Updated at: 09-11-2022 - By: Sienna Lewis

One of the most popular topics we discuss with patients after shoulder surgery is how to get the greatest night’s sleep possible. While each patient and surgery are unique, there are some general guidelines you can follow in order to get a decent night’s sleep, which is essential for your recovery and everyday activities.

How to Sleep Comfortably After Shoulder Surgery

If you’ve just had shoulder surgery, you’re probably aware of how much more painful it is to sleep at night after that procedure. Many factors play a role in this, including the fact that when we sleep, we often curl up in the fetal position with one or both hands under the pillow. Your shoulders will be under a lot of strain in any of these situations. A bad night’s sleep on an old or inadequately supportive mattress can exacerbate your back pain.

After shoulder surgery, it’s impossible to avoid falling asleep. Prior to shoulder surgery, many individuals will experience discomfort in activities that we don’t expect to feel after the procedure. A good night’s sleep is essential to both our daily routine and our ability to recover from illness or injury. Because of this, we’ve put together a list of the best ways to sleep following shoulder surgery.

How to Sleep After Shoulder Surgery - EquipMeOT

But there are a few rules and tips that can help you sleep more peacefully following shoulder surgery, and this article will provide them.

How to Fall Asleep:

For the first few weeks following surgery, try to sleep on a recliner or in a reclined position. The bed might serve as an alternative to a sofa if you don’t have a spare one. Even a 45-degree wedge can be purchased online or at a medical supply store. For the first four to six weeks following surgery, patients who had a single shoulder replaced must sleep on their sides or on their backs.

If you sleep on your uninjured side, put a couple pillows behind you so that you don’t flip around while you’re sleeping. Make sure your hands don’t fall out and curl by using a nice pillow.

  • You should avoid laying on your back after shoulder surgery because this position is the most aggravating to the shoulder.
  • If your shoulder soreness or stiffness lessens with time, you may be able to sleep in a more flat (more horizontal) position at night.
  • Six weeks or more is the most common length of time that you’ll be required to sleep in a semi-lying posture following surgery.

Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep:

If you have an injured shoulder, you should use ice or cold compresses before retiring to bed to minimize inflammation. Hold the item on your shoulder for up to 30 minutes while it’s wrapped in a towel. To ensure a restful night’s sleep, keep in mind the advantages of each possible sleeping posture.

Before you go to bed, put an ice pack on your body. It is simpler to fall asleep if you treat your shoulder ache while you sleep. This is critical to maximizing your body’s healing process.

  • Inflammation, numbing pain, and temporary relief can be achieved by applying an ice pack to an inflamed shoulder 30 minutes before going to sleep.
  • To avoid frostbite or discomfort, avoid rubbing something cold on a painful shoulder without first wrapping it in a thin towel or towel.
  • The soreness in your shoulder should subside in about 15 minutes if you use crushed ice or ice cubes on the area.

Ice cubes can be substituted for a bag of frozen veggies or fruit from the freezer.

Third Sleeping Suggestion:

During the day, your surgeon will give you a shoulder sling to wear for a few weeks following shoulder surgery. After surgery, postoperative shoulder pain is exacerbated by gravity, which can be alleviated by the support provided by the sling of the hand. You can keep a sling in your hand at all times to lessen the swelling and soreness in your shoulder at the conclusion of a long day.

As well as wearing it throughout the day, wear a sling when you sleep for several weeks to get the most benefit. Your shoulders will be more stable if you sleep with your arms in a sling. You won’t have to worry about your arm shifting and creating discomfort while you sleep if you wear a sling that supports and holds your shoulder. This aids in stabilizing the arm during the healing process. It also prevents you from placing your hand in an awkward posture while you sleep. Don’t sleep on the surgically repaired shoulder, even if you have a hand sling on. The compression might create pain and inflammation, which can lead you to wake up in the middle of the night.

Tip #4: Make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye.

Rest, immobilize the arms during the day, and take your medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

As a part of the therapy of postoperative shoulder discomfort before going to sleep, it is crucial to follow your surgeon’s prescriptions. Take the suggested dose of analgesic or anti-inflammatory medication around 30 minutes before going to sleep so that you can reap the advantages and get a good night’s sleep.

  • Avoid stomach upset by taking your medication with a small amount of food before going to bed. Good options for breakfast include fruit, toast, cereal, or yoghurt.
  • The risk of hazardous effects in your body increases if you combine medications with alcoholic beverages like beer or wine. Instead, drink water or a fruit juice.
  • In order to recover from shoulder surgery, the majority of patients require long-term use of powerful medications.

Use these tips to get a good night’s rest.

Use a medium-sized pillow beneath your elbow and arm to support your damaged arm in bed and upright, whether or not you’re using a sling. A good blood flow to the muscles of the joint and surrounding areas is essential for healing, and this position puts the shoulder in that position. Always keep your elbows and neck pillows securely tucked beneath your arms when you’re sleeping.

How to Sleep After Shoulder Surgery - EquipMeOT

Tips for a Good Night’s Rest, Number Six:

If you haven’t had significant surgery that necessitates a lengthy period of recuperation, taking a brisk walk is a great way to boost your blood flow.

After a few weeks, what can you do if your shoulder ache persists?

Talk to your doctor about physiotherapy, pain treatment choices, or to find out whether there are consequences like infection or nerve damage.


We wish you a speedy recovery after shoulder surgery with our suggestions for a good night’s sleep. Do not quit up if it takes more than a few months for the discomfort in your sleep to go away completely. In the meantime, keep working to improve your mobility and surround yourself with people who are there to encourage, relax, and support you.

Should I Wear a Sling While Sleeping?

Yes. You should only take off your sling to get dressed and take a shower or take a bath. As a result, you’re less likely to wake up with a painful arm from an unconscious position. If you’re experiencing trouble sleeping while wearing a sling, don’t hesitate to ask your physician for advice.

How Can I Modify My Position to Reduce Pain?

For the first several days following surgery, many patients prefer to sleep in a reclining chair. Alternatively, you can accomplish the same effect by piling up a lot of pillows in your bed. The recliner is a better option if you’re a restless sleeper who likes to move around a lot. You may also want to consider placing a pillow between your operative shoulder and your side to keep your limbs from becoming numb and to minimize cramping.

One of the most critical considerations for your medical team will be to keep your shoulder from becoming stiff, dislocated, damaged by nerves, or otherwise unable to heal properly.

Can I Ice my Shoulder Before Bed?

It’s safe to use a cold pack for up to 30 minutes covered in a towel. But don’t doze off with an ice pack on your shoulder. In addition to ice, over-the-counter pain relievers are necessary. Try to take them an hour or so before you want to go to sleep so that you may get the most benefit from them.

A cryocuff or iceman, which can be purchased online, is another alternative. All the areas around your shoulder that are in discomfort are relieved by using them, which are similar to an ice pack for your shoulder. Using this frequently may necessitate some assistance. However, if you don’t want to take pain medication for any reason, these are almost a need. In addition, a number of cooling devices are now available that can be used throughout the night while you sleep.

Do I Need a Special Pillow?

As long as money isn’t an issue for you, there are many extra resources available. Using wedge pillows instead of a mound of pillows can be more stable. Avoid, however, the use of long, candy cane-shaped pillows or body pillow systems. Side sleepers may benefit from these, but many find that they actually exacerbate their issues. Instead, sleep on your right side with pillows piled around you to keep you from waking up on your left side.

Why Do I Sleep Better When I Don’t Do Therapy or Exercises?

In order to stimulate the surgery site and encourage healing, therapy may cause some discomfort. While doing therapy or exercises early in the day can be beneficial, icing or timing pain pills can help you get to sleep despite pain after activities. Alternatively, some doctors recommend extending the elbow or shoulder before bed to assist release the arm and reduce muscle tightness.

How to Sleep After Shoulder Surgery - EquipMeOT

What Should I Wear to Bed?

In order to avoid irritating your skin by having the sling pull over your neck or shoulder, you should wear thin t-shirts, tank tops, or no shirt at all when you sleep. Putting a pillow between your torso and the sling cloth may seem counter-intuitive, but it can also help.

How Long Should I Expect to Sleep Differently?

It all depends on the type of surgery you had and how quickly you recovered. However, it’s recommended that you wait at least four to six months before resuming your regular sleeping habits. For the first few days following surgery, it’s critical to establish a sleep schedule that works for you. A post-op consultation is an excellent time to discuss any questions or concerns that you may have about your recovery.