As you may already know, the most effective way to heal from an injury is to get plenty of rest to allow for new cell growth and regeneration. This recommendation is universal, even for something as common as a sprained ankle. When the ligaments in the ankle have become stretched or torn beyond their usual range of motion, they need plenty of time to recover, which, depending on the grade of your strain, can take anywhere from 1-6 weeks to heal fully. (Source)
During this time, not only do you want to be sure that you are resting your ankle thoroughly, but you also want to ensure that you are able to comfortably get enough sleep with a sprained ankle. Fortunately, for most ankle sprain injuries, the healing time is more inconvenient than the task of sleeping. Your ankle may have taken a (temporary) turn for the worst, but each night of rest doesn’t have to.
Examining ICE for the Sake of Your Rest
In your research, you will find that a standard solution for sprains, strains, and other injuries is the combination of R.I.C.E. or R(est), I(ce), C(ompression), and E(levation). Let’s have a look at the last three components (I.C.E.) in order to understand how they will help you achieve the first one (Rest).
As you will learn, applying ice to your ankle for the first 72 hours after the injury is crucial, as it will help with the swelling and inflammation. After that time, you won’t need to ice your ankle as often throughout the day, but you should plan to use a cold compress for at least 10-15 minutes before bed.
Icing at the end of the day before you head to sleep will help with any extra strain or pressure that has been put on your ankle from walking or other activities that may have brought the swelling back on. If you attempt to ice your ankle each night until it is healed, you can help the transition from immobility back to your normal range of movement with minimal discomfort while you sleep. I recently bought an ice pack wrap for my ankle a few months back and I absolutely love it. The ice pack conforms to my ankle and quickly relieves swelling without needing to annoyingly hold it in place. Check it out for the best price on Amazon – Elasto Gel Hot/Cold Ankle Wrap.
Compress the Injury.
Directly after sustaining an ankle sprain, compression is vital for swelling and keeping the area stable. For the first few days, it’s useful to sleep with a compression bandage on your ankle. As time goes on and your ankle starts to heal, you may be able to begin sleeping without it.
When preparing your ankle for the night, be sure not to wrap the elastic bandage too tightly. A too-tight dressing can lead to slowed blood circulation to the area which will hinder the healing process and can cause you to wake from the discomfort. Before applying the bandage, place a U-shaped support or cushion around your ankle bones; this will help create an even application of the bandage and will provide extra comfort. Here is an inexpensive compression ankle support wrap that I found on Amazon – ComfiLife Adjustable Compression Ankle Support Wrap.
Elevation, Elevation, Elevation.
While at the end of the R.I.C.E remedy, when you are sleeping, this one is clearly the most important. As the best solution to swelling, keeping your foot elevated above your heart will help to keep the healing process moving swiftly along.
When soft tissues are damaged, chemical signals are released to promote increased blood flow to the area, and excess toxins and fluids will leak out. By keeping the ankle elevated while you are asleep, you can encourage the blood flow to resume its healthy circulation, minimizing the swelling.
To keep your foot elevated, you’ll want to sleep on your back with several pillows under your foot. For maximum comfort, you may want to place one or two cushions below your knee as well. This incline in elevation will give you an easy way to rest your foot without restriction or feeling strapped in one position. While your ankle is healing, it’s best to avoid sleeping on your side or stomach.
Because elevation is so essential for the healing of the tissues, you also want to be sure to keep it elevated when you are relaxing at home or any time that you are at rest.
While pillows can help to provide some elevation, I have personally had the best luck using a Leg Elevation Pillow (link to Amazon). It’s comfortable, supportive, and doesn’t shift around like a stack of pillows would. This is the same elevation pillow that I purchased my husband when he sprained his ankle last year. He absolutely loved how it raised and protected his ankle against unwanted movement. Especially since I’m known to kick in my sleep – sorry hubby!
Other Helpful Night-time Solutions
IT would be great if a little RICE could get you all the way down the healed path, and for some people, it might. But, if you need a little extra help getting to sleep at night, here are some additional options to include.
The difficulty with sleeping with a sprained ankle can come from the swelling and throbbing pain in the ligaments. To help with this, anti-inflammatories for the first few days will help alleviate some of the pain, allowing you to get some rest. If your ankle pain worsens or persists for more than 4-5 days and over the counter medication doesn’t seem to help, you should consult with your doctor as a more severe injury may have occurred, or you may require stronger medication options.
In addition to pain medication, you may also want to apply arnica cream to your injury before heading to bed. Arnica cream is often used topically for swelling and bruising. As a plant-based homeopathic treatment, it can be a worthwhile option for those who want to limit the number of pain medications that they take. Arnica creams or gels may not work for every person, but if you’re looking for a remedy to your swelling to help get some rest at night, it’s definitely worth a try. (Source)
I personally recommend using Boiron Arnicare Cream (link to Amazon) its helped me to relieve pain all over my body. I tell all my friends about how well it works, and I’m glad I could share it with you!
Consider an Aircast.
For cases of severe sprains, more specialized attention may be required. In some instances where the ligament is completely torn, surgery is needed to repair the damaged ligament. If your injury is a higher grade, sleeping with an aircast or ankle brace may be most beneficial to keep your ankle secure and to prevent further damage. Read here for more helpful tips on sleeping with an aircast.
Less severe ankle sprains don’t always require a trip to the doctor. Following the above suggestions for the first 72 hours will help you determine if your sprain is treatable with home remedies. If you discover that you have difficulty getting to sleep due to worsening pain or other symptoms occur after your injury, it’s always best to seek medical advice for the best possible recovery.