Umbilical hernia is not fun, but it’s also not the end of the world. In fact, many people are ok living with it for a while, because an umbilical hernia by itself isn’t that dangerous.
However, it can become a health hazard if it reaches a status called “incarcerated”. We will see how this happens later in the article.
As for surgery, the operation isn’t that invasive and doesn’t take more than 30 minutes. You should be able to go back to work within a couple of days, although you will have some mobility limitations for a month and a half.
The biggest challenge isn’t surgery itself, but the recovery period. This happens because it is normal to experience pain after the surgery. Pain can keep you up at night, making the recovery slower, as well as making life worse overall.
In this article, I am going to show you different strategies you can implement to sleep better after umbilical hernia surgery, regardless of whether you’ve already had your surgery or you’re about to. Keep on reading.
What Is Umbilical Hernia?
An umbilical hernia forms when the abdominal wall behind the navel is damage, which may cause the navel to bulge forward. When this happens, the bulge can obstruct the intestine, reducing its blood supply. This obstruction can cause tissue death if not treated, as well as abdominal pain.
However, it is also possible for the condition to never pose any serious health risk. Obviously, it’s always best to go through surgery when possible, but I understand not everyone can easily undergo surgery, so it’s fair to wait and see if the condition worsens or remains stable.
What Happens in a Umbilical Hernia Surgery?
Umbilical hernia surgery is very common, so you can relax: doctors know very well how to deal with it, it’s something they handle it all the time.
You just have to stop eating and drinking for a certain number of hours before operations. You will be anesthetized at the hospital and the operation will begin.
The operation itself is relatively simple: the surgeon makes a small cut at the side of the belly, and pushes the bulging hernia back into the tummy. Remember the weak abdominal muscles that caused the bulge? They get stitched together to strengthen them and prevent hernias from forming again.
That’s it. It’s a matter of about half an hour, plus the couple of hours you’ll spend at the hospital afterwards to make sure everything went well.
7 Ways to Sleep After Umbilical Hernia Surgery
Let’s now see some tips and techniques you can implement to sleep after umbilical hernia surgery. Not all of these can be implemented right away, but at least half of them can. Remember, the goal is to ensure a speedy recovery that is as painless as possible.
Don’t rush things, just because you are feeling okay it doesn’t mean you have to risk making things worse by doing extreme physical activity or stop taking painkillers. Always consult a doctor before going for such a drastic change in your routine.
1. Sleep in a Position That Lets Your Abdominal Muscles Relax
Simply place pillows on your back to keep your back elevated. This will reduce the strain on your abdominal muscles, which are recovery from the surgery and the stitching together. Most doctors will tell you this before surgery, but still, they might forget, so I’m giving you this tip.
After some days have passed, you can remove or add pillows in the right spots to keep your abdominal muscles as relaxed as possible. As long as you feel comfortable and can sleep fine, you have picked the right pillow arrangement. Each person is different, so experiment a little to find out the perfect set up.
Extra tip for side sleepers: Sleeping on your side is basically impossible after umbilical hernia surgery, but being a side sleeper myself, I know that you just can’t fall asleep on your back.
If that’s the case, your best bet is to place a pillow around your hip area so that you can be somewhat on the side while keeping your body inclined enough to not be in pain.
2. Practice Breathing
Breathing is our most important body function, and umbilical hernia surgery puts a strain on it, as the abdominal muscles make it hard to breathe correctly, since your diaphragm is placed in the abdomen.
There are many techniques out there so I’m not going to give you anything specific, just find out what exercises work best for you.
3. Establish a Sleep Routine
This is a more general suggestion that works even if you don’t feel any pain or aren’t recovering from surgery. Sleep routines ensure you feel sleepy always at the same time, and are a great aid in falling and staying asleep.
Here are some things you should introduce in your sleep routine:
- Always go to sleep at the same time
- Don’t look at screens before bed (you can turn on devices’ blue lights in their settings usually, blue light is the main culprit of sleepless nights)
- Listen to relaxing music
- Do some light chest stretching
These are just some suggestions. There are a million things you can do before bed, what matters is staying consistent with your routine, as it’ll make it much easier to fall asleep.
4. Learn How to Get in and Out of Bed
This is a point often overlooked, but you can’t always rely on others to help you get out of bed and get back in. Moving when your abdomen is still recovering is already hard enough, don’t make it any more painful than it has to be by learning good movement mechanics.
Remember, your muscles are weak because of the surgery, and they are a big reason you are feeling pain, so treat them right.
To get into bed, sit in its center, lie down on your side, then raise up your legs onto the beg, and lastly roll on your back. This technique makes it easy for your abdominals and lets you get into bed in the most painless way possible.
To get out of bed, you do the same process but in reverse: first, you roll onto your side, then extend your legs and drop them on the ground, then use your upper body (elbow and arms) to push your torso up. You can finally stand up, but please keep using your arms to support the movement.
The goal of these techniques is to make it as easy as possible on your abdominal muscles. That’s the painful area, so don’t use it to perform any movement when possible.
5. Follow a Proper Diet
This goes hand in hand with the physical activity tip. You don’t need anything fancy, just drink lots of water and avoid foods that cause constipation, because they can cause a strain in your bowel, which in turn will cause pain in your abdomen.
So avoid foods such as dairy and red meat, and instead add plenty of fruit and vegetables to your diet, to assume more fibers and make the digestive process easier for your body.
6. Take Pain Medicines
Medicines that make the pain go away are always an option, at least when it’s time to sleep. Consult your doctor who will tell you which medicines you can take. Always inform yourself with medical experts before ingesting any medicine. Your health is a serious matter.
As for when it’s appropriate to take these pain medicines, my advice is to ask your doctor as soon as you start feeling the pain. Yes, pain is normal after surgery, but you don’t want it to escalate, or not even pain medicines will help you at that point.
7. Heat and Cold Are Your Allies
Remember when your mother gave you ice packs when you hurt yourself? The principle is the same here. Cold can be a great pain relief, but so can heat be. Again, you should consult a doctor and ask them for the best solution to deal with your pain.
8. Physical Activity
Okay this might seem counterproductive, especially since I’ve just spent many words drilling into your head the concept of keeping your abdominals rested.
However, moving will benefit you greatly. Moving improves breathing and digestion, two activities that have a huge impact on abdominal activity. Consider it an investment: you endure a little pain (that you can control easily by taking things slowly) in order to feel less pain when it’s time to sleep.
Physical activity in this case refers to extremely light activities you can stop anytime, like a short walk indoors, or some chest physiotherapy.
Another benefit of physical activity is that it will improve your sleep, so it’s a win-win no matter what.
Warning: as soon as the pain starts ramping up, cease any physical activity immediately. Resume it once the pain is gone.
Sleeping after umbilical hernia surgery can be a challenge. The pain can become unbearable, to the point it makes us miserable. And not sleeping makes everything worse, as well as slowing our recovery down.
You have now learned multiple techniques you can easily implement in your daily life to finally get a good night’s sleep after umbilical hernia surgery. Well, most of them anyway.
As usual, you should communicate with your doctor and caregivers first and foremost. These people are trained medical experts and will gladly assist you on the path of a speedy recovery.
When it comes to picking the right medicines for your case, you must always consult your doctor. Doctors know your medical records and can offer advice tailored on your needs and past medical history. You don’t know how your body might react to certain medicines.
Another thing I feel necessary to tell you is the following: even if it doesn’t hurt now, try to schedule your surgery as soon as possible. You don’t know if or when it’ll get worse, and as I’ve outlined earlier in the article, a strangled hernia can cause gangrene and tissue death. Better safe than sorry.
Now that you are armed with the right knowledge to sleep after umbilical hernia surgery, I wish you a speedy recovery, and excellent sleep.