Tips for Sleeping after Breast Reduction Surgery

Strategies to Sleep Better after Breast Reduction Surgery

Breast reduction surgery is a medical procedure that many individuals undergo for various reasons. While the surgery can offer many benefits, the recovery period is an essential aspect that requires attention, particularly when it comes to rest and sleep. Sleeping after such a procedure may present challenges due to discomfort or the need to maintain certain postures to aid the healing process. This blog aims to offer insights and guidance on how to manage sleep effectively during the recovery phase after breast reduction surgery. Whether it’s about finding the right sleeping position, creating the right sleep environment, or managing discomfort during the night, Specialist Plastic Surgeon Dr Michael Kernohan shares a variety of tips to help ease this crucial aspect of your recovery journey.

Download Dr Kernohan’s Breast Reduction Surgery Guide

Breast Reduction Guide

Prioritise Back Sleeping

Sleeping on your back is often the most recommended position following breast reduction surgery. This advice is grounded in the fact that back sleeping helps in reducing undue pressure on your chest, which is paramount for a smooth and less painful healing process. After undergoing such a significant surgical procedure, it’s essential to give your body the best chance at a swift and complication-free recovery, and the way you sleep plays an important role in this.

  • Understanding the Benefits: The most significant benefit of back sleeping is the even distribution of weight across your body. This avoids any concentrated stress on the area of your surgery. By lying flat on your back, you’re less likely to experience wound irritation or disrupt the healing tissues. This position also helps in reducing swelling and can prevent the formation of fluid pockets around the surgical site. A proper back sleeping position ensures a more restful sleep by minimising discomfort, which is essential for your body’s recovery process
  • Making Adjustments: Transitioning to back sleeping can indeed be challenging, especially if you’re someone who usually sleeps on your side or stomach. To facilitate this change, use pillows strategically. Place a pillow on either side of your body; these act as gentle barriers to prevent you from turning over in your sleep. Additionally, consider placing a small, soft pillow under your knees. This not only offers lower back support but also helps maintain a slight bend in your knees, which can alleviate back strain. Keep in mind that the goal is to make back sleeping as comfortable as possible so that it doesn’t disrupt your sleep quality
  • Choosing the Right Pillow: The choice of your head pillow is also critical in ensuring a comfortable back sleeping position. A pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck without pushing your head too far forward is ideal. Avoid pillows that are too high or stiff, as they can lead to neck strain and discomfort. Memory foam pillows are often recommended because they conform to the shape of your neck and head, providing tailored support. Pillows designed specifically for back sleepers can also be a good choice as they are usually crafted to offer the right level of support and comfort for this sleeping position.

Use Specialised Pillows for Support

After undergoing breast reduction surgery, the role of pillows in your recovery and sleep quality cannot be overstated. Specialised pillows do more than just provide comfort; they are instrumental in maintaining the recommended post-operative back sleeping position and offering the necessary support to areas of your body that are healing.

  • Types of Pillows: In the array of pillows available, certain types stand out for their post-surgery benefits. A wedge pillow, for instance, is an excellent choice for elevating your upper body. This elevation is key in reducing swelling and can significantly alleviate discomfort, which is common after breast surgery. By keeping your upper body slightly raised, you’re also promoting better lymphatic drainage and reducing the risk of fluid accumulation around the surgical site. Besides wedge pillows, body pillows or pregnancy pillows can also be very effective. These longer, more versatile pillows provide full-body support and can be particularly useful in maintaining the back sleeping position. They offer a comforting embrace and can be positioned to prevent you from inadvertently rolling onto your side during the night
  • Positioning Pillows: The strategic placement of these pillows is essential. For a wedge pillow, the ideal position is under your back and head, creating a gentle incline. This semi-reclined position can be more comfortable and less straining than lying completely flat, especially in the immediate days following surgery. As for body pillows, their flexibility allows them to be moulded into various shapes. You can hug them, place them along your side, or even position them behind you to create a comfortable barrier, thus helping you to maintain a safe and stable sleeping position throughout the night
  • Alternatives for Comfort: In addition to these specialised pillows, don’t overlook the comfort that can be found in using softer, more adjustable pillows. These can be arranged around your body to create a ‘nest’ that provides tailored support exactly where you need it. Whether it’s a small cushion tucked under your arm, a soft pillow behind your lower back, or a flat pillow under your thighs, the key is to listen to your body and adjust these pillows to address any specific discomforts or support needs you may have. This level of customisation not only improves your comfort but also helps in adapting to the necessary sleeping position changes post-surgery

Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment

Your sleeping environment plays a significant role in how well you rest during the recovery process. A few adjustments to your bedroom can make a substantial difference:

  • Setting the Right Temperature: Keep your room at a comfortable, cool temperature. A slightly cooler room can help improve sleep quality. Consider using a fan or air conditioner to regulate the temperature
  • Controlling Light and Noise: Dim the lights in your bedroom or use blackout curtains to create a dark environment conducive to sleep. If noise is an issue, earplugs or a white noise machine can be beneficial
  • Ensuring Comfort and Safety: Your bed should be easily accessible. If your bed is too high or too low, it might be challenging to get in and out of bed post-surgery. Use bed steps or adjust your bed height if necessary. Also, ensure that your pathway to the bathroom is clear to prevent trips and falls during the night

Wear Suitable Sleepwear

The right sleepwear can greatly impact your comfort levels during the post-surgery period. It’s essential to choose garments that are gentle on your skin and do not interfere with the healing process:

  • Fabric Choices: Opt for sleepwear made from soft, breathable fabrics. Cotton is a good option as it is gentle on sensitive skin and allows your skin to breathe
  • Design and Fit: Look for sleepwear that is easy to put on and take off, especially if your mobility is limited. Front-opening tops or those with minimal fuss are ideal. Ensure the fit is loose enough to not press against your surgery site but secure enough to support any dressings
  • Post-Surgery Bras: A supportive post-surgery bra is key. These bras are designed to support your breasts without underwires, which can irritate incisions. Make sure the bra fits well and provides enough support without being too tight

Manage Pain Effectively to Sleep Better after Breast Reduction Surgery

Effective pain management is vital for a good night’s sleep post-surgery. It’s important to follow Dr Kernohan’s advice and find what works best for you:

  • Pain Medication: Take any prescribed pain medication according to your surgeon instructions. Timely medication can prevent pain from disturbing your sleep
  • Natural Pain Relief Methods: Techniques such as deep breathing, gentle stretching, or using heat/cold packs can be supplementary methods for managing discomfort. However, always consult with your surgeon before trying any new method
  • Staying Ahead of Pain: It’s easier to manage pain if you don’t let it build up. Adhering to a medication schedule can keep discomfort at manageable levels, especially before bedtime

Establish a Soothing Pre-Sleep Routine

A consistent pre-sleep routine can signal your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep, which is particularly helpful when your normal sleep pattern is disrupted.

  • Relaxation Techniques: Practices such as meditation, gentle yoga, or listening to calming music can relax your mind and body. Find a relaxation technique that you enjoy and make it a part of your nightly routine
  • Limit Screen Time: Reduce exposure to screens at least an hour before bed. The blue light emitted by phones, tablets, and computers can interfere with your ability to fall asleep
  • Prepare Your Bedroom: Create a calming atmosphere in your bedroom. This might include dimming the lights, setting the temperature to a comfortable level, and ensuring your bed is inviting and ready for sleep

FAQs about Sleeping after Breast Reduction Surgery


What is the best sleeping position after breast reduction surgery?

  • After breast reduction surgery, it is highly advisable to sleep on your back, as this position places the least amount of pressure on your breasts. This not only aids in reducing pain and discomfort but also minimises the risk of applying pressure to the surgical sites, which could potentially disrupt the healing process. Additionally, back sleeping helps in even distribution of body weight, which can be beneficial for reducing swelling and preventing fluid accumulation around the surgery area. Dr Kernohan may advise using extra pillows to keep your upper body slightly elevated, which further assists in reducing swelling.

How long should I sleep on my back after the surgery?

  • The recommended duration for back sleeping after breast reduction surgery typically ranges from 4 to 6 weeks. However, this timeframe can vary depending on individual healing rates and the specifics of your surgical procedure. It is important to follow your surgeon’s advice closely, as he will consider factors such as the extent of the surgery, your overall health, and how your recovery is progressing. As you heal, Dr Kernohan might provide updates on your sleeping positions, gradually allowing more flexibility as the risk of complications decreases.

Can I use regular pillows for support while sleeping?

  • While regular pillows can be used, specialised pillows such as wedge pillows or body pillows are often recommended for enhanced support and comfort. A wedge pillow can help maintain an inclined position, which is beneficial for reducing swelling and relieving pressure on the chest area. Body pillows can provide additional support to maintain the back sleeping position, preventing you from rolling onto your side during the night. It’s also helpful to use a soft pillow under the knees to alleviate lower back pressure. The key is to create a supportive and comfortable sleeping environment that caters to your specific post-surgical needs.

Is it normal to experience sleep disturbances after the surgery?

  • Experiencing sleep disturbances after breast reduction surgery is quite common. Factors such as discomfort from the surgery, pain, adjusting to new sleeping positions, and even post-surgical anxiety can contribute to these disturbances. It’s important to manage pain effectively with prescribed medications and to create a comfortable sleeping environment. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or listening to calming music before bed, can also be beneficial. If sleep disturbances persist or worsen, it is advisable to consult with your surgeon or a surgeon for further guidance.

When can I return to my normal sleeping position?

  • The timeline for returning to your normal sleeping position varies based on individual healing processes and the nature of your surgery. Generally, Dr Kernohan advises waiting until you have healed sufficiently and there is minimal risk of affecting the surgical results. This is typically a period of several weeks, but it can vary. It’s crucial to get approval from your surgeon before making any changes to your sleeping position. Dr Kernohan will assess your recovery and advise you when it’s safe to resume normal sleeping positions. During follow-up appointments, discuss your sleep patterns and any concerns you may have so that your surgeon can provide personalised advice based on your recovery progress.

Further Reading about Breast Reduction with Sydney Plastic Surgeon Dr Michael Kernohan

Medical References about Breast Reduction