How to Actually Sleep With a Broken Bone

A broken bone or fracture is not only painful, but it’s also incredibly inconvenient. During your healing process, you will have to make adjustments to everyday activities that we usually do on autopilot. Simple tasks such as driving, cleaning, and even sleeping will take some effort.

Most broken bones can take six weeks or longer to heal fully. In this time, you’ll want to make yourself as comfortable as possible at night while you are asleep. At first, it can be frustrating, painful, and difficult, but ensuring that you get quality sleep each night is necessary on your road to recovery.

As you know, the body does much of its healing and regenerating while we are asleep. Despite the pain, you’ll want to ensure that you are achieving as much rest as possible. During the first few days especially, the best way for you to get some sleep, and attempt to do it comfortably, is to sleep on your back. After that, for some broken bones, you may be able to sleep on your side without any issues.

If you’re not usually a back sleeper or you are just wondering why this position is the most recommended, let’s have a look at why it’s so important and how you can achieve a comfortable night’s rest on your back.

How To Sleep With A Broken Bone

When it comes to sleeping with a broken bone, most people are often concerned about doing further damage or waking up in more pain. Because we aren’t in complete control of our body’s actions while we are asleep, it’s natural to be worried about making an already bad situation worse. By paying particular attention to how you prepare for bed, you can get to sleep in no time without stressing about your night-time movements.

Set Up Your Position

As part of the healing process, it is crucial to keep your broken bone or fracture elevated as much as possible. The elevation will help to keep the blood from pooling at the injury site and will prevent swelling in the area. Swelling and throbbing can not only add pain to your already broken bone, but they can also delay the healing process.

In order to avoid adding insult to injury, you should set your bed up in a way that will prevent you from rolling or stop you from keeping your injury elevated. Adding multiple pillows to your sleeping arrangement can help with that. Placing one firmly at each side of your body may help keep you in place. If you are typically a wild sleeper, try placing the pillows under your fitted sheet. This will stop you from pushing them around in your sleep and can keep you stabilized.

But because elevation is key, you have to do more than simply surround yourself with endless pillows. Here are a few location-specific suggestions that will help keep your broken bone elevated.

  • Nose – Sleeping with a broken nose can be reasonably straightforward as long as you keep your head elevated. Adding extra pillows below your head or a wedge pillow will be the best way to avoid swelling in the face.
  • Collarbone – When sleeping with a broken collarbone (or fractured clavicle), you want to ensure that you don’t roll in bed. The pillows at your sides will help with this, but you may want to also prop a few pillows under your head and chest. Staying upright can help with the pressure and discomfort.
  • Arm or wrist – While remaining on your back, place a thin pillow over your torso and let your folded arm rest on it. Including a pillow under your knees will help you feel more secure. It can also help if you feel any lower back pain in this position. If you find that sleeping on your back is challenging, with a broken arm, you do have the option to sleep on your unaffected side. If you sleep on the opposite side of the injury, you can hug a pillow to your stomach and rest the broken arm on top of it. You should still place a buffer behind your back in this position to prevent yourself from rolling backward and causing more pain to your arm.
  • Ribs – With fractured ribs, you will likely feel more comfortable on your back, however, if you must sleep on your side, sleep on the opposite side from the injury. When sleeping on your back, it’s best to keep your torso elevated with pillows or cushions. Read here for more of my tips on sleeping with rib pain.
  • Hip – If you are doing home treatment for a hip fracture, it’s best to sleep on your back with your legs hip’s width apart. You can place a cushion between your legs to keep them separated. You can also try resting on the opposite hip with a cushion between your knees.
  • Tailbone – Sleeping with a broken tailbone (coccyx) depends on your personal comfort. If you sleep on your back, be sure to place a pillow under your knees. If you choose to sleep on your side, use a cushion between your knees. For a broken tailbone, it’s essential to sleep on a mattress that is firm and doesn’t sag.
  • Leg – Place one to two pillows horizontally at the foot of the bed. Then use a third, longer pillow to lay parallel with your body, placing one end on the stacked pillows and the other end length-ways under your leg. Imagine it as a ramp for your leg to comfortably stay elevated with a cushioned support.
  • Ankle, foot, or toe(s) – Stack several pillows on top of each other and rest your ankle on them. Use as many as you need to keep the ankle elevated above your heart.

If you are struggling to get comfortable, it may be helpful to use a recliner or sleep on the couch. This will ensure that you don’t move too much and can provide a stable elevation for your broken bone. If you have one, a recliner is an excellent way to sleep with a fractured clavicle or rib.

Dress Comfortably

The pressure and confinement of a cast can not only be uncomfortable and awkward, but it can also be incredibly hot. During the summer months, this added heat can be a significant source of frustration while you are trying to sleep. By sleeping in clothing that won’t make you feel stuffy and that are easy to put on or take off will make your bedtime routine much more manageable.

Keeping in mind that your cast will make your limb larger than you’re used to, it’s best to wear light, loose-fitting clothing. Consider shirts with buttons if you can’t lift your arms, or shorts if you have a clunky ankle brace.

Stay On Top of Your Pain Medication

In addition to your initial concerns about sleeping with a broken bone, the pain itself will likely do its best to keep you awake as well. In the first few weeks, it’s important to take your medication as it’s prescribed. Keeping up with them will prevent any lapse in pain relief.

If you find that the pain medication isn’t helping, speak to your doctor to increase the dosage or prescribe a different medication. Alternatively, as time progresses and you feel as if you are in less pain, switching to an over the counter medication will also help your pain management during healing.

Try Sleeping Alone

As if trying to figure out how to sleep with a broken bone isn’t bad enough, your partner and pets may have to make some adjustments of their own. Learning how to sleep comfortably will be a bit of a process for you, so for the first few days, it might be helpful to (nicely) ask all humans and animals who you usually share the bed with to sleep elsewhere. Or perhaps you should try sleeping in a spare bedroom or on the couch.

While it will be a little lonely, the benefit is that you won’t have to deal with jumping children, a rolling spouse, or a pup who commands the whole bed. It’s vital to treat the injury carefully, which is hard for your family to remember when they aren’t the ones in pain. Sleeping alone will also alleviate any guilt you might feel for making the bed a pillow fortress.

As you become more familiar with what is the most comfortable way for you to sleep, you can begin to share your bed again, but consider a divider pillow until you are healed.

A Few Extra Tips

If you follow the suggestions above, getting to sleep with your broken bone should be the easy part. It’s the rest of your everyday life that will take much more extra effort. Here are some additional tips to consider, and if done correctly, they will also aid in helping you sleep comfortably.

  • Let your friends and family help – Many of us often struggle to accept help, especially when we need it the most. Daily tasks will prove to be challenging, and getting around will feel impossible. If you are fortunate enough to have someone nearby who can eliminate some of the things that will cause you frustration, such as opening jars or loading the dishwasher, take advantage of them. Simple things like meal prep and making household items accessible will be immensely useful.
  • Eat properly and drink lots of water – As you heal from your broken bone, you will want to ensure that your diet consists of foods that will promote the generation of healthy new bones. Specifically, incorporate foods that are rich in calcium, such as yogurt, kale, nuts, and eggs. Vitamin D from the sun is essential for the body to be able to absorb the calcium; and citrus fruits containing Vitamin C, such as kiwi, oranges, and grapefruits, will help produce collagen. Be sure to include plenty of protein from foods such as meats, fish, cheese, or beans. As much as possible, you should consume these foods in their natural form, versus supplements. Don’t forget that plenty of water will help transport these vitamins to your bones.
  • Work with your orthopedic surgeon and physiotherapist – An essential part of the healing process is to work with your doctors to report progress and report any continuing pain. They will also be a crucial element to your rehabilitation and knowing when to start weight-bearing or using your healing bones again. On top of the initial pain, rehabilitation is vital for your healing. Once you begin to use the injured limb again, you may be given exercises to increase mobility, or instructed to do some soft tissue massaging.
  • Consider a temporary disabled parking permit – You may need to look into the laws and permissions for your state, but having this parking permit can be especially helpful if you have a broken leg, foot, or ankle and still need to get out of the house. With limited mobility, getting around will take more effort than it does when you are healthy. You may as well save your energy if you can.
  • Put ice on the injury – If possible, place ice on the injury site for the first few days to help with swelling. You can do this for about 15 minutes at a time. Always remember to avoid putting ice directly on your skin in order to prevent ice burns.

Final Thoughts

Remember that healing from a broken bone will take time. The healing process isn’t just about getting sleep and letting the body do what it needs to do. There will be days or nights when it is frustrating or when you will feel like you don’t have the physical energy to do much of anything. Stay mentally aware and track your progress.

Allow yourself to have rough nights, but push yourself to keep up your routine. You should get enough sleep, but don’t stay in bed all day. Sleeping will help with your healing, but continuing with your day-to-day activities are equally as important.

Tiara Croft

Tiara is an avid sleeper and fully dedicated to her work and research. Most often this includes, but is not limited to, napping, testing how many hours in one night that she can sleep, trying new sleep methods and constantly changing sleep positions. Tiara's main focuses are on dreams and how we can achieve the best natural sleep possible. As a sufferer of insomnia and other sleep-related disturbances, Tiara loves to dig deep into the subconscious to ask all the questions that can help us better understand what happens when we sleep.

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