Sleep is a universal balm, and there’s probably not an adult alive who doesn’t wish they had more of it. Sleep is good for just about every aspect of our health, including healing and recovery. This makes good sleep critical for anyone who has undergone major surgery, including hysterectomies.
The best sleeping positions after a hysterectomy are on either your back or on your side, supported by a well-placed pillow. Finding the right sleeping position can help you sleep better by alleviating pain, discomfort and painful gas.
Keep reading to learn how to properly implement these sleeping positions to help aid your recovery. First, we’ll briefly explore hysterectomies and their relationship to sleep.
Hysterectomies & Sleep
A hysterectomy is an operation to remove a woman’s uterus (also called the womb). It’s more common for women in their 40s, typically performed to treat heavy periods, long-term pelvic pain, fibroids, and certain cancers. It’s a serious surgery with a long recovery time, and is therefore only used when less invasive treatments have been unsuccessful. 1
One of the side effects of hysterectomies is that it thrusts women into menopause, which presents its own issues. In fact, one study found that “women who underwent surgical menopause were more than twice as likely to experience insomnia and reported lower quality sleep compared with women who went through natural menopause.” 2
A comparative study found that most women who had a hysterectomy reported sleep disturbances three weeks after their surgeries. Their quality of sleep was related to both their age, level of education, and whether they’d had a vaginal or abdominal surgery. 3
So treat yourself after surgery– to a healthy diet, comfy clothing, lots of water, and lots of sleep. If ever there were a time to binge watch Netflix without remorse, this is it.
The Best Sleeping Positions After A Hysterectomy
Always speak to your doctor first, but in general, there are two good sleeping positions for women healing from a hysterectomy.
Note that both of these sleeping positions require more additional support than you may be used to. You can get this support in the form of a pillow or two, or with a specially designed foam block.
Also note that, as you may have guessed, sleeping on your stomach isn’t a good idea until you’re healed.
Supported Supine Lying
Supine lying, which means lying on your back, is often recommended after many surgeries. In this sleeping position, you’re on your back with your arms by your side. This is a neutral position, so it keeps your body in natural alignment easily.
When in this position, place a support or pillow under you knees to relieve pressure from your lower back. Pelvic floor physiotherapist Michelle Kenway also recommends using this pillow to help you do regular calf pump circulation exercises.
When you are lying on your back in this position, use just one pillow that keeps your head and neck in a neutral position. This is because you can create neck and/or upper back strain if pillows push your head too far forward.
Supported Side Lying
If you regularly sleep on your side, then you should be able to keep doing so while in post-hysterectomy recovery. You may also find this position helps with gas, which can be painful after hysterectomies. However, it’s important to speak to your doctor to ensure this position will be right for your body.
It’s very important to use supports in this position, because lying on your side can stretch tissues in your abdomen and pelvis, and it can also lead to lower back, hip and/or pelvic pain.
To avoid this, put a pillow between your legs, which will keep your hips aligned and your pelvis from rolling forward.
And placing a pillow length-ways on the mattress beside you can also support your upper body while preventing your lower abs from stretching too much.
And just like with the supine sleeping position, it’s import to keep your head and neck in a neutral position here, so you don’t want your pillow to be too high again.
When Can I Sleep On My Stomach After A Hysterectomy?
You should wait until you are fully healed from your hysterectomy before sleeping on your stomach. On average, recovery time is from 6-8 weeks for an abdominal hysterectomy, or less for a vaginal or laparoscopy hysterectomy.4
Always speak to your doctor about how best to recover from any surgery, and learn more about the relationship between sleep and pelvic pain here.
Finally, no matter what your sleeping position, be sure to practice good sleep hygiene, so that you’re setting yourself up for the best night’s sleep possible. And find more tips for care and recovery after pelvic floor disorder surgery here.