How to Sleep after Rotator Cuff Surgery

by Sehrish Vulvox ABC

If you’ve recently had rotator cuff surgery, you know that it can be a painful and uncomfortable process. One of the biggest challenges is getting a good night’s sleep. In this article, we’ll discuss tips and tricks to help you sleep comfortably and get the rest you need to heal properly.

Understanding Rotator Cuff Surgery

Before we dive into sleep tips, let’s review what rotator cuff surgery is and why it can be so uncomfortable. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that help you lift and rotate your arm. When these muscles and tendons are damaged, surgery may be necessary to repair them. After surgery, your shoulder will be immobilized in a sling for a period of time to allow the healing process to begin. This can make it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position.

Sleeping Positions After Rotator Cuff Surgery

Finding a comfortable sleeping position after rotator cuff surgery can be challenging, but it’s important to get enough rest to help your body heal. Here are some sleeping positions to consider:

  • Sleeping on Your Back

Sleeping on your back with a pillow or rolled up towel under your affected arm can help keep your shoulder in a comfortable position. Make sure to use a supportive pillow to keep your head and neck in a neutral position.

  • Sleeping on Your Non-Operated Side

If you’re able to, sleeping on your non-operated side can be a comfortable position. Use a pillow to support your head and neck, and another pillow to support your affected arm.

  • Sleeping in a Recliner

Sleeping in a recliner can be a good option, especially if you have trouble getting in and out of bed. Make sure to use pillows to support your head, neck, and affected arm.

Tips for Getting Comfortable

No matter what sleeping position you choose, there are some tips and tricks that can help you get comfortable:

  • Use Pillows for Support

Pillows can be a great way to support your body and help you find a comfortable sleeping position. Try using pillows under your head, neck, and affected arm.

  • Try Heat or Cold Therapy

Applying heat or cold therapy to your shoulder before bed can help alleviate pain and inflammation. Use a heating pad or ice pack for 15-20 minutes before you go to sleep.

  • Take Pain Medication Before Bed

If you’re experiencing pain that’s keeping you up at night, talk to your doctor about taking pain medication before bed. Make sure to follow their instructions carefully and never take more than the recommended dose.

  • Relax Before Bed

Engage in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or stretching to help you relax before bed. This can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

  • Preparing Your Sleeping Environment

Creating a comfortable sleeping environment is key to getting a good night’s sleep after rotator cuff surgery. Here are some tips to help you prepare your sleeping environment:

  • Use Soft, Comfortable Bedding

Invest in soft, comfortable bedding to help you sleep better. Make sure to choose bedding that’s breathable and won’t trap heat, as this can lead to discomfort and sweating.

  • Adjust Your Room Temperature

Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature. You don’t want it to be too hot or too cold, as this can make it difficult to sleep.

  • Keep the Room Dark

Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to keep your room dark. This can help you sleep better and avoid disturbances from outside light.

Understanding the Recovery Process

Before we dive into specific tips for sleeping after rotator cuff surgery, it’s important to understand the recovery process. This will help you set realistic expectations and avoid unnecessary frustration.

Recovering from rotator cuff surgery typically takes several months, and it’s a gradual process. In the early stages, you’ll need to wear a sling to immobilize your arm and allow the surgical site to heal. You’ll also need to avoid certain activities, such as lifting heavy objects or reaching overhead. As you progress through the recovery process, you’ll gradually regain strength and mobility in your arm. You’ll work with a physical therapist to perform exercises and stretches to help you regain function.


In conclusion, sleeping after rotator cuff surgery can be a difficult and frustrating process, but there are steps you can take to improve your comfort and get the rest you need to support your recovery. By understanding the recovery process, managing pain and discomfort, performing exercises to improve mobility, and using safe techniques for getting in and out of bed, you can improve your ability to sleep and promote healing. Remember to talk to your doctor or physical therapist if you have any questions or concerns about your recovery process or sleeping after surgery.

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