4 Best Positions to Sleep After a C-Section

Trying to find the best position to sleep in after a C-section is rarely the easiest or most comfortable thing in the world. 

Even if you already found the best sleep position while pregnant, you may be one of the many women who find that postpartum sleep disturbances are most prevalent within the first month after giving birth.

If that sounds like you, this guide is here to help. 

Getting a solid night’s sleep is crucial to help you fully recover from your C-section surgery and enjoy all the energy and good health you need in the early days of taking care of your newborn. 

Below, we’ll outline how to get that top-quality sleep by adopting the best postpartum sleeping position. We’ll also share with you a few useful suggestions to improve your sleep quality even further, as well as answer all of your frequently asked questions about getting to sleep after a Cesarean birth.

Why is it Difficult to Sleep Well after a C-Section?

Why is it Difficult to Sleep Well after a C-Section?

It’s no secret that getting the recommended hours of sleep is difficult, if not impossible, in the first few days, weeks, and even months after giving birth. 

Of course, this is partly due to the fact that you’re adjusting to life with a newborn who may only sleep a few hours (at most) at a time and frequently wakes up in the night, throwing your usual sleep schedule off track.

However, there may be much more going on. 
Changes in a woman’s hormones during the first 4-6 weeks of the postpartum period can lead to a lack of progesterone, a female sex hormone that helps to induce sleep.

It can also lead to a significant change in your levels of melatonin, a hormone that your brain produces in the evening hours to help you feel sleepy and maintain a natural circadian rhythm.

Ultimately, all of this can make it much more difficult to get -and then stay- asleep, but it can also lead to more serious issues such as postpartum depression. 

Affecting as many as 1 in 8 women, one of the many symptoms of postpartum depression can be trouble falling asleep, though it’s just as likely that a lack of sleep can be the catalyst for depression itself. 

In other words, there’s a vicious circle at play here. The less you sleep, the more likely you are to experience postpartum depression; the more depression you experience, the less likely you are to sleep, and round and round it goes.

This is enough trouble for any new mother, but if you gave birth via cesarean section, you might find it even harder to sleep. 

C-sections are classed as major surgery in the same category as heart surgeries, joint replacements, and organ replacements. 

Those types of surgeries alone can knock the sails out of the best of us, but with a C-section, the incision made in your abdomen can make it tough to find a comfortable postpartum sleep position that doesn’t place pressure on the wound.

The good news is that despite all these potential threats to your nightly rest, there is a lot you can do to improve your quality of sleep, including changing your position in bed. So let’s take a look at how to do that.

4-Best Positions to Sleep in After a C-Section

As a woman recovering from C-section surgery, you’ll find that the best sleep position for you may not be the best for somebody else and vice versa. 

We share here the top four post C-section sleeping positions for you to at least attempt. If you discover that one position just doesn’t work for you, feel free to move on to the next position, and even adapt it if needed. 

After all, what matters most here is simply ensuring that you’re as comfortable so that you can get the kind of restorative rest you need to recover from your surgery and stay fit and healthy throughout the day. 

1. Sleeping On Your Back

Sleeping On Your Back

There’s a good chance that you’ve been told to avoid sleeping on your back once you reach the 20-week mark of your pregnancy journey. 

Now that you’ve given birth, however, it’s likely to be that sleeping on your back is the best position to sleep in for C-section recovery.

Much as is the case with sleeping well after kidney surgery and other operations, sleeping on your back prevents you from placing any pressure on the incision site, thus helping to keep you pain-free and comfortable throughout the night. 

Sleeping on your back also has the added advantage that, if done properly, it ensures your body is well aligned in a neutral position which will stop other conditions such as lower back pain from adding to your nightly woes. 

How to Sleep on Your Back for C-Section Recovery?

Though some people may be able to sleep flat on their back without any problems, you might find it more helpful to tuck a pillow or rolled-up towel under your knees for extra support. 

How to Get Out of Bed When Sleeping on Your Back?

Back-sleeping itself may be pretty straightforward, but it’s waking up in the morning and getting out of bed that you need to be most mindful of. 

To avoid straining the incision site or putting pressure on it, getting out of bed should be done by using what’s known as the “log roll” method.

To do this: 

  • Roll onto your side with your knees bent
  • Gently push your feet off the bed
  • Use your arms to gradually push yourself up into a seating position.

You can also use this approach to get safely into bed without hurting the incision site. 

Lying on your back may be the optimum post-cesarean sleep position, but let’s face it:

It’s not ideal for everyone. 

Back sleeping can actually be problematic for people with abnormal blood pressure, and is also one of the worst sleep positions for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). 

With that in mind, the next best alternative is simply to switch to sleeping on your side.

2. Side Sleeping

Side Sleeping

Side-sleeping not only avoids bearing all that painful pressure down on your incision site during the night, but it also makes it somewhat easier to get out of bed in the morning as you can slowly swing your legs over the side and push yourself up with your arms. 

Which Side Should I Sleep on After a C-Section?

Sleeping on your left-hand side is one of the healthiest sleeping positions there is, and that includes when you’re recovering from a Cesarean section. 

Sleeping in this position has multiple health benefits, including improving digestion and lowering blood pressure.

That said, if left-side sleeping isn’t working for you, it’s not a problem to switch to your right-hand side as this will still help to alleviate pressure and maintain your spine’s natural alignment throughout the night. 

How to Sleep on Your Side After a Cesarean Section?

As we said earlier, the sole aim here is to find a postpartum sleeping position that helps you to feel as comfortable as possible.

To do that, you may find it helpful to place a pillow around your hips and abdomen to ensure they’re properly supported throughout the night.

3. Sleeping in a Recline Position

Sleeping in a Recline Position

So, you’ve tried sleeping flat on your back, but you’ve found that, like many people, it only leads to problems with snoring. 

You’ve tried sleeping on both your left and right-hand sides, but that’s just not bringing you the kind of comfort you need for good, restorative sleep. 

Your next option is to return to back-sleeping, only this time, prop yourself up with some supportive pillows and sleep in a reclining position.

Although this may feel a little unusual at first, it will certainly reduce pressure on the surgery spot.

Sleeping in this way also helps to keep your airways open, which you’ll undoubtedly find conducive to a good night’s sleep if you’re one of the high numbers of women who continue to struggle with Obstructive Sleep Apnea as far as 6-8 months postpartum.

4. Sleep Sitting Up

Sleep Sitting Up

Finally, if all else fails, go and settle into your favorite chair and allow yourself to doze off in a seated position.

This is far from the most relaxing position in this guide, but adding a few strategically-placed supportive pillows to your sleeping set-up should help make things more comfortable.

This is far from a long-term option, and you should at least attempt transitioning back to sleeping in bed around 14 weeks post-delivery.

In the short term, however, it can make it much easier to get up in the morning and even proves convenient during those nightly feeds if you’re breastfeeding.

Sleeping After a C-Section: Do’s and Don’ts

Lying on your back may be the best way to sleep after a cesarean section surgery, but it isn’t the only thing you can do to help improve your quality of rest once you return home from the hospital.

Here’s a few recommendations on what to do, and what not to do, to help you get all the restorative rest you need post-surgery.

Do: Ask for Help

Do: Ask for Help

Trying to get enough rest after giving birth can be difficult enough without the added complications of recovering from a major surgery like a C-section.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to ask your partner to step up to the plate and help out as much as possible with meeting the needs of your baby so that you can try and sleep. 

If that’s not an option, reach out to a family member or supportive friend, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Don’t: Overdo it During the Day

Don’t: Overdo it During the Day

The American Pregnancy Association recommends that you shouldn’t lift anything heavier than your baby during the early days and weeks post-birth. They also recommend that you should avoid doing housework if at all possible. 

There’s a good reason for this: 

Too much physical activity can slow down the recovery process and leave you in more pain and discomfort than you already were, ultimately making it even more difficult to sleep at night. 

Do: Eat and Sleep Well

Do: Eat and Sleep Well

Drinking lots of water will aid your recovery, which means you’ll be able to start sleeping better much sooner. 

At the same time, you may also want to look at introducing fiber and more fruit and vegetables into your diet to keep constipation away, as an upset tummy could also lead to you waking up multiple times in the night. 

Don’t: Drink Alcohol

Don’t: Drink Alcohol

It may have been a long nine months without your favorite bottle of red, but as tempted as you might be to enjoy a well-earned celebratory drink, it’s a good idea to stay away from alcohol for just a little while longer. 

As we mentioned right at the start of our guide to the things to avoid doing before bed, drinking alcohol can wreak havoc on your sleep. Even if it doesn’t wake you up, it almost certainly will reduce your quality of sleep, making it harder to recover.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleeping After a C-Section

How soon can I lay on my side after a C-section?

Technically, you can start sleeping on your side immediately after your C-section if that’s what you find most comfortable. However, you may find that you sleep better on your back in the first few weeks.

If you do opt to side-sleep, try the left side first as this improves blood flow which can help you sleep better.

How long is bed rest after C-section?

Experts recommend taking between 6 and 8 weeks to properly recover from a C-section surgery, though good quality rest is hard to come by with a newborn in the house. It’s a good idea to get as much sleep when your child is sleeping and get as much rest as you can during that time.

Can I sleep on my back after a C-section?

Absolutely. Though doctors will recommend that you avoid sleeping on your back once you’re over 20 weeks pregnant, lying on your back is actually the best position to sleep in after C-section surgery.

What is the Best Way to Sleep After a Cesarean Birth? A Final Word of Advice 

If there were only two things we would want you to take away from this guide, it would be these: 

1: Sleeping on your back is the best way to sleep after a C-section, followed by sleeping on your left-hand side. 

2:  Really, the most important thing is to get yourself comfortable regardless of which position allows you to do that. 

With all that being said, if we could leave you with just one last piece of advice today, it would be to be mindful of the medications you take once you’re home. 

Your doctor most likely prescribed pain medication for you. If that’s the case, stick to taking them on the advised schedule to help you sleep more easily. 

If you’re tempted to take sleep medication, it’s worth consulting your doctor before, as they’ll be able to recommend and prescribe medication that won’t interfere with your breast milk. 
And if you haven’t yet had your C-section, but you’re still struggling to sleep while pregnant? Be sure to check out our guide to the best sleeping positions for pregnancy.

References:

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  • Bauman BL, Ko JY, Cox S, et al. Vital Signs: Postpartum Depressive Symptoms and Provider Discussions About Perinatal Depression — United States, 2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:575–581. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6919a2 
  • Cary D, Briffa K, McKenna L. Identifying relationships between sleep posture and non-specific spinal symptoms in adults: A scoping review. BMJ Open. 2019 Jun 28;9(6):e027633. doi: 10.1136/ bmjopen-2018-027633. PMID: 31256029; PMCID: PMC6609073. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/6/e027633
  • Street, L. M., Aschenbrenner, C. A., Houle, T. T., Pinyan, C. W., & Eisenach, J. C. (2018). Gestational Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Biomarker Screening Models and Lack of Postpartum Resolution. Journal of clinical sleep medicine: JCSM: official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 14(4), 549–555. https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.7042

Sarah Wagner

I'm Sarah Wagner, and I founded Sweet Island Dreams in 2022. It's a blog dedicated to helping people mental vacation virtually anytime they want. By providing information about the best sleep of your life, I help people drift away to paradise without ever having to leave their bed!

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