After abdominoplasty or tummy tuck surgery, you will be all too aware of each action and movement that you make. Everyday tasks, including standing up, will require a little more thought and effort.
Once the day ends, and it’s time to go to bed, achieving comfort may be even more challenging. You’ve already gone through the steps of preparing and undergoing surgery, now how do you sleep through the night without affecting the incisions, drain tubes, and your sanity? In order to find your optimal sleeping position, it’s best to sleep on your back – slightly elevated and with a cushion below your knees.
Recovery time from a tummy tuck varies from person to person, but you can expect to slowly return to normal after a few months. In this time, ensuring that you sleep with care each night is vital, especially during the first two weeks.
Why Sleep Elevated After A Tummy Tuck?
As your doctor will explain, during the procedure, after excess fat is removed, excess skin is also removed from the lower abdomen. Once they have removed everything you no longer need, the muscle lining of the stomach is tightened and brought together (tucked). The tightening will leave you with feelings of constraint and pressure in your lower belly.
By sleeping on your back in a slightly raised position, you will not only relieve some of the discomfort, but it is also ideal for the healing of the surgery. Keeping elevated will help to minimize the swelling at the incision site, which can cause a delay in healing. The flexion in your stomach also helps to prevent stretching, which can be damaging to the stitches.
The good news is that there is no need to sacrifice your comfort just to keep your torso elevated while you are asleep. A few simple tools are all that you need to make sleeping a little more relaxing while taking the pressure off of your tummy. Here are a few options to start with:
- Additional pillows – The fastest, most straightforward option is to stack several cushions in addition to how many you usually sleep with. Determining the number of pillows that you need will be a trial and error, simply depending on how you feel most comfortable.
The basics should include two or more under your head and upper torso, one under your knees, and two at your sides – one under each arm. The ones at your sides are for comfort and to help prevent you from rolling. You can experiment by adding or removing extra pillows as necessary.
- A wedge pillow – If you are struggling to get the angle right and you can’t seem to find the perfect number of pillows to lie back on, it may be worth looking into a wedge pillow or a sleeping wedge. The wedge will give you a slight elevation, requiring fewer cushions to be added. It will also be a sturdier surface to sleep on, rather than a pile of pillows that has the tendency to shift while you sleep.
- A leg bolster – Regardless of whether you decide to use extra pillows or a wedge, you will want to consider sleeping with a cushion under your knees. Having your legs elevated as well will help to relieve pressure in the incision, and will also help if you have any lower back pain. If your regular pillows are too thin, a yoga bolster is an excellent, reliable option.
- A recliner – While a recliner isn’t a required investment after a tummy tuck, if you happen to have one in the home, it might be an excellent way to sleep for the first few nights. Because most modern recliners are fully automated, it’ll take some of the effort out of getting up and down. Sleeping in a recliner is often recommended by both surgeons and patients alike.
- Rent a bed – For most people, the above suggestions, in addition to your own personal adjustment needs, will be enough to get through the weeks that it takes to heal after surgery. However, a little extra care may be needed for some.
If you are worried that props will not be enough, or have tested these options for a previous surgery and have found that they do not work for you, consult with your surgeon about renting an adjustable bed from the hospital or an online rental service. You may find that you do not need the bed for long, but it will be beneficial to know that it is an option for you.
When sleeping at an angle, you want to remember to remain flexed at the waist, rather than elevating only your upper torso, neck, and head. This will prevent neck pain and will have the most benefit for your stomach.
Making Sleep Comfortable
It’s one thing to know which position you should sleep in, or how to elevate your body; it’s an entirely different thing to ensure that you will be comfortable while you are sleeping in order to get the best quality rest.
As we sleep, our body is busy regenerating and healing the damage that is caused during the day. After a tummy tuck, your body will be working overtime each night. If you are restless, uncomfortable, or otherwise have a broken and distressed night of sleep, your body will have a harder time helping you to bounce back to your usual self.
Here are a few ways that you can prepare yourself for a restful sleep to help ease the pain after surgery:
Practice Before the Surgery
For those who primarily sleep on their stomach or side, practicing back sleeping in the weeks before the operation will prove to be very helpful. As with all new habits, adjustment takes time, and old habits can be hard to break. Get a head start by working out the kinks before the surgery takes place.
Wear Compression Garments
After your surgery, you will be given an abdominal binder to wear for the first couple of weeks. It is essential that you wear the binder at all times, especially when sleeping. If you need to make adjustments to the binder, do so when laying down as it will be easier to slide it down if it inches up. After you have been cleared to stop wearing the binder, you should continue to wear compression shapewear to help keep the swelling and fluid retention in check.
Take Pain Medication
One of the worst things about sleeping after surgery is going to bed believing that your pain is being managed only to wake up in pain after the medication has run its course in the middle of the night.
Getting up to take your medicine, attempting to go back to sleep while it works its way into your system, and being distressed in the meantime all take away from the necessary hours of sleep. Avoid this by remaining consistent with your pain medication.
Use A Toilet Seat Booster
Using the restroom mid-sleep is something that many of us try not to fully wake up for, however after a tummy tuck you may learn that using the toilet takes a little more effort and care. Discovering that your toilet is much lower than you thought it was will be a wake-up call that you want to avoid.
A booster will not only help by giving you less area to cover as you sit and stand, but it will also ease the pressure on your stomach.
Consider Sleeping Downstairs
If you live in a two-story or tri-level home, those middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom or kitchen will take much longer and will be more challenging. Lessen the time it takes to make these trips by keeping all of your necessary activities on one level for the first few weeks.
Focus On Your Breathing
After any kind of abdominal or chest surgery, it’s important to remember to keep breathing deeply and cough when you need to. Some people find that one complication after surgery includes mucus build-up, causing the urge to cough and clear the lungs. Clearing your airways is essential for preventing pneumonia.
Keep in mind that being able to have a restful sleep after a tummy tuck is about more than just your sleep position. The chances are that you have put in a lot of hard work before your surgery, and the above tips are tried and tested methods to make the healing process as smooth and as comfortable as possible for you.
The first few weeks after your life-changing tummy tuck will take some adjustments, especially when it comes to sleep. Ensuring that you follow the guidance of your surgeon will ultimately end with the best possible results and will be worth all the effort that you have gone through.
As part of your recovery, remember to keep your torso flexed for your comfort as well as the healing of both your incision and the abdominal muscles underneath. By sleeping in an elevated position with your legs supported, you will be able to get through each night with the best quality of sleep, leaving you looking and feeling great.