How To Have A Painless Sleep When You Have A Broken Rib.

Having a broken rib is very painful. Coughing, breathing, turning or twisting to reach something are all made with an effort.

The most agonising is when trying to sleep. Every movement, either turning to the left or right brings out the most excruciating pain. So this week has been a tough sleep week for me. The good thing to come out of my experience this week is – I now know how to sleep with less pain! And want to give you some tips to reduce your pain level when you have a broken rib (which I hope you don’t) and want to have peaceful sleep with less pain.

CAUTION!! This information is un-researched data and has been tested on one case study only – me. Seek your doctors advice before following any of my tips.

Get a rib strap from your doctor first. It has a synergistic effect. Here is how you can sleep with less pain when you have a broken rib:

  1. Make sure your one year old child sleeps first. I tried to sleep first and got kicked at the injured site. He thought it was play time because it was what we do before I put him to sleep.
  2. The most comfortable position is to lie on the back. Actually the best would be to not to sleep at all – standing – but beware. Lack of sleep for over 48 hours results in psychiatric symptoms, notably hallucinations.
  3. Next best position is to sleep on the unaffected side.
  4. The third best position to sleep when you have a broken rib is to lie on your stomach.

How to reduce pain while turning during sleep.

  • From back position to side position: slowly swing your arm on the affected side to the side you wish to move to and rest your forearm in parallel with your body and with your arm supporting your body at an angle. This movement will enable you to face the side you are turning to.
  • Next, turn your whole body slowly to the direction you are facing by turning your shoulders. Do not turn from the waist. This will result in a painful twist!
  • Finally, move the leg that you are not sleeping on up into your chest slightly.
  • The final position position is somewhat like the coma position. With you sleeping on the unaffected side.
  • From this position you can easily move to sleep on your belly with much less pain.

The next sequence of movements is when trying to stand up from sleeping. The best approach is to do it from a belly sleeping position.

  • From sleeping on your belly and trying to stand up: Move your hands closer to your body as if trying to do a push up. Lift your body by extending your elbows. Your forearms should be supporting your body in the position as if trying to do a push up.
  • Next, draw your legs under you body and sit up on your feet. Much like how the Japanese sit in their traditional homes with feet folded under their feet.

By the way do not use a pillow. If you do, use a soft one, but you might end with a painfull neck in the morning. The angle created by your head lying on a pillow pulls on the chest muscles and causes pain on the affected side.

So there it is. My tips on how to sleep with less pain if you happen to have the unfortunate experience of having one of your ribs fractured.

If this article was helpful to you, please make a donation to help me keep writing useful content and maintain this blog.


About rodney itaki

Medical doctor and public health specialist from Papua New Guinea.
This entry was posted in Family, Health. Bookmark the permalink.

190 Responses to How To Have A Painless Sleep When You Have A Broken Rib.

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  3. malcolm says:

    Four broken ribs and a lot of bruising ,bad crush injury involving a draught horse and a heavy log.
    Had to sit up for the first week ,good tip ,i tied a rope to the end of bed which i can pull myself up with that helps, then reduced pillows during week 2 so can lie on back,by week 3 still painful when i lie down but pain then subsides.can’t turn over yet but can at least sleep.
    This is the third time i have broken ribs ,they hurt ,they take time to heal,the best thing is rest ,don’t over do it when they first feel a bit better and keep away from people with flu.

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    I wrecked my Harley a week ago, 7 broken ribs broken scapular, and humerus, all on my left. I have tried pain meds and pillows and sleeping in almost every position. Any other ideas please?!

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