As you may already know, hernia and hernia surgery are nowadays incredibly common, routine medical procedures that you should not be afraid of. However, whether you are going in for surgery in the next few weeks or are currently recovering from hernia surgery, know that it is likely that you will experience some level of pain and discomfort after the surgery. This is normal and part of the healing process.
This being said, there are ways to accommodate you in this time, especially regarding your sleep. Getting enough rest is one of the most essential elements of healing and should be prioritized during the few weeks that directly follow your operation. In order to help you improve quicker, we at Sleepreporter.com have investigated the question of sleeping after hernia surgery to provide you with all the guidance and support you may need.
First Thing First: What is hernia surgery?
A hernia is the abnormal exit of tissue or an organ, such as the bowel, through the wall of a cavity in which it normally resides. This condition may cause varying symptoms depending on the location of the hernia such as: an apparition of a bulge in the groin area, pain at or around the location of the hernia, and/or vomiting and fever in case of an obstruction of the bowel.
Hernias are usually remedied through different types of hernia surgery. This includes:
- Open hernia repair surgery. Here, an incision is made and the hernia “sac” containing the bulging intestine is identified, then put back in place.
- Laparoscopic hernia repair surgery. Here, the above is carried out with a laparoscope connected to a small camera inserted via a tiny incision at the belly button. This method of surgery generally means that permanent scarring is much reduced and recovery time usually quicker.
- Robotic hernia repair surgery. This is done through a similar process as the laparoscopic hernia repair surgery, except that the surgeon is seated at a console in the operating room, and handles a robot, which then handles the surgery itself. This typically allows the surgeon to get much better, 3-D images of the abdomen during the surgery.
How to sleep after hernia surgery?
As stated above, unfortunately, while recovery from hernia surgery is typically quite quick (1-2 weeks) most people do experience some level of pain and discomfort after the surgery, which may lead to trouble sleeping. You may also struggle to find an appropriate sleeping position that will not push on your wound or disturb your stitches. Your general stomach and groin area will most likely be sore for a while. As sleep is an essential step to a full recovery for any kind of medical intervention, we at Sleepreporter.com will give you the below tips to cater for better sleep after hernia surgery.
1. Sleep in an elevated position
This may be something that your doctor has already told you about, but sleeping in an elevated position is generally better and less painful after hernia surgery. Laying all the way down, be it on your back or on your sides can be quite painful.
As such, it is recommended to sleep on one or more pillows that you can set behind your back to maintain a half-sitting/half-lying position. While this will take some getting used to, it will probably be the most comfortable set up right after surgery. As the days pass and you slowly recover, you may adapt the set-up or the number of pillows to better suit your needs. Also, be mindful of elevating your whole torso, rather than only your head – this will help prevent straining in your neck.
2. Take care of the incision when getting in and out of bed
You will most likely do this quite naturally but make sure to mind your incisions while getting in and out of bed. The last thing you want to is to put more weight, stress or pressure on your wound, and/or pull your stitches. As your muscles and main abdominal region will be sore after surgery, you will want to be very mindful and slow about getting in and out of bed, especially in the first few days.
While getting into bed, the general advice is to prepare your bed before you lie down, set up all your pillows carefully. Then, keep a pillow against you and hug it to your abdomen as you move – this should help alleviate the pain and make your wound feel safely tucked in and protected. If this sounds like it may be of assistance, try sitting on the bed first, then laying on your side on your pillows, before rolling onto your back. This should minimize movement when you’re settling in.
While getting out of bed, repeat the steps above, but in reverse. Roll onto your side, place your feet on the ground and use your arms and elbows, rather than your abdominal muscles to prop yourself up safely. Remember to breathe slowly and deeply while doing this, as though you were doing physical exercise or meditation – know that this is not a race, it’s mostly about taking care of yourself.
While this may be a bit counterintuitive, try exhaling as you sit up. This should help you through the effort. You may also ask for someone in your house to help support you for a few days post-surgery.
3. Consider investing in an automated recliner or a wedge pillow
Sleeping on our backs and in an elevated position can be far from natural for most of us. As such, you may want to consider investing in a recliner, which may be more comfortable and stable than sleeping on a mountain of pillows. Additionally, Tiara Croft at SleepFlawless.com recommends getting an automated recliner, as this may also help with the struggle of getting in and out of bed without pulling on your wounds.
If you are not ready to invest in a whole recliner, you may want to consider a wedge pillow. This is a triangular, foam pillow that you can use to elevate your chest, either through using it by itself or with the help of other pillows to stabilize yourself or help support your neck. This may be a good idea especially if you have other health issues that may require to keep part of your body elevated down the line. You may, for instance, use a wedge pillow to keep your legs up and improve blood flow.
4. Tips for side sleepers
Plenty of people (especially as they age) actually turn out to be side sleepers. Changing that routine may be very cumbersome, especially if you need to mind your sleep after surgery. If you just cannot fathom sleeping completely on your back, it may be a good idea to put a pillow at your side (perhaps under your hip), to give your body a little side inclination. YouTuber Chris Hamilton set up a tutorial on how to do that in this handy video.
5. Consider relaxation and meditation
Just like SleepReporter.com already recommended for sleeping after meniscus surgery, you may want to consider trying meditation and relaxation to help you with post-op conditions after hernia surgery. Indeed, these practices have been proven to help with dealing with post-surgery pain, even with patients who are only beginning with meditation. Additionally, relaxation and meditation are also known to help patients get better sleep, even when they have chronic sleep issues like insomnia. Sometimes, meditation is even recommended in hospitals. As such, it may be a very good idea to consider this solution and remember that the benefits aren’t limited to your recovery time. Plenty of people see meditation and relaxation as a way to vastly improve their lives.
What to avoid after hernia surgery?
First and foremost, avoid sleeping on your front and remember that if you experience any pain, it is better to breathe deeply and slowly through it, rather than holding your breath. You should obviously also try to avoid twisting your torso as much as possible, including during your sleep, as this may cause stress to your wound and stitches. For similar reasons, try to avoid any heavy lifting after your surgery.
Wrapping it up
In conclusion, after hernia surgery – just like after any medical procedure – it is important to value your sleep, take time for yourself and make absolutely sure that you are getting enough rest. Always follow medical guidelines and specific advice that your doctor may give you, as this will be the key to a quick and (relatively) painless recovery. If anything feels off or particularly painful, do mention it to your doctor and always take your medication specifically as prescribed.
Additionally, if you truly struggle with pain or sleep during your recovery, do talk about it with a medical professional. If you’re considering taking additional medication such as painkillers or over-the-counter sleeping tablets, make sure you clear it with your doctor first, before proceeding. They will be able to steer you towards what is best suited for your needs.
Lastly, recovery may take time and be painful, so make sure that you are not alone during this time. Your friends and family are here to help!