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How to Sleep With a Fractured Pelvis: Everything You Need to Know to Feel More Comfortable During the Night

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Written by: Alex Savy
Read 14 minLast updated on April 13, 2021

The incidence of pelvic fractures continues to rise (1), with road traffic incidents being the most common reason behind this type of injury (2).

Naturally, countless people have to learn how to deal and sleep with pain.

If you are one of them, allow us to offer some assistance and share a couple of methods that could potentially help you feel more comfortable in bed. Perhaps one of them can become your go-to tool that would allow you to sleep with a fractured pelvis soundly.

How a Fractured Pelvis Can Affect Sleep

Pelvis fracture can affect people of any age. However, it’s more common among older patients who are experiencing the age-related thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) and, consequently, become more vulnerable to bone damage (3). In most cases, pelvis fractures are caused by trivial traumatic accidents (4), including such mundane incidents as losing one’s balance and falling.

How a Fractured Pelvis Can Affect Sleep

Source:
https://hughston.com/wellness/pelvic-fractures/

Now, pelvis fractures can be accompanied by such symptoms as intense pelvic, back, hip, coccyx, or leg pain (5). Naturally, it can be nearly impossible to find a comfortable position and sleep well when dealing with constant pain. 

Here’s the thing, however:

Even though pain can be a real burden, there are still some things you can do to sleep with a fractured pelvis comfortably and peacefully (hopefully). So, let’s take a closer look at some of them.

Tip #1: Try to Maintain Healthy Sleep Hygiene

We all know that pain is usually linked to poor sleep (6). But did you know that decreased sleep quality can often lead to aggravated pain (7)? That’s why maintaining healthy sleep hygiene is vital when dealing with a fractured pelvis.

Now, the first thing you should do is try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time (approximately) every day. As long as you stay consistent, it will be easier for your body to get used to a certain “rhythm”, which potentially can help you fall asleep easier and sleep more soundly.

Next, try to control your caffeine and alcohol intake. Both can affect your overall sleep quality, especially if you drink close to your bedtime. Try to reserve coffee for the first half of the day and find a healthier relaxing substitution for a nightcap (I will provide some alternatives below).

Another important aspect of healthy sleep hygiene is exposure to screens and blue light. You have probably heard that blue light is bad for sleep, but I’m going to repeat: it can mess with your natural sleep rhythms, especially if you use devices right before bed. Therefore, you might want to start making healthier choices and leave your devices outside the bedroom. It won’t hurt to dim the lights around the house in the evening either. Plus, you can use blue light filters on your devices or wear special glasses that have a protective coating against this type of light. 

These are the basics of sleep hygiene, and you have probably heard them a hundred times. But trust me: implementing these changes won’t do you any harm. On the contrary: by following these simple rules, you can start sleeping much better, even with pelvic pain.

Tip #2: Do Not Neglect Pain-Relief and Sleep Aids

Following your doctor’s prescriptions can help you control the pain levels to at least some extent. And, of course, don’t try to self-medicate. Over-the-counter meds can backfire, so it’s always safer to follow your doctor’s instructions.

And if you can’t sleep with a fractured pelvis even while taking pain killers, you might also want to talk to a professional concerning sleep aids. Now, melatonin is probably the most popular one (and is one of the safest options). Melatonin is a hormone that our brain produces in response to darkness (8). It helps put the body into a more relaxed state and, therefore, prepares it for sleep. Naturally, when you take a melatonin supplement, you kind of give your body a sleep-inducing boost (9).

You can also try natural sleep aids such as valerian root, lavender, chamomile, passionflower, magnesium, and so on. A cup of herbal tea in the evening may help you wind down and put your body into a state that is more favorable for restful sleep.

Tip #3: Rethink Your Sleep Position

The most optimal sleep position is on one’s back. It can reduce the chances of misalignment and thus, may help your pelvis heal faster. Switching to back sleeping might also be a good idea in case you are trying to sleep with sciatica pain or other conditions that may be aggravating your pelvic pain.

When lying on your back, there’s less pressure on the pelvis, which may potentially ease the pain as well. You might also want to spread your legs and arms to the sides to distribute the body weight more evenly and minimize tension accumulation in any specific parts.  

If you are a side sleeper (and can’t force yourself to sleep on your back), avoid lying on the injured side. You might also want to prop yourself with extra pillows to avoid rolling onto the side that hurts the most and to give your sore pelvis more support. A full-body pillow may come in handy in this case.

You may try elevating the injured body part to help avoid swelling. Again, you can use a pillow or invest in an adjustable bed frame to experiment with different sleep positions. If that doesn’t work, you can try elevating your legs to reduce pressure from the pelvis. A wedge-shaped pillow would come in handy in this scenario.

And of course, change your positions carefully. You don’t want any sharp movements while being in such a vulnerable state. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with taking things slow.

Tip #4: Rethink Your Mattress Choice

To let your fractured pelvis heal properly, the correct alignment of the bones is crucial in the process (10). And that’s where your mattress might be playing a major role.

You see, it’s not only about comfort. A good mattress should be able to support your body in a proper, neutral alignment and distribute its weight evenly. This would allow your body to relax fully and may help with pressure alleviation. And once there’s no tension accumulating in certain body parts, chances are you can also experience pain relief to at least some extent.

Now, if your current mattress doesn’t help you achieve that, you might want to look at some of the popular chiropractor-recommended mattresses that are meant to combine reliable support with comfort. If your fractured pelvis pain has relocated to the hips, you may want to check out some of the quality mattresses for hip pain that can gently cradle this tender body part of yours. You can also go for a softer mattress if yours makes you wake up with painful pressure points. And if your bed is too soft and you feel like there’s too much strain on your back, you need a firmer model (a quick note: if you are a heavier sleeper – over 230 pounds – you might require an extra firm mattress for super-reliable support).

Of course, you can also change the way your current mattress feels by adding a topper. However, this little trick would only work if your mattress isn’t old or saggy. A topper would serve as an extra comfort layer that may either add more cushioning or make your mattress feel more resilient. But no matter how good a topper may be, it won’t be able to fix an old, unsupportive mattress. 

Now, how do you know whether your current mattress works for you or not?

Look for these signs:

  • you wake up with back pain;
  • your pelvis (or any other body part, depending on the symptoms) pain feels worse, specifically in the morning after you wake up;
  • you wake up in the middle of the night due to discomfort;
  • you develop tender pressure points or sore joints;
  • your mattress has noticeable sags or indentations.

Tip #5: Use Extra Pillows to Your Advantage

Additional pillows can provide extra support, potentially reducing the pressure from your tender pelvis and alleviating the pain. For example, if you are a back sleeper, elevating your knees might feel more comfortable than simply lying flat. For side sleepers, it may be a good idea to put a pillow between the knees to align the hips and the pelvis. If you find it more comfortable to lie on your back but tend to roll onto your side during sleep, you can prop yourself with pillows (on two sides) to stay in one position throughout the night. A pillow can be that lacking ingredient that might make you feel much more comfortable. So, don’t hesitate to experiment with various “setups”.

Tip #6: Relax Before Sleep

Dedicating some time to yourself and winding down in the evening can result in a couple of things. First, it may help your muscles relax (which may consequently reduce the stress from the pelvis and alleviate the pain a little). Second, going to bed in a calmer state can make it easier for you to fall asleep (and sleep more soundly). So, try to find the time (at least 30 minutes, but more is better) to kind of pamper yourself and unwind. Here are a few things you can try:

  • Gentle stretching and/or self-massage. I know that it can be very hard to move when your fractured pelvis is causing pain, but staying moderately active can do you a lot of good. Simple stretches before bed are a great way to relax, and if you add massage to the equation, you get a great recipe for restful sleep. And the massage session doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. You can simply rub your feet (if you can reach them), massage the arms or the head, find pressure spots on your palms, etc. 
  • Warm bath/shower. This trick is simple: warm water can help relax your muscles, which, again, may lead to reduced tension and lower pain levels. 
  • Meditation. Mindfulness exercises are quite effective when it comes to improving one’s sleep quality. Plus, it’s an excellent way to deal with your daily worries (health-related as well) because meditation may help you clear your thoughts.
  • Music or white noise. Another tool that might come in handy when dealing with stressful thoughts is following your relaxing routine with some soothing sounds in the background. Additionally, white noise, calm music, and nature sounds can do a great job of blocking the external noise that might be preventing you from falling asleep.
  • Aromatherapy. You may be skeptical at first (so was I), but certain essential oils can be an effective auxiliary tool when it comes to relaxation and sleep. You can add them to water when taking a bath, use an oil diffuser, dilute them with water and spray it around the room (or on your pillow), apply some to your wrists, etc. Consider such essential oils as sweet basil, bergamot, chamomile, lavender, jasmine, valerian, ylang-ylang, patchouli, sweet marjoram, etc.

These are just a few examples, but you get the idea: find something that makes you feel relaxed and dedicate some time to this activity every evening.

Tip #7: Take Care of Your Sleeping Environment

I’m sure you realize that, no matter what you do, if your sleeping environment is not comfortable, you won’t be able to relax fully (and hence, sleep well with pain). Thus, you should take care of your bedroom as well. Here are a couple of things you can try:

  • Make sure your mattress is comfortable (or check where to find one here). You can add a topper, a heating pad for a limited time to reduce the pain (11), get extra pillows for increased comfort, or maybe crank the thermostat down to make your memory foam mattress feel more supportive (as we know, visco-elastic foam reacts to temperature, so if your memory foam mattress seems too soft, you can slightly adjust its feel by cooling it down).
  • Set the perfect temperature. An optimal sleeping environment should be pleasantly cool, so you might want to adjust your thermostat before sleep (anything between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit should work).
  • Use a sleep mask or invest in quality curtains (dark). As you probably know, our natural sleep and wake cycles are governed by light changes. We are wired to turn sleepy when it’s dark outside, so blocking the light may help you sleep better. Even the street lights can affect your sleep, so getting a mask or nice curtains won’t hurt.
  • Wear comfy, breathable pajamas. Wrong clothes may also affect your comfort during the night. That’s why I always recommend choosing natural fabrics like cotton, viscose, or linen that would allow for proper airflow during sleep.

And as a little bonus, here are some extra tricks that hopefully can help you sleep better when dealing with pelvis fracture:

  • avoid liquids before bed to prevent getting up in the middle of the night (this can disrupt your sleep and potentially cause extra pain);
  • sleep in the middle of the bed to reduce the chance of rolling off during the night;
  • sleep alone, if possible, as your partner may accidentally wake you up (which isn’t ideal, especially when trying to sleep with pain).

F.A.Q.

What are the main signs of a pelvic fracture?

Usually, pelvic fractures are accompanied by sharp hip or groin pain (which often radiates to the lower back) and difficulty walking.

How can I sleep comfortably with a pelvic fracture?

The main goal is to get the needed support and make yourself as comfy as possible. That includes propping yourself with pillows, wearing comfortable clothing, and ensuring your mattress is supportive enough (you can get a topper or even buy a new one, if possible, depending on the state of your current mattress).

How long does it take a fractured pelvis to heal?

On average, it would take a pelvic fracture around 12-14 weeks to heal, but the numbers would depend on many factors (including your age, how serious the injury is, whether you have any other underlying conditions, and so on).

Wrapping Up

Sleeping with a pelvic fracture is tough, but it shouldn’t turn into a nightmare

You just need to take good care of yourself and try a few of the methods mentioned above. Hopefully, some of them can help you feel more comfortable and soothe the pain when sleeping. And once you start getting enough rest, the healing process would speed up too.

How long have you been trying to sleep well with a fractured pelvis? What have you already tried to feel more comfortable? Let us know in the comments!

References:

  1. Leonard T. Buller, Matthew J. Best, and Stephen M. Quinnan (March 2016). A Nationwide Analysis of Pelvic Ring Fractures: Incidence and Trends in Treatment, Length of Stay, and Mortality. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4748159/ 
  2. Subhajit Ghosh, Sameer Aggarwal, Vishal Kumar, Sandeep Patel, Prasoon Kumar (June 2019). Epidemiology of pelvic fractures in adults: Our experience at a tertiary hospital. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1008127518302608
  3. Allan Inglis Jr. (March 06, 2013). Ask the Expert: Pelvic Fractures. Retrieved from  https://www.hss.edu/playbook/ask-the-expert-pelvic-fractures/
  4. Ludwig Oberkircher, Steffen Ruchholtz, Pol Maria Rommens, Alexander Hofmann, Benjamin Bücking, Antonio Krüger (February 02, 2018). Osteoporotic Pelvic Fractures. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5817189/
  5. Northwell Health, Orthopaedic Institute (n.d.). What is a pelvis fracture? Retrieved from https://www.northwell.edu/orthopaedic-institute/find-care/conditions/pelvis-fractures
  6. Daniel Whibley, Nourah AlKandari, Kaja Kristensen, Max Barnish, Magdalena Rzewuska, Katie Druce, Nicole Tang (June 2019).  Sleep and Pain: A Systematic Review of Studies of Mediation. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/clinicalpain/Fulltext/2019/06000/Sleep_and_Pain__A_Systematic_Review_of_Studies_of.14.aspx? 
  7.  James I. Gerhart, John W. Burns, Kristina M. Post, David A. Smith, Laura S. Porter, Helen J. Burgess, Erik Schuster, Asokumar Buvanendran, Anne Marie Fras, and Francis J. Keefe (June 2017). Relationships Between Sleep Quality and Pain-Related Factors for People with Chronic Low Back Pain: Tests of Reciprocal and Time of Day Effects. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846493/
  8. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (January 2021). Melatonin: What You Need To Know. Retrieved from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know
  9. Ryan Raman and Jill Seladi-Schulman (August 05, 2020). How Melatonin Can Help You Sleep and Feel Better. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/melatonin-and-sleep 
  10. David L. Helfet (December 17, 2019). Pelvic Fractures/Acetabular Fractures. Retrieved from https://www.hss.edu/conditions_pelvic-fractures-acetabular-fractures.asp
  11. Yvette Brazier (July 25, 2017). Hot or cold: Which therapy works best? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/29108

2 comments

  1. This is very educative. It has really helped me a lot

    1. Hi Dence,
      Thanks a lot for sharing your opinion!
      I am beyond happy to learn that this article has managed to help you in any way!

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