Wearing a knee brace after a knee injury or surgery helps keep your knee stable and quickens recovery. It’s important to wear your brace for as long as instructed by your doctor, but can you sleep with a knee brace on?
To find an answer to this common question, we reviewed as much expert advice about keeping a knee brace on during sleep as we could. Knee surgeons and physical therapists with experience in this area have a good understanding of what’s good for your knee during recovery and have a lot to say about what you should do about sleeping with your brace on.
Some of the top tips include carefully following your healthcare provider’s timeline and instructions, using a supportive leg elevation pillow that can also immobilize your leg further, icing your injury as needed before bed, and using sleep aids like melatonin if you need to. You should also avoid caffeine before bed, make sure your brace fits well, and keep up with a light exercise regimen where you can to speed up recovery.
We’ll be further discussing the nuance of sleeping with a knee brace below, as well as some helpful tips you may not have considered!
Should You Sleep With a Knee Brace on?
It’s important to heed your doctor’s advice when wondering whether you should sleep with a brace on. Usually, there’s a period when it’ll be okay to remove your brace during the night, and they’ll let you know, but it’s very important that you don’t do this prematurely; even the smallest movement in the night can undo weeks of therapy progress if you aren’t fully healed.
When you have to wear your brace to bed, the following tips will help you figure out how to do it right without jeopardizing your recovery.
Things to Do When Sleeping With Your Knee Brace on
Should I wear a knee brace to bed? Most patients wonder about this because sleeping with a knee brace on can be quite uncomfortable. But, no matter how uncomfortable it feels, it’s crucial to keep your brace on while sleeping until your doctor says it’s okay to remove it at night.
Here’s a list of things you can do to help you sleep more comfortably with your brace on. Whether you’re dealing with pain, swelling, or tenderness, doing the following things will make it easier to get a good night’s sleep.
Choose a Comfortable Sleeping Position
Two of the best sleeping positions for when you’re wearing a knee brace are on your back or your side. The key is to choose the one with which you’re most comfortable.
When lying on your back, place a pillow below your leg, with the edge resting directly below your injured knee. This helps stabilize your knee and prevents involuntary movements during sleep that could exacerbate pain.
When lying on your side, place a pillow between your knees so your other leg is not resting directly on the injured one. It’s best to have the leg with the brace resting on the mattress to ensure you’re not subjecting it to unnecessary strain.
Keep Your Leg Elevated
Keeping your injured knee elevated is crucial to managing swelling and pain. Elevating your leg allows excess fluids to flow towards the rest of the body, facilitating healing in the injured part.
If lying on your back, a pillow under your leg inclines the knee at an angle, alleviating mild pain or discomfort. But, if you’re dealing with more pain or inflammation, a more elevated position is better. To achieve this, add more pillows below your leg until you gain an elevation where the discomfort in your leg subsides.
When you have swelling, sleeping on your back is the best position as it allows you to create a wedge to elevate your leg. Sleeping on your back is also the most viable option if you’ve had surgery or are injured in both knees.
Take Painkillers Before Bed
Pain after an injury or surgery is one of the reasons why most patients have trouble sleeping restfully. This can go on for weeks, and it can be detrimental to your recovery if you’re unable to find a way to get some sleep.
Taking painkillers before bed will help dull the pain, making it possible to relax and fall asleep. You can take painkillers prescribed by your doctor or buy some over-the-counter.
Ice Your Knee (Cryotherapy)
Icing your knee before going to bed is another way to alleviate pain and make it easier to rest with your brace on. About thirty minutes before bed, take off your brace and press an ice pack on your knee.
Keep it there for about twenty minutes. Wait another ten minutes before putting your brace back on and going to bed. The cold therapy helps calm down any throbbing pain in the injured area and reduces the swelling.
When using an ice pack, be careful not to put the ice directly on the wound, as this could lead to frostbite and tissue damage.
Use Sleeping Aids
Using sleeping aids can help you fall asleep faster, helping overcome the discomfort of wearing a brace to bed or the pain in your knee. Sleeping aids that can make it easier to fall asleep despite the pain in your knee include a white-noise machine, an essential oil diffuser, and a sleep moisturizer.
You can also aid your natural sleep cycle by eating foods that provide minerals that help produce melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone.
Things to Avoid When Sleeping With Your Knee Brace on
While some things make it easier to sleep with your knee brace on, others make it harder. It’s important to know what to avoid for a good night’s sleep, and that’s what we are looking at next.
Drinking Coffee Before Bed
Drinking coffee just before bed is one of the worst decisions you can make when trying to catch sleep in the face of a painful injury.
Caffeine keeps you awake, and you’ll end up spending hours in bed trying to fall asleep while also dealing with a painful knee. Less sleep means less rest for your body, which significantly affects your recovery rate.
Avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages within a minimum of 6 hours before bed to ensure they don’t interfere with your natural sleep cycle.
Using an Ill-Fitting Brace
A knee brace works by stabilizing the joint and preventing any abnormal motions that could increase pain and affect the healing of your injury or wound. If it’s ill-fitting, it won’t provide adequate support and will delay your recovery.
Going to bed with an ill-fitting brace is times more challenging than with a fitting one. Since it’s not supporting your knee well, it’ll be challenging to find a position where you’ll be able to relax enough to get some sleep.
Stopping Wearing Your Brace Earlier Than Prescribed
Anybody with a knee brace looks forward to the day they no longer have to wear one. Sometimes, you might feel that you no longer need it and decide to stop wearing it. But, you must follow your doctor’s or therapist’s instructions regarding how long you should keep using the brace.
Sleeping with a sensitive injury without a brace increases your chances of irritating it when you move around in your sleep, causing more pain problems for you.
More Tips to Help You Sleep Better With Your Knee Brace
Besides the steps you take before or during bedtime, here are more tips to ensure you’re having better sleep:
Take Care of Your Skin
When you’re wearing your brace all day long, your skin is bound to become sore or raw. This introduces another irritation that adds to your discomfort, making falling asleep a chore. To avoid this, keep your knee well moisturized with lotion to keep the skin from chaffing.
Also, only sleep in a clean brace to avoid skin irritation. It’ll be hard to relax in bed when you’re wearing a brace full of sweat or dirt from the day. To keep them clean, wash your knee brace pads with mild detergent, rinse, and allow to dry completely before using again.
Physical exercise sounds like the last thing you’d want to do on an injured knee, but it’s crucial for recovery. Some activities may directly involve your knees, while others focus on the rest of your body.
It’s essential to exercise regularly to regain your range of motion and prevent stiffness which makes it harder for symptoms such as swelling and pain to subside.
When you adhere to exercises as instructed by your therapist, your muscles will get stronger and heal faster. As a result, you’ll have fewer days of uncomfortable sleep.
Keep Up With Your Physical Therapy Appointments
Physical therapy is critical for recovery after a severe knee injury or surgery. It helps restore flexibility and mobility in the joints while also strengthening muscles. It also plays a significant role in alleviating pain and swelling.
Keeping up with your therapy appointments means your recovery will proceed smoothly, ensuring that you don’t have to deal with discomfort longer than necessary. With the improved knee function that comes with physical therapy, you’ll find it easier to rest comfortably in bed.
The first few days after your knee injury or surgery, pain and swelling are going to make it hard to fall asleep. Should you sleep with a knee brace on? Having to wear a brace to bed might sound unflattering, but it’s for the best. By keeping your knee stable as you sleep, the brace protects you from injuring your joint any further.
Finding the proper sleeping position goes a long way in helping you relax and rest. When you incorporate pain management practices and keep up with your recovery program, going to sleep will gradually get more comfortable. Don’t be afraid to ice your knee as needed, sleep with a leg elevating pillow, or lightly exercise and you’ll be on a speedy path to recovery before you know it!