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How To Sleep With Bruised Ribs

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedMarch 20, 2024

Bruised ribs cause pain during daily activities and significantly affect one's ability to get a good night's sleep. Sleep is crucial for the body's healing process, yet the discomfort from bruised ribs can make finding a comfortable position difficult, leading to restless nights and prolonged recovery periods.

Given the importance of sleep in the healing process, this guide aims to provide practical advice on sleeping with bruised ribs. By understanding the best sleeping positions, pain management techniques, and additional tips for comfort, individuals suffering from this condition can find some relief and promote a more effective healing environment for their bodies.

This article will explore strategies and recommendations to help those with bruised ribs achieve a better night's sleep, thereby supporting their overall recovery and well-being.

Preparing for Sleep

Creating a conducive environment for sleep is crucial when dealing with bruised ribs. The right setup can significantly reduce discomfort and help you find a restful position that supports healing. Here are steps to prepare for a better night's sleep:

1. Optimize Your Sleeping Environment

Use a mattress that supports your body without creating additional pressure points on your ribs. A medium-firm mattress is often recommended to provide both support and comfort.

Choose soft, breathable bedding to regulate your body temperature throughout the night. Avoid heavy blankets that might put extra pressure on your ribs.

2. Arrange Your Pillows

Pillows are essential in creating a supportive sleep environment. Use extra pillows to prop yourself up or support your injured side. A pillow arrangement can help maintain a position that minimizes pain and supports healing.

3. Room Temperature and Lighting

Ensure the room is comfortable, typically around 65°F (18°C). consider using blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out light. A relaxed, dark environment is often more conducive to sleep.

4. Minimize Noise Disturbances

If noise is a concern, consider using earplugs or a white noise machine to help drown out disruptive sounds.

5. Limit Fluid Intake Before Bed

To minimize nighttime trips to the bathroom, which can be painful and disruptive, try to limit fluid intake in the hours leading up to bedtime.

6. Prepare Anything You Might Need During the Night

Keep essentials like water, pain medication, and any required medical devices within easy reach of your bed. This minimizes the need to get up during the night, which can be painful and disrupt your sleep.

Recommended Sleeping Positions

When dealing with bruised ribs, finding a comfortable sleeping position is crucial to avoid exacerbating the pain and to promote healing. Below are the recommended sleeping positions tailored for individuals with bruised ribs:

1. Sleeping in a Semi-Reclined Position

Sleeping in a semi-reclined position, using a recliner, or arranging pillows to create a supportive slope on the bed can help by reducing the pressure on the ribcage, facilitating easier breathing, and minimizing the risk of further injury during sleep.

You may use a reclining chair or prop up pillows behind your back in bed to maintain a 45-degree angle. This position can alleviate pressure on the ribs and make breathing easier.

2. Sleeping on the Uninjured Side

Lying on the not injured side minimizes pressure on the bruised ribs, reducing pain and discomfort.

To do it, carefully lie on your uninjured side, using a pillow for head support. You might also place a pillow between your knees to maintain spinal alignment and another pillow in front of you to prevent rolling onto your injured side.

3. Using a Body Pillow for Support

A body pillow can provide full-body support and prevent you from rolling onto your injured side. It helps maintain a stable position that protects the ribs and supports the spine.

You can hug a body pillow or place it along the length of your body. This can provide additional support and comfort, making staying on your uninjured side easier throughout the night.


  • Avoid lying flat on your back because this position can put additional pressure on your ribcage, potentially worsening pain and discomfort.
  • If you need to turn or adjust your position, do so slowly and cautiously to avoid sudden movements that could strain your ribs further.

Techniques to Enhance Comfort

  • Use extra pillows to prop yourself up and find the most comfortable angle.
  • Consider a memory foam topper for additional cushioning and support.
  • An adjustable bed can be set to the ideal angle for relief and comfort if available.

Additional Tips for Better Sleep

Beyond the specific strategies for managing pain and improving comfort, additional tips can help individuals with bruised ribs achieve better sleep quality. These tips focus on overall wellness and creating an environment conducive to healing and rest.

1. Maintain a Sleep Schedule

Going to bed and waking up at the exact times every day, even on weekends, can help regulate your body's internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up.

Good sleep hygiene practices, such as limiting naps and ensuring exposure to natural light during the day, can also promote better sleep at night.

2. Limit Screen Time Before Bed

The blue light emitted by screens on smartphones, tablets, and computers can interfere with your body's ability to prepare for sleep. Try to limit screen time to at least an hour before bed.

You may use blue light filters; many devices offer settings or apps that reduce blue light exposure in the evening hours.

3. Engage in Gentle Exercise

Engaging in gentle, low-impact activities such as walking or stretching during the day can promote better sleep at night. Exercise can improve circulation and reduce stress, but it's important to avoid vigorous activity close to bedtime and consult a healthcare provider to ensure activities are safe for your condition.

4. Consider Professional Support

A physical therapist can provide exercises and strategies to manage pain and improve mobility without exacerbating the injury.

If stress, anxiety, or depression related to your injury or other aspects of life are affecting your sleep, consider speaking with a mental health professional.

5. Monitor Your Progress and Adjust as Needed

Keeping a sleep diary or journaling about your sleep patterns and how different strategies affect your sleep can help you identify what works best.

As your ribs heal, your comfort needs and pain levels will change. Be prepared to adjust your sleeping positions, pain management techniques, and comfort measures accordingly.

6. Stay Hydrated

Proper hydration is essential for overall health and can also affect sleep quality. However, avoid drinking large amounts of fluids before bed to minimize nighttime awakenings for bathroom trips.

Final Words

Recovering from bruised ribs involves careful management of your sleeping environment and habits to minimize pain and optimize healing. One significant strategy is adjusting your sleeping environment for better rest.

Listening to your body and adapting this strategy as your recovery progresses is crucial, as well as consulting with healthcare professionals as needed. Prioritizing comfort and rest supports your physical recovery and contributes to your overall well-being during this challenging time.

As you implement these practices, remember each step taken towards a restful night contributes significantly to your journey back to health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I sleep on my side if I have bruised ribs?

Sleeping on your side or stomach can exacerbate the pain from bruised ribs. Avoiding these positions and opting to sleep on your back or in a reclined position is best. However, if sleeping on your side is the most comfortable position, then it is fine.

Is it safe to take pain medication for bruised ribs before sleeping?

Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be taken to alleviate pain, but always consult with your doctor beforehand and adhere to the recommended dosage.

How can I manage anxiety caused by the pain of bruised ribs?

Practicing relaxation techniques mentioned above can help reduce anxiety by focusing your mind on calming thoughts and breathing, which may make it easier to manage the pain and fall asleep​.

What should I do if I accidentally roll onto my bruised ribs while sleeping?

Consider using pillows to create a barrier that prevents you from rolling over in your sleep. If you wake up in pain, adjust your position and consider applying heat or cold therapy if needed.​