Problems Sleeping
After a Hip Replacement


Problems sleeping after a hip replacement are very common.

Dealing with them is important. A good night's sleep is essential for your physical and emotional health.

I was really stunned how hard it was to sleep and I'm normally an Olympic class sleeper.

So here's some guidance on how to deal with sleeping difficulties and, even more importantly, how to ensure you stay safe after you've nodded off. 

Crossing your operated leg over your non-operated leg whilst you're asleep is very risky and can lead to a dislocation

Before we begin

Please bear in mind that different surgical approaches will affect your sleeping choices. The following is for guidance only and is based on my own experience of having a lateral incision (the most popular). If you have questions about your individual circumstances speak to your health care provider.

Sleeping after hip replacement surgery can be divided into three stages.

Stage 1 - Post-op

Immediately after surgery you will be asked to sleep on your back with a pillow between your legs. This reduces the risk of hip dislocation.

You will also be given high doses of pain medication which will help you sleep and probably mean, that if you aren't sleeping during the night, you will be so spaced out you won't really mind. At this stage you're not likely to have any problems sleeping.

Stage 2 - Back home

On returning home you will need to continue to keep sleeping on your back for a few weeks. How long must be discussed with your doctor.

As the weeks pass, and if you naturally sleep on your side, you will start to find it harder to continue sleeping on your back.

After about six weeks post-op you may be allowed to change over to sleeping on your side but you must take care. It's not as easy as it sounds.

Firstly, turning over is physically hard work as your operated leg will feel heavy and you must be very careful not to twist it as you turn. I found it easiest to lift the covers before turning.

Secondly, you must prevent the operated leg rotating inward or crossing the mid line of your body. To do this you need to support your operated leg.

Problems Sleeping
One possible solution

You can keep your leg from falling over the mid-line by the skillful use of pillows. Place one pillow between your legs and another just in front of you. If your operated leg does move forward (as mine always does) then the second pillow should prevented it crossing the leg underneath and hence lowers the risk of a dislocation.

The problem I found is that I kept losing the pillows - often enough they'd fall out of my bed and I'd have to get up to retrieve them (light on, find crutch, hobble round bed, realise can't bend down to pick up pillow etc etc!)

I am not looking at some newer style cushions that may have straps to hold them in place and are firmer than standard pillows.  More of that in a few days.

Stage 3 - Getting back to normal

Some doctors have said that we shouldn't ever sleep on our operated side again.  Other are on record as saying you can do it as soon as you want to. How helpful is that!

By eight weeks post-op, you're problems sleeping should have significantly lessened. At that time I tried experimenting and found it possible to drop off to sleep on my operated side but would wake up in pain. Eight months post-op that still happens to some degree but less so then before but I have found a compromise - sleeping half way between my front and my operated side and that works well for me.

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