How to Sleep on Side After Total Knee Replacement Surgery

Knee replacement surgery can change a person's life for the better in many ways 12. Many patients are able to resume activities they have been unable to do for some time. Sleeping after a total knee replacement can present something of a challenge, however, and learning some tricks to help you sleep in different positions can come in handy 12.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Sleeping on Your Side

Take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as aspirin or ibuprofen around 30 minutes before you go to bed. Check with your doctor concerning dosing and possible side effects. Do not take this if you are already taking a medicine for pain.

If possible, take a warm bath before bed. This loosens the joint, encourages blood flow and relaxes the body and the mind, preparing for a better night's sleep.

Place an extra blanket on your bed to cover your knees while you sleep. As the body temperature lowers during sleep, the cold can "get into" the joint and cause it to ache. Keeping it warm is key.

Climb into bed and roll onto the side you want to sleep on. Place an extra pillow between your knees and possibly between your ankles, as well. This provides the support and cushion that your sore knee will need to remain comfortable in this position.

Be prepared to wake up when you switch positions. Unless you sleep in the same position all night, you are likely to awaken as you turn in your sleep. If you roll to the other side, you will need to reposition the pillows between your knees to avoid the pain of the knees resting on each other.

Applying a topical analgesic to the knee at bedtime can also help. Follow label instructions, as some of these are stronger than others.


Wrapping your knee before bed can sometimes provide that extra layer of support and cushioning, especially if you are still fresh in the recovery process.


Never apply a topical analgesic to a fresh or healing incision. If your surgeon gives the OK, you can apply it around the surgery site, but stay a good two inches from it.