their sides with a pillow between their knees most comfortable, and if you’re menstruating, you may find this also brings relief. Thinner women appreciate a pillow between their knees, as it prevents an unnatural curvature of the lower spine, which occurs when their knees press together. Women of any size can benefit from such an aid, especially if back pain is also a problem.
Women who bleed heavily may not wish to stain their pillows. But if this position works best, you can invest in a liquid-proof plastic pillow liner to keep your favorite snuggle buddy safe and dry during intensive flows.
3. On Your Back
Sleeping on your back may offer relief, especially if you suffer from a retroverted uterus, a condition in which your uterus tips backward toward your kidneys, not forward toward your abdominal wall. Sleeping on your back with a slim, flatter pillow or towel for additional lumbar support can offer relief. For those without a retroverted uterus, this position does allow for the use of a hot water bottle during the night if doing so makes you feel better.
4. On Your Stomach
Most doctors recommend against sleeping on your stomach, as this forces you to turn your head to the side, which can strain your neck. But when Aunt Flo rolls in like a Category 5 hurricane, this may be the only position where you can find relief. If this is the case, do what feels best for you and your body.
Be sure to invest in a pillow slim enough to avoid smothering yourself if you awaken suddenly from a bad nightmare or if you fall too deeply into slumber. And if you have sleep apnea, check with your physician first.
5. Sitting up in a Chair
Many struggle to sleep sitting up, but during your period, this position may prove most comfortable. When you need to stand up, you can use the chair for added leverage, taking the pressure off your sore tummy. And, just as when you are on your back, you can use a hot water bottle for extra relief.
6. In a Hammock
Sure, it might be a bit unconventional to string up a hammock between your closet doorknob and corner of your poster bed, but sleeping in such a device can lessen period cramp pain. Doing so, even supine, will push you halfway into a fetal position. It also keeps your head elevated above your body, which is critical for those who tend toward anemia and tend to grow lightheaded when they menstruate and lose even more iron. Plus, you can move your hammock to your balcony in the warm months and sleep under the stars.
7. With the Help of Heat
A hot water bottle can be a menstruating woman’s best friend. While most experts recommend against sleeping with a heating pad or blanket due to the risk of fire, a hot water bottle stays warm all night long due to your body heat.
Stress can make menstrual cramps worse, so if you prefer not to sleep on your back — the best position for a hot water bottle — try taking a long, hot bath with lavender essential oil, chamomile and Epsom salt to relax your muscles. The combination of heat, essential oil and magnesium should relax you enough to get some rest, especially if you take over-the-counter ibuprofen before your dip.
8. Try a Little Compression
A little compression can help make any position one of the best sleeping positions for menstrual cramps. Fortunately, all you need is an old-school pair of support hose or even a tight pair of leggings to get a bit of cramp relief. For many women, the gentle pressure increases oxygen and nutrient-rich blood flow to the affected area and helps make moving in any way more comfortable. You can also use the leggings to hold a hot water bottle close to your body for extra relief.
Best Sleeping Positions for Menstrual Cramps
The best sleeping positions for menstrual cramps are those that help relieve your pain enough to drift off into dreamland. Whether this means sleeping on your side, stomach or even in a hammock, the ideal positions for you are those that help you get the rest you need to perform at your best, even when the cardinal pays her monthly visit.