How to Sleep with Broken Ribs – Sleep Better & Recover

How to Sleep with Broken Ribs - Sleep Better & Recover

Woman Suffering From Stomach Pain
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.

Their shape 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.

Rib bones are classified into two main types, i.e., typical and atypical bones. Below is an outline of these bones and their structures.

Typical rib bones

These bones range from number 3-9. The first and the last two pairs are considered atypical. They pose the following characteristics; body, head, neck, tubercle, and anterior extremity.

Porous in nature and concave in shape, the anterior extremity's feature enables it to attach the costal cartilage to the frontal part of the thorax.

The tubercle has a part that articulates the inferior vertebrae's traverse process. This part, in turn, adjoins to the ligaments of the tubercle. The bone's neck connects the shaft to the head.

The body is the central part that is long and curved. Near the posterior end is where the curving is significant, forming a coastal angle. The coastal groove creates an inferior border which enables the detection of sharper orientation of the bone.

Atypical bones

The atypical bones consist of the first two bones and the last two alongside the tenth rib, unique since it has only one particular facet on the head.

The first ribs have a single articulation facet on its head. This is in correspondence with the thoracic vertebrae upon which it sits on. The subclavian vessels are located between the grooves of the superior surface. This bone has distinct features from the rest, i.e. It's broader and shorter.

The second rib is longer than the first rib, with two articulating facets on its head. The articulation is for joining with the corresponding vertebrae.

The tenth rib has one facet for articulation, and the last two have a single facet that connects to the corresponding vertebrae without a neck.

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.

More often, people visiting the hospital for 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.

It may lead to accidental puncturing of the lungs, blood vessels or heart. Some bone fragments may find their way into one of these delicate organs bringing with it unprecedented complications.

Symptoms exhibited by someone with broken ribs are;

  • Breathing difficulties.
  • Intense pain in the chest.
  • Taking a deep breath becomes difficult and painful.
  • The persons fall short of breath

A fractured bone can take up to 12 weeks for complete bone healing. If you don't feel well after this time frame, seek medical attention.

If you have ribs that won't heal, surgical correctional options can get you back on track. You should see your doctor regularly to assess the performance of your bones.

Why Do I Feel Pain When Sleeping With Rib Fractures?

Sleeping with shoulder pain comes 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 sleeping with broken bones 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 the body heat. On the other hand, coughing increases pain due to quick and successive expansion and contraction of the chest cavity.

When you're asleep, the ribs aren't contracting like during the daytime. This is because your body releases cell regeneration hormone to accelerate the healing process. With this in mind, note that you need a minimum of 8 hours of sleep if you want to fasten the bone 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 without knowing.

Positions to Adopt When Sleeping With Broken Ribs

Now that you have a brief knowledge about ribs, it's vital to note that trauma may lead to sharp frequent chest pain.

Sleeping might prove extremely difficult, especially if the extent of the trauma to the chest is severe. Most rib traumas are a result of a direct impact on the chest cavity.

Ribs are tough yet flexible. Their flexibility enables them to accommodate any pressure from external for. If the external force exerted passes the threshold, it might break or crack.

If you've ever experienced trauma to your rib cage, then you know that ribs hurt a lot when you are asleep than when you're awake.

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

Ideally, this is the best sleep position for patients with a broken rib. This position can help your ribs heal quickly than lying down on the bed. Sleeping while lying down may exert unwanted pressures on the spine, which might be transferred to the ribs. This, in turn, causes the ribs to ache, making it difficult to get out of bed.

When in this sleep position, ensure you have a pillow at your head and beneath your arms. Placing the pillows below your arms may go a long way in preventing 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. For example, a patient with multiples rib fractures has many options when buying these custom-designed pillows like the wedge pillow.

If your choice is to sleep upright, consider getting a recliner for maximum comfort. You can also go for a chaise lounge chair. Pick the one that suits your best.

Recliners are pretty advantageous when it comes to sleeping upright. Doctors popularly recommend these chairs since they put you at an elevated angle with maximum comfort.

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. With the adjustable features, you can quickly get out of the chair in the morning.

The chaise lounge chair is more like a recliner but unique in its way. It comes with features that enable you to sleep at an elevated angle, depending on your adjustment choice.

Luxurious as it may be, consider getting a chair with an armrest (recommended for patients with rib trauma) and a backrest pillow. This pillow allows you to attain support and a great position with a comfortable balance. Also, ensure your chest remains straightened for proper breathing and coughing.

Sleeping on Your Back

Sleeping on your back 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 may cause sleep deprivation, thus leading to 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 for maximum comfort.

For instance, 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.

Place an ice pack over the affected region 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 affected area significantly.

Maintaining a locked sleeping schedule can go a very long way in increasing the healing process. This will enable your body to detect when to secrete hormones that help in the healing process.

Getting a full 8-hour sleep is essential in maintaining healthy immunity. Meaning that your body will be in such a healthy condition to secrete the healing hormones. Consider this also as a tip on how to sleep with an ear infection.

In contrast, getting lesser sleep those seven hours might lead to the development of depression and anxiety. These effects might affect your sleep quality since they interfere severely with the body's immune system.

So, ensure you keep away from your computer, phone or tablet during bedtime. Plus, you may eat a light snack but avoid drinking stimulants such as coffee.

Sleeping on your side, back and sitting up straight are the only viable positions for this situation. Your choice will be based on your level of comfort. Some doctors recommend sleeping on the injured side to allow more room for your expansion and contraction of the chest cavity to ease breathing.

During the first days of your injuries, ensure you limit your movements. When you wake up in the morning, avoid stretching, turning or twisting, or you'll feel more severe pain. Limited movement gives the ribs time to regenerate cells that were holding them together.

Avoid wrapping your ribs as much as possible to prevent your lungs from collapsing. If your lungs collapse, you risk developing lung infections.

Related Content: How to sleep with Intercostal muscle strain

Taking Deep Breaths

This might prove to be difficult at first, but with time you get hang of it. Deep breaths can be painful to your chest, 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 additional injuries to your ribs.

Keep in mind that breathing exercises are supposed to be taken under a qualified respiratory therapist. If shallow breathing isn't done right, you risk pneumonia infections, among other respiratory illnesses.

A spirometer, a device used in measuring the volume of air exhaled and inhaled, is used in this breathing exercise. This is important as it will enable you to gauge how deeply you should breathe plus how you feel.

Pain Medication 

Pain medications may be narcotics to keep your mind in a sane condition as your ribs heal. If the pain is not severe, consider using ibuprofen or naproxen. These pain meds can be bought over the counter,

When using pain meds, ensure you follow the instructions as indicated on the label of the bottle. Don't take these meds more than the prescribed amount.

Avoid the pain meds for about 24 hours as it may cause internal bleeding leading to compilations. In case you're not sure, ask your doctor.

If the pain persists, consider seeking professional medical advice from your doctor, who might prescribe a more potent drug.

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.

Coughing Safely

Coughing may feel a lot more complicated than expected, especially if you have extensive damages to your ribs. 

It can potentially cause an infection within the lungs or collapse the lungs. When you feel like coughing, ensure you always have a blanket nearby folded like a pillow or a pillow.

This is mainly for convenience, to ensure you'll be able to reach it quicker. All you need to do is hold the blanket or the pillow against your chest gently when coughing to dampen the pain.

Quitting Bad Habits

These habits may range from smoking to drinking. These substances will ruin your chances of healing quicker.

For example, if you drink and drive, you're most likely to develop more injuries. Injured ribs need gentleness to repair. But if you keep moving recklessly, it's going to take you longer to heal.

Smoking can make you cough, and since you're putting your lungs in harm's way by smoking, you're making them susceptible to lung infection.

Quitting these habits can improve your immune system significantly, meaning lesser times for your ribs' healing process.

Eating Healthy

To boost your immunity and accelerate healing, you will have to consume more vegetables and fruits, such as oranges, bananas, apples, and more. On vegetables, you can consume spinach, carrots, and broccoli,

Remember, eating healthy involves having a balanced diet. So, ensure your meal consist of the three main components of a balanced diet.

Consume dairy products, too, such as cheese and yoghurt. As for extra protein, go for chicken, shrimp, beef and more.

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 be harmful to your sleep and recovery. Besides improving your quality of life, physical activities can help your immune system work even better to boost your healing process.

Before you know it, you'll be spending less time trying to get some sleep with broken rib bones. So, if your physician allows it, do some light physical activities like 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 sleep with broken ribs. Different patients have different needs when it comes to choosing how they want to sleep.

Since not all bone fractures are similar, 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.

5 thoughts on “How to Sleep with Broken Ribs – Sleep Better & Recover”

  1. I have been searching all over the internet for information to help me in my present condition, which I so clumsily acquired Wednesday a.m. (9/22/2021) when I tripped and fell full frontal onto the floor and fractured my 6th and 7th ribs. Have sharp, (literally breath-taking) shooting pain, underneath my left breast often, and wasn’t sure about how long to wear a brace which DOES help. And also the info about what position to sleep in was very helpful. This article had everything in it that I needed and has helped so much! Thank you guys for putting out such informative and helpful information.

  2. Broken ribs 3rd and 7th it has been three weeks now . Still hurting but don’t have that sharp pain. Your information has help me understand my injury. Thank you

  3. I’m a 73 yr old female, 5 days ago I fell whilst walking my 2 small dogs. A rather excitable dog walking on a long extended lead very quickly encircled myself and my two dogs. I didn’t have a hand free to prevent my fall. I landed heavily on the pavement on my left breast. I knew immediately that I had damaged my ribs as the pain was instant and it’s been constant ever since. I’m grateful for the advice you’ve provided as it confirms what I’ve been doing thus far is the best course of action.
    I had hoped the sharp pain which occurs on movement, coughing, bending forward, raising arms to dress, brushing hair, lifting a kettle etc would have subsided by now. Sleeping is difficult I’m now going to try ice packs as you suggest. Thank you for your advice.

  4. I appreciate all the information provided here. One thing I am unsure about is do rib bones broken in the back cause more symptoms?
    I am 70 yrs old and fell 6 ft from a ladder. I fell on my side breaking 7 ribs, I also caused unstructured damage to my hip. This was on Sept 27, I spent 3 days in hospital an 7 days in rehab.
    I am numb in front of the side with the broken ribs, I still can’t sleep in my adjustable bed. I had to buy a lift chair because I could not use my right arm to use my recliner.
    I assume there is still hope but getting discouraged.

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