The best ways to sleep after ACL surgery are very much dependent on what works best for you
- Sleep disturbance after ACL surgery is very common and can vary from person to person.
- Below, we highlight some tips on the best way to sleep after ACL surgery. This, of course, is not just talking about the sleeping position itself but also what sort of discomfort you are likely to experience following an ACL reconstruction and what measures you can take to alleviate the discomfort.
- Often, the first few days of sleep after ACL surgery are the toughest, and it is common to struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position.
- Sleeping can be a big issue for some people in the first 1–2 weeks in particular. This initial phase of your ACL recovery timeline can be a challenging period for people who may only achieve small bouts of 2 to 4 hours of sleep at a time.
- Understanding how to sleep after ACL surgery is about testing what position works best for you to ensure that your body and knee get the rest required to heal and recover.
- Finding the right sleeping rhythm is especially important in the first 2 weeks after your operation, when you are likely to experience the most discomfort.
- Immediately following your ACL surgery, your knee is likely to be heavily swollen and very sore. In addition, your knee will lack flexibility, which makes finding a comfortable position all the more difficult.
- However, finding the right position that enables you to sleep effectively is important to ensure that you get an appropriate amount of sleep after ACL surgery.
- Some surgeons may recommend wearing a splint brace to help you sleep after ACL surgery to protect the knee from any sharp unconscious movements whilst you are asleep. At first, a knee splint may feel hot and uncomfortable when you wear it to bed.
- Yet, many surgeons will not require you to wear a knee brace or splint either during the day or at night following ACL surgery.
What can I do to improve my sleep after ACL surgery?
The best ways to sleep after ACL surgery are achieved by applying a combination of measures before you go to bed. It’s not just your sleeping position that is important. There are a number of other factors that, when followed, will greatly assist you in achieving a good night’s sleep.
For simplicity, we have broken this down into 4 helpful hints to help you sleep after ACL surgery:
Sleeping After ACL Surgery 1: Sleep in whatever position makes you comfortable
- Sleep in whatever position makes you comfortable after ACL surgery.
- Within the first few weeks, sleeping on either your back or side is commonly considered to be the most comfortable position. These two sleeping positions are options to try in the first instance and see what works best for you.
- However, there is no need to ‘only‘ sleep on your back with your knee straight or on your side with a pillow between your knees.
- Sleeping on your stomach may cause pain.
- If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your legs.
- Sleeping on your back is considered a good position as it allows you to extend your knee out as straight as possible.
- Sleeping on your side is a position that works well for many people. If you prefer to sleep on your side, try inserting a pillow between your legs with the bad leg on the top side. This should help provide some relief.
Sleeping After ACL Surgery 2: Take the pain relievers and sleeping tablets that you were given
- Take the painkillers and sleeping tablets that have been given to you by your doctor or surgeon.
- Often, all that is required is a couple of paracetamol every six hours. For many people, this is enough to reduce the pain.
- Over-the-counter sleeping pills may help if you feel you need them.
Sleeping After ACL Surgery 3: Apply ice before you go to bed
- Try icing before you go to bed. Decreasing heat in your knee can help relieve swelling, pain, and discomfort caused by throbbing. It is a good idea to reapply the ice as much as possible. If you wake up during the night, reapplying the ice will further help to reduce knee swelling and pain.
- Use a cryo cuff to help reduce swelling quicker and more effectively. People find using a cyro cuff to be very comfortable and effective in penetrating the knee from all angles. Use a standard ice bag or bag of peas if you do not have access to a cryo cuff.
Sleeping After ACL Surgery 4: Avoid wearing a knee brace to bed
- A knee immobiliser can make sleeping hot and uncomfortable. Unless your surgeon or doctor has advised you otherwise, consider removing the knee immobiliser prior to sleeping.
- A lot of surgeons will not require you to wear a knee brace after ACL surgery, either during the day or night.
- There is a theory that sleeping in a brace after ACL surgery is a high priority to help achieve full knee extension. This is one key reason why some surgeons and physicians will recommend sleeping in a brace in the immediate period after an ACL operation. However, opinions on this point differ.
- Sleep disturbance after ACL surgery is very common, especially in the first 1–2 weeks, and can vary from person to person.
- The best ways to sleep are often dependent on what works best for you to ensure that your body and knee get the rest required to heal and recover.
Sleep in a position that is comfortable for you
- Within the first few weeks, sleeping on either your back or side is often the preferred position that people find to be the most comfortable. If you sleep on your side, try inserting a pillow between your legs with the bad leg on the top side.
Take the medication as prescribed by your surgeon or doctor
- Speak to your doctor or surgeon about using prescribed medication to help you sleep. For many people, all that is required is a couple of paracetamol every six hours to reduce the pain.
Ice at night before you go to bed
- Icing before you go to bed will help take the heat and throbbing out of your knee, plus icing can assist with subsiding pain.
Avoid wearing a knee brace to bed
- A knee brace can make sleeping very hot and uncomfortable. There is no need to wear a knee brace to bed unless your surgeon has advised you otherwise.
Good Luck With Your ACL Surgery Recovery
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