Side-sleeper switching to back-sleeping temporarily
February 20, 2017 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Due to surgery, I need to sleep on my back (and elevated at first) for 2 months. I almost never sleep on my back, and I want to make sure I don't end up on my side without knowing.

There are bunch of different pillows out there, but I'm not sure whether just to get a wedge pillow or something else. I have a travel pillow, but I don't know if that would work -- although it's been working while I sleep on the couch. Also, will my back start to hurt if I sleep on my back all the time without a pillow under my knees?
posted by trillian to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you asked your medical team for recommendations?

I know for people who are supposed to sleep on their sides, there are ways to do things like sew tennis balls into the back of a shirt so it's really uncomfortable if they start to roll over. Maybe there are similar things for side-sleeping-requirements?

My husband sleeps on his back almost exclusively and it doesn't hurt his back. If you're concerned, there are tons of different knee pillows you can get to put under your legs.
posted by erst at 3:35 PM on February 20, 2017

Buy two body pillows (long ones, if necessary buy a long case and stuff with multiple short ones) and put one on either side of you. Also get a standalone pillowtop and add to your bed even if its already got a built-in pillowtop - back sleeping is easier on a softer bed. If you can sleep on your back with your legs crossed that can help too.
posted by meepmeow at 3:44 PM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I did basically what meepmeow suggested, though just with king size pillows on either side when I was healing from surgery. I'm normally a stomach sleeper but back was the only way that didn't hurt for the first couple of weeks. I basically got every pillow we owned and made a little nest - 2 pillows in a v under my head, the one on either side to support my arms and keep me from rolling. You can also make the v into a triangle with a pillow to support your upper shoulders, then start removing it when you don't need to be propped up. I did have to switch it up sometimes and put a thin pillow under my lumbar to take off some pressure.
posted by brilliantine at 3:54 PM on February 20, 2017

After my dad had hip replacement and had to sleep on his back (usually a stomach sleeper), he was sent home with something like this. I'm not sure the purpose was 100% to keep him on his back, but I can't imagine trying to roll over with that. I think he also used a wedge pillow to prop his head and upper body up. But definitely ask your doctor or OT/PT team what they suggest.
posted by obfuscation at 5:01 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I too put long pillows on either side of me to prevent rolling over, which it mostly did. But I found the single BEST thing to prevent roll-over (recovering from C-sections multiple times) was having a pillow under my knees. It made it very difficult to roll over without waking up. (And made my back feel better.) If I started to roll to one side, my hips couldn't go without knocking my knees together and my feet getting all mixed up, which either settled me back into place or woke me up! (Only if you're allowed to have a pillow under your knees, of course!)

It might be worth experimenting a little before the surgery to see what works for you and is most comfortable, take a couple of naps, see what's comfy.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:57 PM on February 20, 2017

I second the pillow under the knees. I'm a stomach sleeper but the times I've had to sleep on my back due to injury were only possible when I propped a pillow under my knees. Having them on the sides didn't help because they moved around too much during the night.
posted by forza at 6:14 PM on February 20, 2017

After surgery I had to sleep on my back for a few weeks. I used large headphones. I listened to audiobooks and podcasts as I fell asleep with a sleep timer and just left the headphones on till morning. I wasn't able to turn without it waking me up. I also added a large pillow on the side for comfort.
posted by Coffeetyme at 6:23 PM on February 20, 2017

This is a common requirement for top surgery (bilateral mastectomy), although not for 2 months. Lots of guys sleep in a recliner and put pillows on either side so it's impossible/unlikely to roll over. If it's not something you want to have permanently then buy a used one and resell it.
posted by AFABulous at 8:38 PM on February 20, 2017

I tend towards lower back pain and something in the structure of my spine / lower back / glutes means that I am horribly uncomfortable laying on my back. In the last weeks of my last pregnancy I had the added joy of a head cold plus pregnancy related back pain. I ended up sleeping pretty well in a recliner.
posted by vignettist at 10:12 PM on February 20, 2017

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