How Should You Sleep After Having Knee Replacement Surgery?

How should you sleep after having knee replacement surgery? Sleeping on the back or on the non-operative side is recommended. Learn other recovery tips.

There are many ways a knee replacement surgery can change a person’s life for the better. There are many who can pick up their activities and those they haven’t been able to do, fairly quickly after surgery. But many patients discover that a knee replacement disrupts their sleeping as well. If you learn a few tricks, you may find a more comfortable way to enjoy sleeping.

Sleeping Positions After Knee Replacement Surgery

There are some positions that will help you feel more comfortable while sleeping. Consider trying these positions:


This is the best way to sleep. You should put your leg that had the knee replacement upon a few pillows. Don’t put them behind your knee. You can also use a foam elevator or wedge to keep your leg above your heart. You should speak to your doctor before using one because some don’t recommend them.

Non-Operative Side

Try to sleep on the opposite side of the knee replacement. Your healing knee should be closer to the ceiling. It’s a good idea to keep two pillows or more between your legs. Sleep like this for at least six weeks. Don’t cross your legs or shuffle either of them forward. This is one of recommended sleeping positions after knee replacement surgery.

Please remember it’s not safe to sleep on your tummy after you’ve had your knee replaced. This is not a good position to sleep in. It is painful, as well as unsafe to sleep on the surgical side. Speak with your doctor about different things you can try to find relief while you are sleeping. After six weeks, you can speak with your doctor about new sleeping positions. 

It is common for people to have trouble sleeping after knee replacement. Make sure to stay on top of taking your pain killers before bed as well as through the night. You should try to manage when you take them so that you can have a dose right before sleeping. You may want to keep your medicine next to the bed, so you can get a dose in first thing because your pain may set in.

Recovery Tips After Knee Replacement Surgery

Besides sleeping positions after knee replacement surgery, learn more tips for better recovery after knee replacement surgery.

Caring for the Wound

While recovering at home, the following guidelines can prevent infection and help care for your wound.

  •  Keep the wound dry and clean. The hospital will likely apply a dressing that needs to be changed. Get instructions before leaving the hospital.
  •  Follow your doctor’s care instructions for showering and bathing.
  •  Notify your doctor if the wound drains or looks red as this may mean there’s infection.


Slight to moderate swelling is considered normal for as long as 3-6 months post-surgery. To decrease swelling, apply ice and elevate legs. Compression stockings may help with swelling. Talk to your doctor if you see new or extreme swelling; this may be a sign of a blood clot. 


Follow your doctor’s instructions when it comes to medication. You may be prescribed non-narcotics, narcotics, injectable or oral blood thinners, anti-nausea medicine or stool softeners. 

Check with your doctor about your medicine, including anything you’re taking over the counter, such as vitamins and supplements. Your doctor can let you know if there are any problems with mixing the medications.

You want to be careful not to get any infection in your healing joints. Your doctor may recommend antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection, during certain procedures such as dental work. It’s a good to speak with your doctor before having dental work and to let your dentist know about your knee replacement. It may be a good idea to keep a medical card on you so if there’s an emergency, personnel know the full situation.


Once you have returned home, you will likely be back on your normal diet. Your doctor may suggest you take vitamin and iron supplements. You may also be told to avoid supplements such as getting extra vitamin K or other blood thinners. You may also be told to ease up on foods such as Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, liver, garbanzo beans, kale, spinach, soybean oil, turnip greens, lettuce, onions and cabbage.

Be sure to limit your alcohol and coffee intake but continue to get plenty of fluids. Try to manage your weight to reduce stress on the joint. 

Getting Back to Normal Routine

You should stay active once you are back home. Just make sure to not overdue it too soon. Though you will have some good and bad days, you should see gradual improvement. The following should apply:


It is generally safe to get back to driving once you are off your narcotic pain medicine and when your reflexes and strength have returned to normal. Your doctor will let you know when you can return to driving.


Make sure to check with your doctor to see when you can safely resume having sex. Dependent on your condition, you may just have a few weeks before you can resume.

Returning to Work

Depending on what kind of job you do, and the activities involved, you may return to work in a few weeks or in several. Your doctor will give you the best idea of when it’s safe to do so.

Exercise and Sports

Keep up with the routine your physical therapist prescribes for at least 8 weeks. Your doctor may recommend a stationary bike to help with your routine and your knee. Try to get the most bending and straightening of your knee possible.

When your doctor gives you the clear, you can return to your normal routine from before surgery. Walk often but remember it won’t replace what your physical therapist or doctor says you should do. 

Swimming provides excellent exercise that is low-impact. You can do this as soon as the stitches are gone, and the wound is healed. Low impact exercise such as bicycling, golfing, Pilates or yoga are also recommended.


Being immobile in a plane and dealing with pressure changes may make your knee swell, especially during healing. Check with your doctor before flying. You may need to make security aware because in some cases an artificial joint will set off the alarm. Carrying a medical alert card may help you make it through security easier.



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