Home / Blog December 27, 2022

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How To Sleep After Shoulder Surgery For Less Discomfort

To get the best sleep after shoulder surgery, sleep in a reclined position and support the shoulder with a pillow under the arm. This allows for proper blood circulation and prevents you from moving onto the post-operative shoulder experiencing pain. Wearing a sling to bed may also help.

how to sleep after shoulder recovery


Sleeping in a reclined position can help prevent post-op shoulder surgery patients from moving onto their sides.

Slings and pillows under the arm can help relieve shoulder tension and improve sleep.

Depending on the conditions of the surgery, patients may take six months or more to fully recover. 

Did you know?
A 2022 research review found that after making a full recovery, all shoulder surgery patients from past studies experienced improved sleep compared to before their procedure.

Are you recovering from a shoulder procedure and having a tough time getting rest? Struggling to stay comfortable in bed?

Learning how to sleep after shoulder surgery can be a challenge. There’s a delicate balancing act of staying off the painful areas while still being cozy enough for a good snooze. The good news is that a few simple changes to your bed setup can put you on the path to better sleep and recovery.

Sleep In A Reclined Position

Even the snuggest bed can become uncomfortable after a surgery. One shift to the wrong side and you’re wide awake in pain.

That’s why rehabilitation specialists say the best way to sleep after shoulder surgery is in a reclined position. It can discourage patients from rolling onto their recovering side and give better support to the shoulder.

You don’t need a special bed, either. Wedge-shaped pillows can get you to the right angle, and with the right combination of pillows, you can make sitting upright as relaxing as you like.

One thing to be careful of is not making the angle you sleep at too harsh. Shoot for something around 45 degrees measured from a flat position as studies show that going too steep can impact sleep.

Use A Pillow For Shoulder Surgery Recovery

Getting your bed angle right is only half the battle. To make the most of your situation, you may want to look to pillows for answers. Specifically, pillows between the arm and ribcage.

For those recovering from a shoulder operation, a pillow under the arm helps increase blood circulation, allowing for faster recovery. Our ergonomic body pillow might be a good fit as it can be shaped to suit your needs.

And while your upper body is likely the main area of concern after a shoulder procedure, the whole frame can start to feel uncomfortable when it’s not allowed to move. A body pillow can help with that, too.

Placing one beneath your legs or behind the back just above the waist can give lumbar support. You may find that having one behind your upper back between the shoulder blades helps, too. Dig around and find the pillow position that works best for you.

shoulder recovery body pillows

Sleeping With A Sling After Shoulder Surgery

While your shoulder is in recovery, your doctor will most likely recommend a sling to keep your arm from moving around. And when combined with our Cuddler, you may find that it’s the best way to sleep after shoulder surgery.

A 2018 study found that a special brace with an under-arm pillow (called an abductor shoulder brace) reduced tension behind the shoulder significantly. They found the effect improved with larger pillows.

So, sleeping with a combination of a sling and a pillow may help to speed up your recovery, getting you back to a normal sleep routine faster.

How Long After Shoulder Surgery Can I Sleep In Bed

How Long After Shoulder Surgery Can I Sleep In Bed?

Even if you play your cards right and get the highest quality sleep possible in the weeks after shoulder surgery, you’ll still have to wait to make a full recovery.

How long it takes to get out of the recliner and into a normal, flat bed depends on several factors. What type of surgery you had, for one. Your age, for another.

One Japanese study from 2011 looked at recovery time for rotator cuff repair patients and found that 31% took less than three months, 40% took three to six months, and 28% took more than six months.

As always, hope for the worst and expect the best. And most importantly, consult with your physician. However, if you’re lucky, you could be ready to sleep in a regular bed within three months.

Bonus Tips For Sleeping After Shoulder Surgery

Aside from setting up your bed for success, there are a few actions that you can take before bed to lessen your pain:

  1. Take your pain meds at least 30 minutes before bed. That way they’ll kick in just in time for you to drift off to dreamland.
  2. Ice your shoulder in the evening. Less inflammation should hopefully mean less pain.
  3. Avoid sleeping on the painful side. This may seem obvious, but do whatever you have to do to keep off the affected shoulder. Sticking our body pillow on your side can be a good restraint, stopping you from rolling over. 


To improve your sleep after shoulder surgery, you may need to make a few changes to your sleep routine. Reclined beds, body pillows like our Cuddler, and slings can all help to improve your sleep and your recovery.

If your sleep is suffering because of shoulder pain, it may only take a few tweaks to your bed setup to set it right.