Tips for Sleeping after Body Lift Surgery

The Importance of Proper Sleep Post-Surgery

In the process of recuperating from body lift surgery, sleep emerges as a key component. Its importance cannot be understated, especially in the context of surgical recovery. When you sleep, your body undergoes a remarkable transformation, shifting from the day’s activities to a state of healing and rejuvenation. This period of rest is not just about conserving energy; it’s a complex, active process where the body focuses on repairing and regenerating tissues, strengthening the immune system, and restoring physical and mental well-being.

In this blog, Sydney Plastic Surgeon Dr Michael Kernohan will discuss what body lift surgery is and tips to sleep better after this procedure.

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What Does Body Lift Surgery Include?

Lower Body lift surgery is a complex procedure that aims to reshape and tone the lower torso and upper legs. It’s particularly popular among those who have experienced significant weight loss and are left with excess, sagging skin. The surgery typically includes:

  • Abdominal Area: Often incorporating elements of an abdominoplasty or tummy tuck, it removes excess skin and fat from the abdomen and tightens abdominal muscles
  • Buttocks and Thighs: The lift can extend around the sides to lift and tighten the buttocks and outer thighs. This improves contour and reduces sagging skin
  • Lower Back: Excess skin can also be removed from the lower back area, helping to smooth and contour the waistline and back
  • Hip Area: The lift often includes the hip area, removing excess skin and creating a more defined and toned appearance

Benefits of Sleep for the Body

Accelerating Tissue Repair and Growth

  • During the deeper stages of sleep, the body releases growth hormones. These hormones play a pivotal role in tissue repair and muscle growth, both of which are vital after body lift surgery
  • The increase in blood flow to muscles during sleep also contributes to tissue growth and repair, providing the necessary nutrients and oxygen for healing

Enhancing Immune Function

  • Sleep bolsters the immune system, a crucial aspect of post-operative recovery. This enhancement helps the body fight off potential infections and effectively respond to inflammation, a common aftermath of surgery
  • The production of certain cytokines during sleep, which are necessary for fighting infection and inflammation, highlights the body’s intrinsic healing mechanisms at work

Reducing Inflammation and Swelling

  • One of the key responses of the body post-surgery is inflammation. While it’s a part of the healing process, excessive inflammation can lead to discomfort and prolong recovery. Sleep helps in moderating the body’s inflammatory responses
  • The regulation of stress hormones during sleep also plays a role in controlling inflammation. Chronic sleep disruption can lead to increased levels of stress hormones, exacerbating inflammation and impeding healing

Risks Associated with Poor Sleep during Recovery after Body Lift Surgery

Lack of adequate sleep can significantly hinder the healing process following body lift surgery. The consequences of poor sleep extend beyond mere tiredness and can have tangible impacts on your recovery process:

  • Delays in Wound Healing: Sleep deprivation has been linked to slower wound healing. The reduced production of growth hormones and cytokines due to inadequate sleep directly impacts the body’s ability to repair surgical wounds effectively
  • Increased Susceptibility to Infections: With a weakened immune response due to insufficient sleep, the risk of post-surgical infections increases. This can lead to complications, extended recovery periods, and in some cases, the need for additional medical interventions
  • Prolonged Recovery Period: Overall, the lack of restful sleep can extend the duration of the recovery period. It can exacerbate pain, increase the likelihood of complications, and delay your return to normal activities

Choose the Right Sleeping Position after Body Lift Surgery

Opting for the right sleeping position after body lift surgery is essential for a number of reasons. It not only influences your comfort level but also plays a significant role in the healing and recovery process. Here’s a look into why and how you should adopt these sleeping positions:

Sleep on Your Back

  • Pressure Avoidance: Sleeping on your back is highly recommended because it avoids direct pressure on the areas that have undergone surgery. Pressure can disrupt the healing process, potentially cause pain, and might even affect the results of the surgery
  • Weight Distribution: This position promotes even distribution of weight, which is important for preventing undue strain on any part of your body. Uneven weight distribution could lead to complications or discomfort, particularly in areas that are still healing
  • Posture Maintenance: Maintaining a good posture while sleeping is important. Lying on your back naturally aligns your spine, neck, and head, reducing the risk of developing aches and pains in these areas

Elevate Your Upper Body

  • Reducing Swelling: Elevation of the upper body is a key factor in reducing swelling. After surgery, the body’s natural response is to swell in the affected area. By elevating the upper body, you encourage fluids to move away from the surgical site, thereby reducing swelling and associated discomfort
  • Improved Comfort and Breathing: Especially if you’ve had surgery around the abdominal area, elevation can make breathing more comfortable
  • Using Pillows or Wedge Pillow: Ordinary pillows can be used to elevate your upper body, but for more stable and comfortable support, a wedge pillow is ideal. Wedge pillows are designed to provide a gradual incline, which can be more comfortable and supportive than stacking multiple pillows

Additional Tips for Effective Sleep Positions

  • Pillow Placement: Experiment with the placement of pillows to find the most comfortable position. For instance, placing a pillow under your knees can alleviate lower back pressure, even when you’re lying on your back
  • Avoid Twisting Movements: When getting into bed, try to avoid twisting movements, especially at the waist. Use your arms to support yourself as you gently lower yourself onto the bed

Tips for Optimising Sleep Quality

Getting quality sleep, especially after body lift surgery, can significantly influence your recovery. Here are practical tips to help you get the restful sleep your body needs during this critical time:

Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule

  • Consistency is Key: Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This routine helps regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up naturally
  • Be Mindful of Naps: While napping can be tempting, especially when you’re recovering, try to keep them short. Long or late-afternoon naps can interfere with your night-time sleep

Create a Comfortable and Soothing Sleep Environment

  • Your Bedroom Setup: Ensure your bedroom is a calm, quiet, and dark space. Consider using blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out light, and earplugs or a white noise machine if noise is an issue
  • Choose the Right Mattress and Pillows: A comfortable mattress and pillows are important. After surgery, you may need extra pillows to support your body and maintain a safe sleeping position

Consider Gentle Relaxation Techniques before Bedtime

  • Relax Your Mind: Engage in calming activities like reading, listening to soft music, or deep breathing exercises before bed. These activities can help signal to your body that it’s time to wind down
  • Limit Screen Time: Try to avoid screens like phones, tablets, and TVs an hour before bed. The blue light emitted can disrupt your sleep cycle

Monitor Dietary and Fluid Intake

  • Watch Your Diet: Avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Spicy or acidic foods can cause stomach trouble and heartburn, which might keep you awake
  • Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Both can disrupt sleep. Try to avoid caffeine late in the day and be aware that alcohol, while it might help you fall asleep, can lead to disrupted sleep later in the night

Keep Your Room at a Comfortable Temperature

  • Optimal Temperature: Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room. Experiment to find a temperature that works for you, usually around 18 degrees Celsius

Address Pain and Discomfort

  • Manage Pain Effectively: Follow Dr Kernohan’s advice on pain management. Uncontrolled pain can significantly disrupt sleep
  • Use Supportive Accessories: Consider using specialised pillows or mattress toppers designed to provide extra support and comfort

Be Active during the Day

  • Light Exercise: If Dr Kernohan agrees, engage in light activities like walking. This can help improve your sleep quality, but avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime as it can be stimulating

Manage Stress and Anxiety

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Techniques like mindfulness and meditation can help calm an anxious mind, making it easier to fall asleep
  • Write It Down: If you have a lot on your mind, try writing down your thoughts in a journal before bed. This can help clear your mind and make it easier to drift off to sleep

FAQs about Sleeping after Body Lift Surgery


What is the best sleeping position after body lift surgery?

  • The most recommended sleeping position after body lift surgery is on your back, with your upper body slightly elevated. This can be achieved by using a few extra pillows or a wedge pillow. This position helps reduce swelling, minimises strain on the surgical area, and aids in proper blood circulation, which is essential for healing. Avoid sleeping on your stomach or side, as these positions can put pressure on your surgery sites and cause discomfort or disrupt the healing process.

How long should I maintain a specific sleeping position post-surgery?

  • Usually it’s advised to maintain a back-sleeping position for at least 2-6 weeks after surgery, depending on Dr Kernohan’s advice and the specifics of your procedure. It’s important to follow your surgeon’s recommendations closely, as he understands the details of your surgery and can provide personalised guidance for your recovery.

Can I use regular pillows to support my body while sleeping after surgery?

  • Yes, regular pillows can be used, but it’s often more beneficial to use specially designed support pillows. Wedge pillows can provide elevation for your upper body, and additional pillows can be placed under your knees to alleviate pressure on your lower back. This not only makes sleeping more comfortable but also helps in maintaining the correct position to aid in your recovery.

Is it normal to have difficulty sleeping after body lift surgery?

  • Yes, it’s quite common to experience some difficulty sleeping after surgery. Factors like discomfort, pain, and the need to maintain a specific sleeping position can disrupt your normal sleep patterns. It’s important to follow your pain management plan and create a comfortable sleeping environment to improve your sleep quality. If sleep difficulties persist, consult Dr Michael Kernohan for further advice.

Are there any specific products or tips that can help improve sleep quality post-surgery?

  • There are several products and tips that can help. Using a high-quality, supportive mattress and specially designed post-surgical pillows can make a significant difference. Keeping the room dark, cool, and quiet is also helpful. Additionally, avoiding caffeine and heavy meals before bedtime, establishing a regular sleep schedule, and engaging in relaxing activities such as reading or listening to soft music before bed can also contribute to better sleep quality.

Further Reading about Body Lift Surgery with Sydney Plastic Surgeon Dr Michael Kernohan

Medical References about the Benefits of Sleeping After Surgery