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Finding Rest After Surgery: Tips for More Comfortable Sleep

Person rests comfortably on their bed at an elevated position

Sleep and rest are such important parts of recovery following gender-affirming surgery, yet it can often be tricky to find. Your healthcare provider may require you to sleep straight on your back, or to sleep in a more upright position, in order to help reduce swelling, improve breathing, or minimize pressure on a particular area of the body.

Following many proceduresincluding trans masc chest masculinization, trans femme breast augmentation, and facial feminizationyou may need to use a modified sleep position for several weeks.

It can be challenging to get a good night’s rest when you might prefer to sleep on your side or stomach. Here are some recommendations to help make the adjustment more comfortable:

1. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions

Your medical team will provide you with specific guidelines for your recovery, including how to sleep. Stick to these instructions closely, as they are tailored to your particular recovery needs.

2. Use the right pillows

Special wedge pillows are designed to keep you in an inclined position. These can be more comfortable than stacking regular pillows, which can shift out of place during the night. 

3. Add extra support

Consider using additional pillows to support the neck, arms, or legs. This can help relieve pressure points and improve overall comfort. Pillows or rolled-up towels placed around your body also help you stay in one position and turn while you are asleep.

4. Stay hydrated

If you're breathing through your mouth because of the upright position, you might find that your mouth and throat become dry. Drink water during the day, have some cough drops or lozenges as needed, and consider using a humidifier to keep the air moist.

5. Keep essentials nearby

Have things like water, tissues, a phone, or a call button within easy reach, so you don’t have to strain yourself if you need something or need to get a hold of the person helping care for you during the night.

6. Regularly shift position (if possible)

Depending on the surgery you’ve had, if you're able, slightly change your position occasionally. This can prevent stiffness and discomfort.

7. Use sleep technology

White noise machines or soothing music might help you fall asleep in a less familiar position, and stay asleep longer. There are playlists on Spotify, YouTube, and others that offer 8+ hours of uninterrupted white noise, ocean sounds, and more.

8. Create a relaxing routine

All the same general rules for restful sleep still apply. While you recover from surgery, you’ll especially want to:

  • Avoid large meals right before sleep
  • Limit caffeine, especially in the hours before bedtime
  • Limit exposure to screens and blue light before sleep.
  • Try winding down with calming activities like deep breathing, reading, or meditation

9. Try a recliner

Some folks find sleeping in a recliner to be the easiest and most comfortable way to stay in the right sleeping position. Some people use travel pillows, or pillows designed with a hollowed-out center, to keep their head and neck better-supported.

10. Invest in an Adjustable Bed

If your healthcare provider anticipates you’ll need to sleep in a modified position for an extended period of time, it might be worth investing in an adjustable bed that can provide the precise angle needed for comfort.


These suggestions may not be suitable for everyone, and individual needs can vary greatly depending on the type of surgery you had and your own personal preferences. The best sleep tips will come from your own healthcare provider, so be sure to reach out to them directly.