How to Get Quality Sleep After a C-Section

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Lauren Hays

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, PMHNP

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How to Get Quality Sleep After A C-Section Delivery

Bringing a new life into the world is an incredible experience, but it comes with its fair share of challenges. If you have had a c-section, whether it was a planned caesarean section (c-section) or an unexpected c-section, it was a major abdominal surgery and there are many mechanics and nuggets of information that can help you sleep after giving birth. One of the most common post-surgery concerns is figuring out how to sleep comfortably and safely. This comprehensive blog post will teach you how to get sleep after a c-section.

Best Sleep Positions After a C Section

Finding a comfortable and safe sleeping position post- c section can be tricky, but sleep is queen when it comes to postpartum recovery. We hear you– caring for a newborn while trying to catch up on z’s is easier said than done, especially after a major surgery. Here are some recommended positions that can help you get restful sleep without compromising your recovery:

Sleeping on your back

Sleeping on your back is often the most comfortable position immediately after a C-section. If you slept on your back prior to pregnancy, you may be excited about this sleep position since maternal experts don’t recommend sleeping flat on your back while you’re pregnant.  It helps to relieve some of the pressure on your incision site and allows your body to relax. To enhance comfort, you may choose to place a pillow under your knees to reduce back strain.

Side Sleeping

Once you feel a bit more mobile, it may feel easier for you to get into a slide sleeping position. This is also often easier said than done and we encourage you to be mindful of your body mechanics when switching positions, as to not place strain or discomfort at the incision site. Sleeping on your side can be difficult right after a c-section, but can be one of the best positions once you’re able to turn without too much pain and discomfort. Using this position to sleep can include benefits for your rest and recovery by reducing pressure on your incision and may potentially help with digestion. Use pillows for support: place one between your knees and another under your belly to maintain spinal and body alignment and find a position that is as comfortable as possible. 

Propped Up

Propping yourself up with pillows or using a recliner to be in a propped or sitting position can be a good way to sleep, especially if you find it difficult after a c-section to life flat. This position supports an elevated upper body position can help your breathing during sleep and reduce discomfort, get out of bed more easily, and can be one of the easier positions to rest in the early days of your healing process.

Sleep Positions & Movements to Avoid for Optimal C-Section recovery

  • Sleeping on Your Stomach: This can put undue pressure on your incision and cause pain.
  • Heavy Lifting: Avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby to prevent strain.
  • Twisting Movements: Be cautious with sudden movements to protect your healing body.

Tips for Restful Sleep After A C-Section

Position doesn’t matter quite so much, so long as you are able to explore sleep positions after a c-section that allow you to fall asleep and stay asleep in between sleep disturbances with a newborn. It is important to protect sleep the best that you can while recovering from surgery and childbirth. Sleep deprivation and night after night of poor sleep quality is one of the leading causes of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, so finding time to rest and finding tips and tricks to protect sleep at night is imperative when recovering. Here are some nuggets of advice to help you get the rest you need from a mom and psychiatric nurse practitioner:

Remember Self-Care is Caring for Your Family

It’s easy to overlook self-care when you’re focused on your newborn, but remember that taking care of yourself is also taking care of your family. Moms often put their own basic needs at the bottom of their priority list and prolong the recovery process. Rest is crucial for your physical and mental recovery. It may be ensuring a good night’s sleep by creating a sleep routine with your partner to ensure as much rest as possible. Or it can mean implementing small micro-moments of self-care into your day or leaning into and asking for support when you need it. You are in a season of receiving and someday you will remember what was most helpful to you and be able to extend a helping hand to a mom struggling with lack of sleep after a c section recovery.  Self-care is not selfish, but think of it as preservation to be able to show up for others without your own tank running on empty. 

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene as Part of your C-Section Recovery

Getting adequate sleep can be a challenge, especially so after birth via cesarean. Despite the challenges, there are some small shifts you can implement to get rest.  Good sleep hygiene can make a significant difference in how well you are able to fall or stay asleep.  Here are some tips to try if getting a good night’s sleep feels out of reach:

  • Keep a Routine: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Your hormones and body processes that help you to regulate this process love a schedule! Try to go to bed and wake up within the same hour each night (for example bedtime is 8-9pm and wake up is 7-8am). Implement something into your routine that brings you joy and signals it’s time for bed. This can be a bedtime meditation, a book and sleepy tea, or a skincare routine you enjoy.
  • Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment: Make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep—cool, quiet, and dark. Consider removing devices from your bedroom. If you use a bedside bassinet, consider a sound machine in your bedroom to help muffle the grunts and movement from baby. Use a pillow that is breathable and provides good support.
  • Limit Screen Time: Limit blue light and screens/TV the best you can to a minimum of 1 hour before bedtime. The blue light can serve as an espresso shot for your mind when you end the day with a scroll or look at it through the night. This can lead to worse sleep quality which we know can make you more likely to develop perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. 

Before Your Cesarean: Prepping for Postpartum Sleep

Prepping for postpartum sleep while still pregnant can make the transition smoother and can help you to create habits that will be more easily implemented by practicing before you deliver your baby. Sleeping isn’t a luxury– and definitely shouldn’t be considered so in the postpartum period! It is crucial to protect mom’s physical and mental health. Here are some steps you can take: 

Share Your Worries and Make a Plan

Discuss your sleep concerns with your healthcare provider and support system and make a plan for post-surgery recovery. Knowing what to expect can ease anxiety and make the process more manageable. Sleep after a c section will absolutely feel different, but with the right support and tools, you can feel confident in a plan that can help you to protect sleep after the birth of your baby. 

Products That Can Help You Get Higher Sleep Quality

Consider investing in products designed to improve comfort and aid in recovery:

  • Maternity Pillows: These can provide support during sleep and give you more options when it comes to positioning. Invest in pillows to make the positioning mentioned above more attainable depending on your preference or a sleep position promotes optimal blood flow and allows you to combat sleep problems stemming from discomfort.
  • Belly Bands: These can help support your abdomen and reduce strain on your incision. Some people find comfort in sleeping with a soft belly band on to help, so long as it doesn’t put too much pressure or rigidity in that area. Experiment here to see if this is something that helps or hinders your sleep.
  • Comfortable Bedding: Soft, breathable sheets and blankets can make a big difference. It is really common to sweat a lot after delivery, especially a cesarean delivery, because of all of the excess fluid you receive in the hospital. Make sure you have a couple of sets of breathable, lightweight sheets to swap out those first few weeks. 

Lower Your Furniture or Create A Temporary Set Up

Ensure that your bed and seating are at a comfortable height to get in and out of easily. Lowering your furniture can help minimize strain on your incision and make it easier to move around. If you’re able, make sure it is in a position that doesn’t make it difficult to get in or out of bed.  Proper body mechanics post surgery can be found inside The Matrescence App!  This guide created by a pelvic floor physical therapist covers tons of information to aid in your physical recovery.  If your bedroom is located upstairs in your home, you might consider using a spare room or couch on the main floor to avoid going up and down stairs in the first few days post c-section recovery. 

Read Up on How to Get Restful Sleep

Educate yourself about postpartum sleep well in advance. Knowing what to expect and how to handle common issues can make you feel more prepared and confident. Education is empowerment and sleep is such an important piece of your healing, especially when it comes to protecting your mental health!

Restful Sleep Is Possible After A C-Section, Mama

Getting quality sleep after a C-section is essential for your recovery and overall well-being. By finding safe and comfortable positions, practicing good sleep hygiene, and preparing in advance, you can set yourself up for a smoother postpartum experience. Remember, taking care of yourself is the best way to ensure you’re able to take care of your new baby.

For those looking for more tailored advice and products to support your postpartum journey, we invite you to explore our Emotionally Preparing for the Fourth Trimester Course and Motherhood Community. Wishing you a restful and speedy recovery!

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Picture of Lauren Hays, PMHNP

Lauren Hays, PMHNP

Lauren was a licensed and trained registered nurse in the NICU and has since made a career shift to focus on mental health. Lauren is now a board certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, focusing on women’s health and wellness. She is a mom of three precious little men who has turned her pain into passion.

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