Knowing the most supported sleeping positions after hysterectomy can help you rest comfortably and promote your physical recovery.
The hysterectomy sleeping positions demonstrated in this video are also appropriate for women after prolapse surgery.
Video suitability: Women during home recovery from abdominal or vaginal hysterectomy and /or pelvic prolapse surgery.
Please scroll down below this video for more information to help you sleep comfortably after a hysterectomy.
Hysterectomy Recovery Exercises e-Book
Reduce the risk of common hysterectomy side effects and promote the speed of your recovery.
- Early hysterectomy recovery (abdominal or vaginal hysterectomy)
- Preparing for a hysterectomy
- Reducing the risk of common side effects e.g. back pain, constipation and gas
- Preparing your body for return to work and regular activity.
Sleeping Positions After Hysterectomy
Sleep can affect the rate of recovery after a hysterectomy1.
Resting comfortably after a hysterectomy can be interrupted by:
- Wound pain
- Musculoskeletal pain (e.g. lower back pain)
- Gas pain
- Coughing pain
- Being unable to move in bed and get comfortable
There is evidence to suggest that after abdominal hysterectomy some women have greater trouble sleeping during the first week of recovery than after a vaginal hysterectomy 2.
Best Sleeping Positions After Hysterectomy (or Prolapse Surgery)
There are two appropriate sleeping positions for hysterectomy recovery after discharge from hospital. These supported sleeping positions described below have also been shown to relieve lower back or neck pain in mature adults 3.
The two best sleeping positions are:
1. Supported supine (lying on your back)
2. Supported side lying
The position you choose for sleeping depends on your own physical comfort and other health issues that you also experience. For example some women are unable to sleep supine because of lower back pain after hysterectomy while others experience shoulder or hip discomfort preventing them from sleeping in side lying.
Position 1 – Supported Supine Sleeping Position
Supine is the most commonly used resting position during early hysterectomy recovery in hospital.
Steps for supported sleeping lying on your back (at home)
Step 1. Place a pillow under your knees. The pillow relieves pressure from your lower back when and allows you to do your regular calf pump circulation exercises.
Step 2. Use one appropriate sized pillow to support your head and neck in a neutral position. Avoid sleeping with two large pillows when sleeping on your back to reduce the likelihood of neck and/or upper back strain which can result when the neck is held in a flexed position (i.e. too far forward).
Step 3. Avoid prolonged high sitting (unless medically advised). Vary your resting position throughout the day from lying flat and sitting out of bed. Sleep lying down flat on the mattress with one pillow supporting your knees and one pillow supporting your head and neck.
Position 2 – Supported Side Lying Sleeping Position
Side lying is reportedly the most common sleeping position 3. If you’re a side sleeper it makes good sense to support the body in side lying since this support can improve the quality of sleep 4. Side lying is also a useful position for shifting gas after hysterectomy.
After a hysterectomy lying on your side can cause discomfort owing to the effect of gravity stretching the abdominal and pelvic tissues towards the mattress. Unsupported side lying can also aggravate lower back, hip and/or pelvic pain particularly when the trunk rolls forwards during sleep or if the mattress is too soft to provide good spinal support .
Steps for supported sleeping lying on your side (at home)
Step 1. Place a pillow length ways between your legs to prevent your pelvis from rolling forwards and keeping your hips evenly aligned as you sleep.
Step 2. Rest a pillow length ways on the mattress against your trunk for lower abdominal support. This pillow will help to prevent stretching of your lower abdomen while supporting your upper body.
Step 3. Support your head and neck in a neutral (straight) position with a single pillow that avoids tilting your head and neck while sleeping.
Sleeping and Lower Back Pain After Hysterectomy
Women often develop lower back pain after hysterectomy, sometimes as a direct result of resting for extended periods of time in a high sitting position in their hospital bed (shown right). This position allows them to eat their meals in bed and perform other activities such as reading or using mobile devices.
Avoid the high sitting in bed position for extended periods of time after hospital discharge (unless medically advised). This is because high sitting increases pressure on the spinal curves in the lower back, increasing the risk of lower back injury.
Your lower back will be better protected and feel more comfortable if you spend time lying down in the supported sleeping position. Try to vary your back position during the day by walking and sitting in a chair to eat your meals as soon as you’re well enough.
Sleeping Wedge Alternative to High Sitting
If your upper body needs to be elevated for sleeping or resting, an alternative to high sitting is a sleeping wedge to raise the upper body.
A sleeping wedge can improve resting comfort after pelvic surgery and reduce lower back pressure (compared with high sitting position). Sleeping on a wedge can also benefit women who need to sleep with their upper trunk elevated for medical reasons such as sleep apnoea or oesophageal reflux.
Hysterectomy Recovery Exercises for Avoiding Post-Operative Complications (eBook)
with Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist
Prepare for your hysterectomy with these Physical Therapy exercises and techniques that help you:
- Move well with minimal discomfort
- Exercise safely
- Reduce your risk of major complications and common side effects of hysterectomy.
Includes exercises for constipation, gas pain, lower back pain, moving in and out of bed and safe return to activity after hysterectomy.
1. Preben Kjølhede, P. et al ( 2012) The Impact of Quality of Sleep on Recovery from Fast-Track Abdominal Hysterectomy. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 15(7) pp 395-402. Retrieved from http://jcsm.aasm.org/viewabstract.aspx?pid=28614
2. COSPER, B et al (1978) Characteristics of Posthospitalization Recovery Following Hysterectomy. JOGNN 7 (3) pp 7-11. Retrieved from https://www.jognn.org/article/S0090-0311(15)30175-7/pdf
3. Haex B . Back and Bed: Ergonomic Aspects of Sleeping. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2005
4. Verhaert, V. et al (2011). Ergonomics in bed design: The effect of spinal alignment on sleep parameters. Ergonomics. 54. pp 169-78. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00140139.2010.538725?journalCode=terg20