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How to Sleep with Broken Ribs?

Ribs are the most important bones in our body. They protect our heart, liver, and lungs, and other key organs. Breaking one is never a fun time. Having broken ribs usually goes like this: one moment you feel you are fine, then suddenly you feel like someone stabbed in you in the chest.

Sleeping is an especially problematic activity when you have broken ribs. At night, the pain can become unbearable. You can do many activities to distract yourself during the day. But at night, you are alone with your pain. Your body relaxes while you lay down, and releases hormones to heal the bones. But it’s not a painless process.

Broken ribs take a while to heal. At least 6 weeks. You must learn how to deal with the pain, since it’s not going away soon.

There is a surgery you could take to improve recovery and reduce pain too. Historically, it hasn’t been practiced much, but a rib fixation surgery could improve your situation. If you can get one, we suggest going for it.

In this article, we are going to see various tactics you can use to sleep better with broken ribs. Some are about making the pain more bearable; others are about keeping your body from doing sudden movements while you sleep. We will also see how to not make the situation worse.

Editor’s note: this isn’t medical advice. Always consult your doctor. They know your situation better, and they will give you the best way to deal with the issue.

6 Ways to Sleep with Broken Ribs

Sleeping with broken ribs is doable. Find the strategy that works rest for you. Our suggestion is to try 2 or 3 at once, and if they don’t work, replace them one at a time. See what works and what doesn’t. Broken ribs are a serious problem. Spend some time to make sure it won’t get worse.

Learn to Sleep on Your Back with Hands-on Your Chest

Yes, this is the Dracula sleeping position. We are aware. It’s the only good option for people with broken ribs. You can’t sleep on your side, as it will cause pressure on the ribs. The hands will help the ribs stay in place.

If you are a side sleeper, you’ll probably need some sort of sleeping drug to fall asleep in this position. After 3-4 days you should get used to sleeping this way. An idea could be melatonin, which makes you more relaxed at night.

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Sleep with Your Back Elevated

You can improve blood flow and reduce swelling by sleeping with your back elevated. The easiest way to achieve this result is by purchasing a wedge pillow. These types of pillow are very common in hospitals. They are the gold standard of after-surgery pillows.

The glorious thing about wedge pillows is their flexibility. You can use them to lie with your back at a 30° angle, or you can use them vertically for maximum ribs comfort. Sleeping while sitting up is a common suggestion for people with broken ribs.

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Build a Pillow Fortress

The main issue of sleeping with broken ribs is by far moving while you sleep. If you think humans stay still when they sleep, you are wrong. Do you ever wake up in the same position you fell asleep in? No? Nobody does.

Here’s how you build a pillow fortress. Surround your body with pillows. It works. Your body will feel the surrounding barriers and will not move during sleep.

Apply Ice to the Damaged Area

Wrapping ice around a tight towel and applying it directly on the ribs’ area is going to reduce the pain and swelling. This should give you enough leeway to fall asleep and forget about your pain, at least until next morning.

Take Pain Medication

Your doctor should prescribe the pain medication you should take before going to bed. It is advised to take it about 30 minutes before going to bed, so that you’re sure it’ll be doing its job by the time you go to sleep.

The issue is that some people have adverse reactions to medication. Also, not all medications are equal. If your doctor prescribes you a strong one like codeine, you might have issues unrelated to your ribs. For example, breathing might become hard. Remember that ribs support the lungs, and breathing with broken ribs is harder.

Practice Deep Breathing

Broken ribs don’t give your lungs enough support. You risk developing pneumonia, and—in the worst cases—a lung collapse. Unless you practice deep breathing. How?

Breathe in slowly until your lungs are full, then exhale gently. You do this for 2-3 minutes, and then cough gently 5-6 times. Afterwards, you take another deep breath.

Your doctor should tell you about this exercise, and they should also tell you how often to do it. Usually, it’s best to do this exercise at least once every two hours, but you can do it more often if you wish.

It’s always good to support your lungs as best as you can. Breathing is a vital function, learning to breathe correctly improves your life.


Sleeping with broken ribs can turn into a nightmare experience if you don’t know how to do it. But it’s crucial to speed up your recovery. Our body releases more repair hormones while we sleep. These will heal the ribs.

Most of the suggestions are about keeping your body still while you sleep, and for a good reason. Many people move a lot in bed. They might not realize it, but it’s what happens. Uncontrolled movements are a big no-no when you have broken ribs. Especially sudden ones, which are very common during sleep.

The thing with ribs is that you never know when they will start hurting. But when they start, you’ll feel it. One moment you could be totally fine, the moment after you’ll feel like someone is burning you from the inside. It can be miserable and it doesn’t help that healing takes so long.

If you put in practice the suggestions in this article, you’ll find out that the experience of sleeping with broken ribs isn’t as despairing as it seems. Sleeping well is extremely important. It speeds up your bone recovery, and gives you the energy to go through the day, even with the pain you’ll feel because of your ribs.

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