Knee surgery is stressful and painful, and it hardly seems right that it is typically followed by a fairly prolonged period of painful recovery that is sure to interfere with your ability to sleep. Both the pain of knee arthroscopy and the medications you take to manage the pain can cause you sleepless nights.
In this article, we will discuss the problem of knee surgery induced insomnia and suggest three sleeping positions that may help. Read on to learn more.
Safe post-procedure sleeping positions
1. Back sleeping is generally recognised as the best sleeping position all around. It is easier on your back and better for your circulation. After knee surgery, sleeping on your back protects your incision from accidental bumps and pressure during the night. When sleeping on a memory foam mattress, use a pillow or a foam wedge under your knee to keep your leg stable and promote good circulation.
2. Non-operative side sleep can also protect your compromised knee. Lie on your “non-operated” side and place a couple of pillows between your legs to keep your recovering leg stable. Don’t allow your affected leg to shift forward, and don’t cross your legs.
3. Reclining in a zero-gravity chair or a recliner can provide good support, keeps your knee stable and promotes good blood circulation.
What if I’m a stomach-sleeper?
It only stands to reason that you cannot sleep on your stomach if you have just had surgery on your knee. This position would put a lot of pressure on your recently operated-upon knee. It would definitely be painful and would be very likely to cause your incision to open up.
Post operative sleep is very important
When you get enough sleep, you will feel energised to care for yourself properly and participate effectively in your rehab program. Physical therapy is physically taxing. You will need good sleep to recharge your batteries and keep you going throughout your recovery process.
Lack of sleep can significantly delay your recovery from surgery. When you sleep, your body heals and reconstructs. Lying still in a position that promotes good blood circulation helps reduce swelling, bruising and inflammation. As you rest, your brain signals production of hormones that help your tissues regenerate.
A good night’s rest helps you keep anxiety and stress under control. Effective sleep helps you ward off high blood pressure, mental exhaustion, moodiness and the depression that often accompanies recovery from surgery.
Getting a solid seven or eight hours of sleep every night stabilizes your metabolism so that you won’t tend to put on weight as you recover. A stable metabolism also helps keep your blood sugar level under control. This is especially important if you have diabetes or might be prone to developing it.
Why is knee arthroscopy such a sleep killer?
Any illness or injury will interfere with your sleep, but there are several reasons why recovering from knee surgery really tends to rob you of sleep.
1. Pain can be surprisingly intense following joint surgery. It can take six weeks or more for pain to subside completely.
2. Medications prescribed to deal with the pain may also interfere with your ability to sleep. Most of the time, narcotic pain killers are used. These can interfere with rapid eye movement (REM) cycles and disrupt your normal sleep patterns.
3. Anxiety and depression are common after knee surgery. The surgery is traumatic, and many people are hit hard by the disability that follows. This depression should be short term. If you find yourself suffering from lingering post-surgical depression talk with your doctor about stress management techniques and other non-med solutions.
How long does it take to normalise sleep patterns?
As pain subsides, your sleep patterns will normalise. Your recovery time and the success of your recovery are dependent upon a number of factors. The more fit you are going into surgery, the quicker you will recover. The better you take care of yourself as you heal, the quicker your recovery will be.
Generally speaking, you should begin to experience a reduction of pain within a couple of weeks, and you should be fairly well recovered within 6 weeks. At this point, you may be able to return to your accustomed sleep positions if you want to and if your doctor agrees.
In this video, physical therapists Bob and Brad discuss safe sleeping positions following knee or hip surgery.