How to Sleep After Shoulder Surgery: 5 Steps to Sleep Better After Arthroscopic Surgery

person wearing white tank top. How to Sleep After Shoulder Surgery

How to Sleep After Shoulder Surgery

If you’re like most people, you probably take sleep for granted. But if you’ve had shoulder surgery, sleep may become a precious commodity.

The pain and discomfort of shoulder surgery can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. And the lack of sleep can make recovery from surgery more difficult.

But there are things you can do to improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep after shoulder surgery.

How to sleep after shoulder surgery?

Shoulder surgery can make it difficult to sleep due to the pain and discomfort associated with the procedure. However, getting enough rest is crucial for the body to heal properly. Here are five practical steps to help patients sleep better after shoulder surgery:

  1. Sleep on an incline: For the first 4-6 weeks after surgery, sleep on an incline to reduce pressure on the shoulder. Use pillows to prop yourself up or consider purchasing a 45-degree wedge from a medical supply store.
  2. Avoid sleeping on your back: Sleeping on your back can put pressure on the shoulder. Instead, sleep on your uninjured side or in a reclined position.
  3. Use pillows for support: Place a pillow between your torso and healing shoulder to provide support and prevent movement during the night. Wear your sling at night for the first week to protect your shoulder from movement and keep it properly positioned while you sleep.
  4. Take pain medication as directed: Plan your medication schedule, so you take your pain medication about 30 minutes before bedtime. This will help you sleep pain-free.
  5. Practice relaxation techniques: Ice your shoulder before going to sleep to numb the nerves and reduce inflammation. Try a cold therapy unit, a sleeve that wraps the injured shoulder in a continuous cold – ice-free. Additionally, you can practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation to ease any anxiety or stress that may interfere with your sleep.

Remember, recovery after shoulder surgery can take time, and patience is key. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions and attend all recommended physical therapy sessions to aid in the healing process.

women's black false eyelashes. How to Sleep After Shoulder Surgery

What are the steps that you can take to sleep better after shoulder surgery?

Step 1: Wear a sling while sleeping

The first step to sleep better after shoulder surgery is to wear a sling while sleeping. Wearing a sling helps to keep your arm stable and prevent unintentional movements that could worsen your injury. It is important to wear the sling throughout the night and only remove it briefly for dressing and bathing.

To ensure maximum comfort, wear thin clothing to bed and place a pillow between your torso and sling. If you are having difficulty sleeping with the sling, consult with your doctor for tips or tricks.

Step 2: Sleep in a reclined position

The second step to sleeping better after shoulder surgery is to sleep in a reclined position. This position reduces stress on the shoulder joint and its surrounding tissue. It is recommended to sleep in a reclined chair, an adjustable bed, or even a simple wedge pillow to achieve an incline. Propping yourself on pillows will keep you from turning over and sleeping on the recovering shoulder.

Patients may find it much easier and less painful to sleep in a reclined position, rather than flat on their backs after shoulder surgery – not like in case of gastric sleeve surgery.

To achieve a reclined position, you can either bolster your lower back with pillows or sleep in a Lay-Z-Boy style adjustable chair. One thing to be careful of is not making the angle you sleep at too harsh. Shoot for something around 45 degrees measured from a flat position as studies show that going too steep can impact sleep.

Step 3: Prop up your arm with a pillow

After shoulder surgery, it is important to prop up your arm with a pillow to sleep better. Use a thin pillow between your forearm in the sling and your stomach/chest to provide additional support. Position a wedge pillow at the head of your bed and add additional pillows on top of the wedge for extra comfort. Place a pillow under the elbow of your injured or surgically repaired arm to keep it from rolling or sliding to the side while sleeping. This will help keep the arm stable while healing and prevent unconsciously placing your arm in an uncomfortable position while you’re sleeping.

Opt for a medium-sized cushion to elevate your treated arm, which will help with circulation and prevent numbness. Propping up your arm with a pillow can provide additional comfort and prevent putting your arm in a painful position while sleeping.

Step 4: Follow your doctor’s instructions on taking prescribed medications before bedtime

Taking medication as directed can help manage pain and minimize discomfort, allowing you to rest easier throughout the night. It is recommended to take your medication 30 minutes before going to sleep, giving it time to reach its full potential. However, it is important to watch out for side effects, such as drowsiness or dizziness, which may affect your ability to sleep.

If you experience severe sleeping difficulties, your doctor may prescribe a sleeping aid or suggest an over-the-counter medication that causes drowsiness. It is also important to adjust your dosage as necessary and find a good combination of anti-inflammatory and pain medications. Always follow your doctor’s personal treatment plan and discuss any concerns or questions you may have.

Step 5: Ice the shoulder

Icing the shoulder after surgery is crucial to reduce inflammation and manage pain. Applying an ice pack for up to 30 minutes before going to bed can help control the pain that may limit your sleep. This strategy often provides relief by reducing inflammation. It is important to wrap the ice pack in a towel before placing it on the affected shoulder to prevent skin damage.

However, one should not fall asleep with the shoulder iced. Over-the-counter pain medications can also be used in conjunction with icing for maximum relief. Another option is using a cryocuff or iceman, which delivers numbing pain relief to all areas around the shoulder.

When can i sleep on my side after shoulder surgery?

It is generally safe to sleep on your non-affected side after 4 weeks of recovery from shoulder surgery, but it’s important to follow your doctor’s specific guidelines. Sleeping on your back with an elevated surgical side is recommended during the initial recovery period to reduce stress on the shoulder joint and surrounding tissue. Sleeping on your side too soon can cause pain and delay the healing process.

Sleeping post op rotator cuff surgery

After rotator cuff surgery, it is important to find the right sleeping position to facilitate proper healing and get the rest you need. For the first few days after surgery, it is recommended to sleep upright just like in medieval times on a recliner.

It is also important to wear your sling as directed by your doctor after surgery to limit motion of your shoulder. Pain medicine, ice therapy, and a light diet can all aid in pain management and promote better sleep.

Best position to sleep after rotator cuff surgery

After rotator cuff surgery, it is important to sleep in a position that does not put pressure on the affected arm. The best position to sleep in is on your back with the surgical side elevated. This can be achieved by using a wedge pillow or stacking a few pillows to create a similar effect. It is recommended to keep your upper body sloped at around a 45-degree angle. Additionally, placing another pillow under the back of the affected arm can help keep it aligned correctly.

It is important to avoid sleeping on the treated shoulder as it can re-tear the rotator cuff. Reclining during sleep can also help to avoid rolling onto the affected shoulder. Using a reclining armchair, adjustable bed, or a combination of pillows can provide the necessary support and comfort.

It is important not to make the angle too steep as it can impact sleep quality. Proper positioning for four to six weeks following rotator cuff repair can help facilitate proper healing.

Is It Necessary to Sleep Elevated After Breast Augmentation Surgery?

Is It Necessary to Sleep Elevated After Breast Augmentation Surgery? The sleeping position after breast augmentation is a crucial aspect of post-surgical care. It is recommended to sleep elevated, with the upper body propped up using pillows or a wedge. This position helps reduce swelling and discomfort, promotes proper blood circulation, and aids in the healing process. Maintaining the recommended sleeping position after breast augmentation can significantly contribute to a smoother recovery and optimal results.


What types of pillows should I use after shoulder surgery?

After shoulder surgery, it is recommended to use thin, throw, or accent pillows to provide support and comfort while sleeping. These pillows can be placed between the injured arm and the abdomen to alleviate pressure on the arm.

Additionally, a medical wedge pillow can be used to support the neck, head, and upper back, while also easing shoulder pain. Extra pillows can also be used to elevate the neck, upper back, and head, though they may slip off the bed during sleep.

What positions should I avoid after shoulder surgery?

After shoulder surgery, it is important to avoid sleeping on your side or stomach, as this can put pressure on the affected shoulder and lead to complications during the healing process. It is also best to avoid sleeping flat on your back, as this can cause strain when getting up.

Instead, try sleeping in a reclined position using an adjustable bed, reclining chair, or pillows to prop yourself up. It is important to maintain proper positioning for four to six weeks to promote healthy healing of the shoulder.

How can I reduce inflammation and swelling after shoulder surgery?

Reducing inflammation and swelling after shoulder surgery is crucial for a speedy recovery. Here are three effective methods to help you achieve this:

  1. Apply ice packs: Applying ice packs to your shoulder before bedtime can help relieve inflammation, numb the pain, and provide temporary relief. Apply the ice pack around 30 minutes before you sleep to make it easier to fall asleep when excited.
  2. Take medication as directed: Your doctor will prescribe pain medication to keep your pain levels low. Take your medication on schedule and at the dosage prescribed to help with pain management.
  3. Wear a sling during the day: Wearing a shoulder sling during the day for a few weeks after your surgery can help support your shoulder and counteract the effects of gravity, which can exacerbate postoperative shoulder pain. This can decrease pain and swelling in your shoulder at day’s end, making it easier to fall asleep at night.
  4. Sleep on an inclined bed: Raised beds are helpful for maintaining a healthy circulation, even MS patients sleep inclined.

How soon after shoulder surgery can I start sleeping in a regular bed?

Generally, patients need to sleep in a reclined position on their back for 4 to 6 weeks after shoulder surgery to reduce stress on the joint and surrounding tissue.

Patients may need to sleep in a semi-reclined position for at least 6 weeks after surgery, but can gradually move towards sleeping in a regular bed as their pain subsides and shoulder heals.

Why does shoulder surgery hurt more at night?

Shoulder surgery can cause more pain at night due to the pressure placed on the shoulder during sleep. Sleeping on an old or unsupportive mattress can also exacerbate discomfort. To alleviate the pain, consider sleeping in a reclined position with an adjustable bed or reclining chair.

Can i sleep with a weighted blanket after Shoulder Surgery

In many cases, doctors may advise against using a weighted blanket immediately after shoulder surgery.

Weighted blankets are designed to provide deep pressure stimulation, which can be comforting for some individuals. However, in the case of shoulder surgery, there are factors to consider.

  • Surgical site protection: The primary concern is to protect the surgical site and allow it to heal properly. Using a weighted blanket that puts pressure directly on the shoulder area might not be recommended during the initial stages of recovery, as it could potentially interfere with the healing process or cause discomfort.
  • Range of motion: Shoulder surgery often involves restrictions on the range of motion to allow for healing and prevent further injury. Sleeping with a weighted blanket may limit your ability to move your arm or shoulder comfortably, which could hinder the healing process or cause discomfort.

By lezt

Lez Taylor, Founder and CEO of Corala Blanket. She tried every sleep system and trick to conquer her insomnia for good.