How to sleep after a knee replacement

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Total or partial knee replacement surgery can cause pain for some days after the operation, which can make falling asleep difficult. Try these tips to get a more restful night’s sleep following a total or partial knee replacement.

Take painkillers an hour before you hit the hay

Following discharge, you will be prescribed painkillers to take at regular intervals during the day and night. Make sure to take your final dose around an hour before bedtime to ensure the pain relief coincides with the time at which you’re trying to fall asleep.

Remember, if you have been prescribed painkillers to take throughout the day, the medical team have done so for a reason. Take them on schedule rather than being tempted to take ‘as required’, even if you’re not feeling in too much pain at the time.

It’s also a good idea to have painkillers by your bedside should you wake up in pain. Just remember to check the clock to ensure you’ve left the recommended number of hours between doses.

Apply a cold compress before bedtime

Icing your knee can provide respite from the pain by numbing the area. Place a towel on the affected knee and apply some ice around 30 minutes before you retire.

Consider your sleeping position

Sleeping on your back is usually the best way to rest after a knee replacement operation. Straighten your leg as far as you comfortably can and slightly raise it by positioning a pillow or two beneath your calf to ensure proper blood flow to the affected area.

If you find it more comfortable to sleep on your side, don’t lie on the operative side. Place a cushion between your legs to provide some extra support to the affected knee. You might find that sleeping on your side is more painful to begin with but becomes easier as the knee heals.

Sleeping on your front is a bad idea after knee surgery as it will place pressure on your surgery site.

Only cover up lightly

It’s also a good idea to invest in a lightweight duvet after the operation to reduce the pressure and weight on the affected knee, particularly if you prefer to sleep under the covers.

Do the sleep basics right

We all know the basics of good sleep hygiene and routines, but they’re especially important after surgery. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants after midday, minimise naps during the day, try something relaxing such as reading a book before bed, don’t be tempted to spend time on your phone in bed and keep the bedroom cool and well ventilated. It’s also important to avoid alcohol post-knee surgery as it can mess with the actions of painkillers and impact recovery times.

After six weeks, most people who have undergone partial or full knee reconstruction surgery will usually be experiencing noticeably less pain and be able to be more active. This should be reflected in the length and quality of sleep you’re able to get during the night. If your sleep is still poor, it’s worth getting in touch with the medical team who oversaw your procedure or your own GP.

For more information on total and partial knee surgery, including what to expect before, during after the procedure, get in touch with our specialist team.

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