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How to Sleep with Broken Ribs: Key Tips for a Comfortable Rest

Dealing with broken ribs can be a painful experience, particularly when it comes to sleeping. During the healing process, it’s essential to find comfortable and supportive ways to sleep that won’t further agitate or delay the ribs’ recovery. We’re here to help you navigate this difficult time and provide some valuable tips on how to sleep with broken ribs.

How to Sleep with Broken Ribs

First and foremost, consulting with a medical professional is crucial before trying any new sleep positions. They can assess your specific situation and make recommendations tailored to your needs. With that said, we’ll discuss some common techniques to alleviate pain and discomfort while sleeping that could work for you.

It’s often recommended to sleep in a semi-upright position when dealing with broken ribs. This approach eases pressure on the ribcage, reduces the risk of complications like pneumonia, and promotes healing. We’ll dive into some strategies and adjustments you can make with household items to create a more comfortable sleeping environment.

Understanding the Challenges of Sleeping with Broken Ribs

Sleeping with broken ribs can be a real challenge, especially due to the pain and discomfort caused by the injury. In this section, we’ll explore the problems that may arise from attempting to sleep with broken ribs and how they impact our quality of sleep.

Broken ribs can severely limit our mobility while resting. Moving in bed, adjusting positions or simply trying to find a comfortable spot is much more difficult. This struggle can result in increased frustration and stress, making relaxation all the more elusive.

Another challenge is the potential for disturbed sleep due to pain. When we sleep, our pain threshold lowers, which means that even the slightest shift in position may wake us up if our broken ribs are causing discomfort. Frequent nighttime awakenings greatly affect the restorative nature of sleep, leaving us feeling tired and groggy.

It’s also important to consider the impact of broken ribs on our breathing. Shallow breathing is common when we have broken ribs because taking deep breaths can be painful. However, the shallower the breaths we take, the less able we are to enter deep sleep stages where the body regenerates and heals itself. There are several methods, such as placing pillows around the body, that can help improve our breathing while reducing pain. Let’s take a look at these methods:

  • Elevating the upper body: Prop up the upper body with multiple pillows or a wedge to reduce the pressure on the ribs, making it easier to breathe.
  • Sleeping on the unaffected side: If the broken ribs are on one side, sleep on the other side to alleviate pressure on the injured area.
  • Using supportive pillows: Place a pillow between the knees and another pillow to brace against your chest, providing extra support to the broken ribs while sleeping.
  • A recliner or adjustable bed: If available, use a recliner chair or adjustable bed to attain a comfortable position that alleviates pain.

Understanding the challenges of sleeping with broken ribs is an essential step towards finding appropriate solutions. Addressing the problems, such as limited mobility, disturbed sleep, and shallow breathing, can help ensure a better night’s sleep, speeding up our road to recovery.

What is the best position to sleep with cracked ribs?

The best position to sleep with cracked ribs is typically on your back with the support of pillows or cushions to prop yourself up slightly. This position helps to reduce pressure on the injured ribs and provides better support for breathing.

Choosing the Ideal Sleep Position

We understand that sleep is crucial to recovery, so we’re here to help you find the best sleep position for broken ribs. Allowing your body to rest comfortably is paramount, and we’ve got a few key suggestions to support it.

One of the most popular positions for those suffering from rib injuries is the upright position. Sitting upright in a chair or bed may alleviate pain by taking pressure off the ribcage, thereby promoting relaxation and sleep. Here’s what you should try:

  • Use pillows: surround yourself with pillows to provide support and maintain your upright position throughout the night. Feel free to adjust them as needed to maximize comfort.
  • Consider a recliner: if you have access to one, a recliner offers the benefit of being adjustable to find the most comfortable angle for your unique situation.

Another option that might work for you is the half-sitting position. By propping yourself up with pillows, you can relieve some of the pressure on your ribs and promote better breathing. Consider these tips:

  • Start by lying flat on your back.
  • Place several pillows behind your upper back and head, adjusting as needed to achieve a comfortable angle.
  • You may find additional comfort by placing pillows under your knees, which can help reduce strain on your lower back.

Side-sleepers might find relief by opting for the injured side down position. This may seem counterintuitive, but lying on the injured side can in fact help stabilize the broken ribs, thus reducing pain and promoting sleep. Just keep in mind:

  • Use adequate padding: place a pillow or folded blanket between your injured side and the mattress for added comfort and cushioning.
  • Prop your head and neck: ensure proper neck alignment by positioning a pillow under your head, avoiding too much elevation or sinking.
  • Support your upper arm and leg: place pillows in front of your chest and between your knees, respectively, to help maintain a comfortable alignment.

Is it better to rest or move with broken ribs?

It is generally better to rest and limit movements as much as possible when you have broken ribs. Resting allows the injured ribs to heal and reduces the risk of further injury. Moving or engaging in strenuous activities can exacerbate the pain and delay the healing process. However, light activities and gentle exercises recommended by a healthcare professional can help prevent complications and maintain mobility.

Lastly, if you find that the pain from your broken ribs is unbearable, always consult a healthcare professional. They’ll be able to provide tailored advice and prescribe appropriate pain relief measures. Sleep is essential for healing, so let’s prioritize finding a comfortable sleep position that works for you.

Pain Management Techniques

Dealing with broken ribs can be an uncomfortable experience, especially when trying to sleep. But fear not! We’ve compiled several pain management techniques that can help alleviate discomfort and make sleep more attainable.


Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can be effective in reducing pain and inflammation. Speak with your healthcare provider to determine which medication is best for you. Remember to follow their instructions and stay within the recommended dosages.

Apply Ice

Applying ice on the affected area can help numb the pain and decrease swelling. Make sure to wrap the ice in a towel or cloth to protect your skin. Limit each ice application to 20 minutes and wait at least an hour before reapplying.

Relaxation Techniques

Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation can help manage pain and promote sleep. These methods work by redirecting your focus from discomfort to a state of calmness and relaxation. Some breathing techniques to try include:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing
  • Pursed lip breathing
  • The 4-7-8 technique

Sleep Positioning

Finding a comfortable sleep position with broken ribs might seem impossible. However, a few strategic adjustments may provide relief:

  • Elevate your upper body to reduce pressure and prevent added strain on your ribcage
  • Sleep on the opposite side of the injury to alleviate pressure on the affected ribs
  • Use pillows to support your body, especially between your knees if lying on your side

Rest and Limit Movement

Allowing your body to recover is crucial for healing. Minimize activities that cause pain or strain on your ribs. Listen to your body and avoid movements or sleeping positions that exacerbate your pain.

Seek Medical Advice

If your pain worsens or persists, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider. They can offer additional treatment options and monitor your overall health during the healing process.

Managing broken rib pain while sleeping may require a combination of pain relievers, ice application, relaxation techniques, sleep positioning, and ample rest. Always consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidance on your specific situation. Happy healing and sleep well!

Do broken ribs hurt more when lying down?

Yes, broken ribs can often hurt more when lying down due to the increased pressure on the injured area. The pain can intensify when lying flat on your back or on the side of the affected ribs. Finding a comfortable sleeping position, such as propping yourself up with pillows, can help alleviate some of the discomfort.

What helps broken ribs heal faster?

To help broken ribs heal faster, it is important to follow these key steps:
Rest and avoid activities that could strain the ribs.
Apply ice packs or cold compresses to the affected area to reduce swelling and pain.
Take over-the-counter pain relievers as recommended by a healthcare professional.
Use a rib brace or bandage for support and to minimize movement.
Practice deep breathing and coughing exercises to prevent respiratory complications.
Follow a nutritious diet rich in calcium and vitamin D to promote bone healing.
Consult a healthcare professional for specific guidance on pain management and any necessary medical interventions.


We’ve covered the essentials of how to sleep with broken ribs. Dealing with this type of injury can be challenging, but we hope these guidelines will help you find comfort and rest throughout your recovery.

To recap, the following steps should be taken to ensure better sleep with broken ribs:

  • Consult a physician for proper advice and pain management
  • Sleep in an elevated position using pillows for support
  • Apply ice to the affected area to reduce swelling and relieve pain
  • Use a rib brace if recommended by your doctor
  • Try relaxation techniques to ease anxiety and encourage sleep

During this time, it’s critical to prioritize your recovery. Focus on these strategies and keep these tips in mind as you navigate through this difficult phase:

  • Keep up with your medication schedule as prescribed
  • Get plenty of rest and listen to your body
  • Gradually return to physical activities as recommended by your doctor

We understand that coping with broken ribs can be tough on both your mind and body. By implementing these suggestions, we hope to make your journey to recovery more comfortable and improve your quality of sleep. Sleep plays a vital role in the healing process, and with perseverance and care, your body will heal in due time.

References and Sources

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