After major shoulder surgery, such as a rotator cuff repair or a shoulder replacement, it's going to take some time to recover. And during that recovery period, one of the most difficult things that you'll have to deal with is figuring out how to sleep comfortably – especially if you're used to sleeping on your stomach or on the side that you had surgery on. And even if you're a back sleeper, getting used to settling down with your arm in a shoulder sling is no easy feat. Take a look at the following tips so that you can get adequate rest.
Use Your Recliner
In a semi-seated position, having your arm positioned over your chest in a sling won't feel nearly as unnatural or uncomfortable. For at least a short time after surgery, you may sleep better if you settle down for the night in a plushy reclining chair instead of a bed. Not only will the position be more comfortable, it will be easier to support your sore arm.
If you don't have a recliner chair, or if it's easier for you to be in bed, at least make sure that you have enough pillows to prop yourself up in a semi-reclining position in your bed. As you heal, you can gradually remove pillows until you're back in a more normal sleeping position. Also add pillows to your sides so that you are not tempted to roll over onto your shoulder in your sleep.
Elevate Your Arm
No matter what position you're sleeping in, your arm will need support while you're resting. Keeping the arm elevated will ensure adequate blood flow to the surgical area and promote faster healing.
For best results, keep a full-sized pillow positioned in a way that supports your forearm from your elbow all the way to your hand. If you find that the usual pillows that you sleep on aren't firm enough to provide your arm with the support that it needs, you may prefer to use a sturdy foam wedge pillow that you can find at a medical supply store.
Gradually Reduce Time in the Shoulder Sling
A shoulder sling is necessary after shoulder surgery. It prevents you from sustaining any further trauma to your arm while it's healing. However, it also prevents you from practicing normal function. After awhile, you should be spending at least some amount of time each day with your arm out of the sling and in a natural resting position.
Ask your shoulder surgeon or physical therapist how soon you can begin spending time out of the sling, and stick closely to the schedule recommended by your medical team. Complying with your therapist's and doctor's recommendations is the most effective way to get back to sleeping normally. Make sure to let your medical team know about any pain or complications that you have when it comes to following their recommendations. If sleep is too difficult and uncomfortable, your doctor may be able to prescribe some temporary sleep aids along with your pain relievers.
Healing from shoulder surgery can be difficult, but with time, you'll start to function more normally. Before you know it, you'll have your range of motion back and you'll be sleeping comfortably again.