How to Sleep with Broken Ribs - Sleep Better & Recover
Ribs act as protective gears within the chest, coursing from the spinal column to the sternum. Their primary role is to protect the delicate organs such as the heart and lungs. If you have multiple broken ribs, you'll find it hard to sleep in your usual sleep position.
This in-depth guide will take you through everything you need to know about broken ribs, including the best positions that can help you reduce discomfort when sleeping with bruised ribs.
What Ribs Are and Their Functions
Ribs are twelve paired curved bones articulating from the thoracic vertebrae adjoining to the sternum by cartilages to form the thoracic cavity. Together the ribs form what we call a rib cage.
The shape of the rib cage enables them to protect the fragile thoracic organs such as the lungs. They also ventilate the chest through expansion to allow room for lung expansion. Let's look at the causes of rib fractures and how to sleep with broken ribs and rib pain.
Causes of rib fractures
Commonly, rib fractures are brought by blunt trauma. The trauma may occur due to a car or motorbike accident, fighting, and other physical activities where pressure is forced onto the rib cage.
More often, people visiting the hospital with broken ribs will have one or more chest trauma. Some even experience flail chests. The most dangerous thing about these traumas is that they can cause extensive damage.
For instance, It may lead to accidental puncturing of the lungs and lung collapse, puncturing blood vessels or the heart.
Symptoms exhibited by someone with broken ribs are;
- The person can't sleep comfortably
- Intense pain in the chest area
- Ribs hurt constantly
- Deep breathing becomes difficult and painful
- The person experiences shortness of breath
A broken rib can take up to 12 weeks for complete healing. If you don't feel well after this time frame, seek medical attention. Consider seeing your doctor regularly to assess the healing process of your rib injury.
Why Do I Feel Pain When Sleeping With Rib Fractures?
Sleeping with broken ribs is like sleeping with shoulder pain, they come with many inconveniences, and various factors will affect how comfortable you'll be while sleeping. Likewise, numerous factors may cause you to experience sharp pain when you sleep with broken ribs compared to when you're awake. The first on the list is the change of temperature.
In lower temperatures, the body muscles contract to retain body heat. Additionally, coughing increases rib pain due to quick and successive expansion and contraction of the chest cavity.
When you sleep with broken ribs, your bones aren't contracting as they do at daytime. This is because your body releases cell regeneration hormone to accelerate the healing process. Keep in mind that you need a minimum of 8 hours of sleep if you want to fasten the broken rib healing process.
After you fall asleep, you no longer have control over your body movement. This might potentially lead to sharp pain in the night as you toss about your bed, putting pressure on the broken rib.
Positions to Adopt When Sleeping With Broken Ribs
Note that trauma may lead to sharp frequent chest pain, making sleeping extremely difficult, especially if the extent of the trauma to the chest is severe. Most broken ribs are a result of a direct impact on the chest cavity.
Sleeping with broken ribs can be quite challenging. However, once you know the effective tips on how to rest comfortably despite your condition, you can rest assured of getting your shut-eye in no time.
So, how can you sleep with broken ribs?
Below is a comprehensive highlight of the sleep positions to adopt if you're looking for comfort.
Related Content: How to sleep after cervical neck surgery
Sleeping While Sitting Upright
During the first few weeks of your rib injury, restrict your turning and stretching movements and try sleeping upright.
Ideally, this is the best sleep position for patients with broken ribs. Sleeping while sitting upright can help your broken rib heal quickly than lying down flat on the bed. Sleeping while lying down may exert unwanted pressure on your spine, which might be transferred to the broken ribs. This, in turn, causes the broken ribs to ache, making it difficult to get out of bed and to sleep comfortably.
When in this sleep position, ensure you have a pillow at your head and beneath your arms to prevent any involuntary movements when asleep.
Pillows are essential for such kinds of phenomena since they increase the degree of comfort. Many pillows are designed with a patient's needs in mind like the wedge pillow. A wedge pillow will keep the body elevated for pain relief.
Consider sleeping in a recliner for maximum comfort. You can also go for a chaise lounge chair or an adjustable bed for your mattress.
The good thing about these chairs is that they come packed with exciting features like zero gravity. The gravitational option enables you to adjust your back and head to specific positions you feel comfortable in.
Sleeping on Your Back
Sleeping on your back with broken ribs may prove painful due to the force exerted on the rib cage by the pressure emanating from the spine. The pain can give you sleepless nights, which causes slow healing. You might even experience hip pain depending on the firmness of your mattress.
Getting an adjustable bed can help improve your sleep quality. The adjustable bed comes with customizable features you can tweak to your own advantage. You can also purchase a mattress topper in case your mattress is too soft.
The "zero gravity" feature comes in handy when you want to assume an elevated but comfortable angle. You can also adjust the bed to sit up and lie down without straining too much.
Additionally place an ice pack over the broken ribs for about 20 minutes before retiring to bed to reduce the pain. This ensures that the pain subsides due to a temporary numbness. The ice pack also reduces the swelling on the fractured ribs significantly, helping you sleep better with rib pain. Make sure you wrap the ice pack in a clean cloth before applying it to the broken ribs.
While sleeping on your back isn't recommended when recovering from a broken rib injury, a slight elevation on your back while sleeping can allow your fractured ribs to receive an uninterrupted supply of blood, helping you sleep better. In conclusion, sleeping on your side and sitting upright are the best positions for broken ribs.
Practicing Deep Breathing
Your broken ribs are not fully healed until you have proper breathing and coughing. You can slowly practice deep breathing by doing simple breathing exercises before you go to bed. Deep breaths can be painful for people with broken ribs, especially if the injuries are in their initial stage.
Doctors recommend that you begin with shallow breathing exercises. This ensures that you don't cause further injury to your fractured ribs.
Keep in mind that deep breathing exercises are supposed to be taken under a qualified respiratory therapist, don't do it alone at home. If shallow breathing isn't done right, you risk pneumonia infections and lung infections among other respiratory illnesses.
Tip: For proper breathing and coughing, fold a blanket and hold it or a pillow against your chest gently when coughing to dampen the rib pain.
Pain relievers can be narcotics to keep your mind in a relaxed condition as your ribs heal. If the pain is not severe, consider using ibuprofen or naproxen. These pain medications can be bought over the counter, but have the consent of your doctor.
When using pain medications, follow the prescriptions faithfully. Don't take pain relievers more than the prescribed amount, even if you don't feel better, and fall asleep immediately.
Pain relievers may have tremendous effects on your body if you're a person ailing from liver diseases. Other health issues to watch out for are high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, kidney and heart disease. In addition, avoid smoking while using pain relievers.
Be Physically Active
It's normal to feel debilitated and want to rest when having a rib injury. But keep in mind that spending almost the entire day in bed can affect recovery. Besides improving your life and sleep quality, physical activities can help your immune system work even better and make your broken ribs heal quickly.
If your physician allows it, do some light physical activities before you go to bed, such as slow walking around the house, to help keep you active.
Find the Best Treatment Plan
Broken ribs can be painful and take longer to heal. The above information sheds light on how you can comfortably fall asleep and stay asleep with broken ribs. Different patients have different needs when it comes to choosing how they want to sleep.
Since each broken rib situation is different, feel free to choose any sleeping style, depending on your preference. All in all, ensure you seek professional medical advice to find the best treatment plan and avoid further complications.