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How To Sleep With Broken Ribs

How To Sleep With Broken Ribs (2023)

Last updated: 31.10.2023 Reading time: 4 Min. Liked by: 14

Sleeping with broken ribs can be a real challenge.

But don't worry - we're here to help!

We understand how important rest is for recovery, which is why we've created this comprehensive guide to help you find relief. 😌

With this guide, you can discover the best practical tips, sleeping positions, and pain management techniques for a comfortable, safe night's rest.

So, let's get started.

How to sleep with broken ribs

Understanding rib injuries

A thorough understanding of rib injuries is essential for finding ways to sleep comfortably and safely.

Several types of rib injuries, such as broken, bruised, cracked, and fractured ribs, impact sleep differently. 🦴

Broken ribs mean the bone has been completely severed, while rib fractures and cracked ribs have partial breaks or hairline cracks.

In contrast, bruised ribs and intercostal muscle strains result from damage to the surrounding muscles and tissue without the bone being broken.

symptoms of a broken rib

The common symptoms of rib injuries, such as severe pain, swelling, and difficulty in breathing, can significantly affect your ability to sleep well.

Swelling and inflammation around the injured area can worsen matters by causing discomfort and pressure on the surrounding structures. 😩

Best sleeping positions for rib injuries

Finding the right sleeping position when dealing with a rib injury can be a game-changer for your comfort and recovery. 🏅

Adjusting your sleeping position can reduce pressure on the injured area and minimise pain during the night.

When sleeping with a rib injury, avoid lying directly on the injured side.

This will put less pressure on the broken bones and prevent further pain.

sleeping on your back with support pillow
Sleeping on your back with a little extra support can be helpful.

Instead, try sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees. 🛌

This position helps to maintain the natural curvature of your spine and reduces the strain on your rib cage.

Another option is to sleep in a slightly elevated position, propping yourself up with a wedge pillow or choosing to sleep on a recliner.

Man sitting in a slightly elevated position with a wedge pillow
Using a wedge pillow to elevate yourself can ease discomfort and simplify breathing.

This angle can help reduce discomfort by taking weight off your ribcage and making breathing easier.

If you sleep on your side, you should lie on your uninjured side with a pillow between your knees.

This position can help align your spine and support your injured ribs.

You may need to experiment with different combinations of pillows and supports to find the most comfortable position for your particular injury.

Tips for a comfortable night's sleep with rib injuries

Irrespective of your sleeping position, rib injuries can still be quite uncomfortable and can interfere with your sleep.

However, there are a few tips that can help make your sleep more comfortable and restorative.💡

From adjusting your sleeping environment to incorporating pain-relief methods, these suggestions aim to make your sleep as restful as possible.

So, let’s dive in.

Limit your movement while sleeping

When we sleep, we naturally move and change positions.

However, with broken ribs, excess movement can exacerbate pain and hinder the healing process. 😩

moving to different sleeping positions
You may struggle to be comfortable, but it's important to limit movement as much as possible.

In the initial days following the injury, it's crucial to minimise actions such as sneezing and movements like twisting or turning.

As discussed above, you can arrange your pillows in a way that supports your upper body and restricts unnecessary movement.

Although it might seem logical to wrap your ribs to limit movement, you should avoid doing so. ❌

Wrapping your ribs could potentially increase your risk of complications such as a collapsed lung and lung infections.

Using over-the-counter pain relievers

Over-the-counter pain meds are an effective way to tackle pain from rib injuries. 💊

Woman sleeping with medication
Pain from rib injuries can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications.

Non-prescription painkillers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or paracetamol, can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain, making it easier to rest comfortably.

However, you should always follow the recommended dosage instructions and consult your doctor before starting any new pain medication. 📝

Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals. Please seek the advice of your pharmacist or GP before using pain medication.

Practise deep breathing exercises to manage ediscomfort

Shallow breaths may seem the more obvious choice, but deep breathing exercises help alleviate pain and encourage proper lung function and circulation, which are essential for healing. 🫁

To perform these exercises, find a comfortable position, breathe in slowly through your nose, and allow your chest and abdomen to expand.

Hold your breath for a few seconds before slowly exhaling through the mouth.

Repeating this process several times will help you relax and ease your discomfort.

4-7-8 breathing exercise
Simple breathing exercises can help you manage discomfort.

It's important to be gentle with your body during these exercises and listen to your body's signals. 🚨

Stop immediately if you feel more pain, and consult your healthcare professional for guidance.

Using a heating pad or ice pack

Utilising a heating pad or ice pack can be an effective way to manage pain and discomfort. 🌡️

Heating pads can help relax tense muscles around the injured area, which can aid in reducing pain and promoting better sleep.

While using the heating pad, make sure that it isn’t too hot to avoid burns.

You should also use it for short periods to prevent overheating.

Ice packs, in contrast, can be useful in reducing inflammation and numbing pain, especially in the early stages of an injury. 🧊

heat or ice pack

man putting compress on broken rib

When using an ice pack, wrap it in a thin towel to protect your skin from frostbite.

You should limit its application to 20-minute intervals.

Getting in and out of bed safely

If you have a rib injury, you must get in and out of bed safely.

  • To get into bed, first sit on the edge and hold your injured side away from the bed.
  • Slowly drop onto your side and gently swing your legs onto the mattress, using your arm for support. 🦵🏻
  • Roll onto your back or into your preferred sleeping position, moving carefully and avoiding pressure on the injured area.

Reverse this process when getting up: Turn onto your side, gently swing your legs out of bed, and move into a sitting position using your arms for support.

Support your injured side

By providing adequate support, you can minimise the pressure on your ribs, allowing them to heal more effectively.

One way to do this is to use extra pillows to prop up the affected ribs.

This can help relieve discomfort and maintain a more comfortable sleeping position.

Another option is to use a body pillow or special rib support pillows that mould to your body and provide targeted support to the injured area.

Woman sleeping with a body pillow
Body pillows offer targeted support to the injured area.

Let's take a look at some of the best pillows in the UK that you can use to support your injury while you sleep.

Best support pillows in the UK:

Monitoring the progress of your rib injury

Keeping an eye on the progress of your rib injury is vital for ensuring proper recovery.

First and foremost, following your doctor's advice and recommendations for care and treatment is essential.

Regular check-ups and x-rays can help with monitoring the healing process and making necessary adjustments to your care plan. 🩻

Pay attention to any changes in your symptoms, such as increased pain, swelling, or difficulty breathing, as these may indicate a need for further medical attention.

man considering options
It's important to pay attention to your symptoms to assess whether or not you're improving.

Being patient during the healing process is essential, as rib injuries can take several weeks to months to fully heal.

Incorporating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and engaging in gentle movement or stretching can aid in the healing process. 🍎

When to seek medical attention

Recognising when you should seek medical attention or further treatment for your rib injury is crucial. 👩🏼‍⚕️

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it's a good idea to consult your doctor:

  • Persistent or worsening pain, including chest pain, despite following your prescribed treatment plan.
  • Increased difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath that doesn't improve with rest or changes in position.
  • Signs of infection, including redness, warmth, or pus around the injury site.
  • A sudden increase in swelling or the appearance of new bruising.
  • The development of fever or chills, which could indicate an underlying infection.

Additionally, if you're unsure whether you're healing as expected, don't hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider for a follow-up.

It's always better to err on the side of caution and consult a professional, as they can offer tailored advice and ensure you're on the right track to recovery.

If you would like to read more how-to guides, you may find our How To Sleep With A Sprained Ankle and How To Sleep with Vertigo articles interesting.

So, how should you sleep with broken ribs?

Dealing with rib injuries can be an uncomfortable experience, especially when trying to get a good night's sleep. 😴

By implementing the various tips and strategies we've discussed, you can improve your comfort levels and ensure safer, more restful sleep.

Adjust your sleeping position and use supportive pillows and other aids to alleviate discomfort.

Don't forget the importance of managing pain, practising deep breathing exercises, and being cautious when getting in and out of bed. 😮‍💨

Keep an eye on the progress of your injury, and seek medical advice if you experience any concerning symptoms or are unsure about your recovery.

With patience, care, and the right approach, you can successfully navigate the healing process and enjoy restorative sleep, even with broken ribs.

Frequently asked questions

  • What are the typical reasons for broken ribs?

    One of the most common causes of broken ribs is trauma or impact to the chest wall.

    This often occurs during events like a car accident or while participating in contact sports where there's a higher risk of direct hits to the chest. 🚘

    Another prevalent cause includes severe strain on the intercostal muscles, which are located between the ribs.

  • How do rib injuries impact sleep quality?

    Rib injuries can significantly impact sleep quality due to pain and discomfort, especially when changing positions or breathing deeply. 💨

    The inflammation and swelling around the injured area may cause additional discomfort, making it difficult to find a comfortable position.

    Also, broken or bruised ribs may cause anxiety and stress, further disrupting sleep. 

  • Can I sleep on my side with broken ribs?

    Sleeping on your side with broken ribs is generally not recommended, especially on the injured side. ❌

    Sleeping on your side may cause additional rib pain and discomfort, potentially hindering healing. 

    Instead, sleeping in an elevated position, propped up on pillows, can help alleviate pain and promote better breathing.

    If you must sleep on your side, try using extra pillows to support your injured side and create a cushion between your ribs and the mattress. 

  • Is a fracture of the sternum the same as a rib fracture?

    No, they are not the same.

    A sternum fracture refers to a break in the breastbone located in the middle of your chest.

    A rib fracture, in contrast, is a break or crack in one or more of the bones of the rib cage. 🦴

    Both conditions, however, are serious and require medical attention.

  • References

Aeman avatar


Content Writer

A huge fan of naps! Being a sleepyhead with a busy life is tough, so I decided to write about it. 

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