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How to Sleep After Rhinoplasty (Surgeon’s 7 Tips)

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  • This article was written by Dr. Sony Sherpa – a qualified and practicing medical doctor and surgeon – to ensure the content is medically accurate and unique.

Pain and injuring the nose during sleep are the most common complaints after undergoing a rhinoplasty procedure.

So how can you sleep better after rhinoplasty?

To sleep better after rhinoplasty surgery: sleep alone on your back with pillows at your side to prevent rolling over onto your nose, with your head elevated using pillows or an adjustable bed to reduce congestion, and take doctor-prescribed pain medications to reduce discomfort.

The rest of this article expands on these points to give you 7 actionable tips to help you sleep better after rhinoplasty surgery.

However, this is not medical advice – always consult with your own doctor or surgeon before making any changes to your recovery protocol.

Related: see the best adjustable beds and mattresses for sleeping better after rhinoplasty surgery here.

7 Ways to Sleep Better After Rhinoplasty Surgery

Here are 7 ways that you can use to sleep better after your rhinoplasty procedure:

1: Sleep On Your Back to Avoid Pain and Damage

What Is The Best Sleeping Position Following Rhinoplasty Surgery?

The best sleeping position for the first 48 hours after rhinoplasty surgery is on your back with your upper body slightly elevated using pillows or an adjustable bed to prevent bleeding, swelling, and congestion.

The worst sleeping position after rhinoplasty surgery is sleeping on your front because there is more chance of pressure being placed on your nose which may ruin the effects of the surgery.

Sleeping on your side after rhinoplasty surgery is somewhat risky since it increases the chance of you rolling over and putting pressure on your nose.

The nose should not be squashed or pushed to either side after you have undergone your rhinoplasty procedure because it can ruin the results.

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Sleep On Your Back With Pillows at the Side of Your Body to Prevent Turning Over

To prevent any sort of physical injury to the nose, it is best to sleep on your back, with your nose far away from the pillow or mattress. 

Avoid putting any unnecessary pressure on your nose, by sleeping on your back, and surrounding yourself with pillows.

The purpose of these pillows is to prevent any chance of you rolling over and damaging your nose.

The pillows provide structural support, and keep you comfortable throughout the night, which further helps your sleep.

Some of my patients experience back pain as a result of having to sleep on their back, and if you are like them, then I highly recommend you put a pillow beneath your legs.

This will raise them slightly, and alleviate your back pain. 

This sleeping mandate is usually recommended for at least a week, although sleeping on the back is recommended for the full six weeks of recovery.

Your nose, right after the surgery, is not the same as your nose four to six weeks after the procedure, once it has healed and settled in place.

While it is still healing, any outside force can ruin the results of the procedure and should be avoided.

In my opinion, you should always speak to your surgeon before making the switch from sleeping on your back to sleeping on your side, as your surgeon knows best. 

Avoid Sleeping On Your Side or Front For 6 Weeks

Sleeping on your side is not recommended for the first week – or up to six weeks – after rhinoplasty surgery because the nose is still sensitive to pressure in this period.

Side and front sleeping can squash your nose during the night as you cannot control your body throughout your sleep.

Also, sleeping on your side has been associated with a higher risk of nasal congestion and edema, basically meaning that your nose is going to swell up more than usual.

This swelling can be dangerous for the results of your procedure. 

Sleeping on your side once in a while may not cause these exact complications, but it can slightly damage your nose, and cause asymmetry of the nose.

There may be no long-term health complications, but there will be aesthetic complications, often requiring revision rhinoplasties, so it is best to avoid sleeping on your side completely. 

Sleeping on your stomach is an absolute no, due to a very high chance of physical damage to the nose while it is healing. 

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2: Sleep Alone to Prevent Injury During the Night

Sleeping alone will prevent any damage to your nose from your partner, pets, or children.

Sleeping alone for at least the first week – which also happens to be the most crucial period of your recovery – can reduce the risks of unwanted damage to the nose.

Moreover, an unplanned hit to your nose at night can be the cause of excruciating pain, as your nose is already raw from the injury of the rhinoplasty procedure.

I always tell my patients to sleep solo for at least a week after the rhinoplasty procedure, to ensure the best results.

Sleeping solo also helps you relax and sleep well because you don’t have to be constantly worried about unwanted hits during the night.

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3: Use Extra Pillows to Prevent Congestion

After rhinoplasty surgery, it is recommended that you elevate your head by 35 to 40 degrees by using a couple of pillows or an adjustable bed to prevent nasal congestion and swelling.

The first two weeks of the recovery period from the rhinoplasty procedure are marked by swelling, bruising, discomfort, and pain.

Sleeping with your head parallel to the mattress can exaggerate this swelling and pain, which not only ruins the quality of your sleep, but also the quality of the results of the procedure. 

If you don’t want to prop your head up using the pillows, you can also sleep on a reclining chair or an adjustable bed.

The whole aim of this is to keep your nose, and consequently the head, above the level of your heart to improve circulation, avoid fluid buildup, and prevent congestion [1]. 

Sleeping straight on your back with your head supported by a single pillow can not only cause swelling but can also increase the risk of bleeding.

This is the same reason why you aren’t allowed to bend over a lot after the procedure.

The forward tilting of the head – even slightly if for long periods – can result in increased blood pressure, which then results in nasal bleeding.

Along with that, the increase in blood pressure can cause headaches, which will decrease the quality and duration of the sleep you get. 

Nasal bleeds and swelling can permanently damage your nasal structure, as they often result in the death of nasal cells and graft cells, which can cause pits and dents to form in your nasal structure. 

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4: Take Pain Medication Before Bedtime to Reduce Discomfort

Taking pain medications prescribed by your doctor or surgeon is one of the most effective ways to sleep better after rhinoplasty surgery because it reduces the discomfort that may inhibit your sleep.

This is exactly why I tell my patients to take their pain medication right before bedtime, as it will help manage the pain.

Most patients see a marked improvement in the quality of their sleep once they start doing so. 

Pain management medications are almost always prescribed after a surgical procedure, and rhinoplasty is no different.

However, not everyone takes these pills, thinking they can push through the pain, and in my opinion, that is one of the worst things you can do to your body while it recovers, especially during the first week of recovery.

Because this pain will interfere with your ability to rest, and as your body predominately heals itself while you sleep, the lack of sleep eventually turns into a clear lack of recovery.

Prevention of complications is important to get the best results from your rhinoplasty procedure.

It is Generally Safe to Take NSAID After Rhinoplasty

While research has proven that NSAID drugs could potentially lengthen bone healing time, it is important to note that rhinoplasty procedure does not involve any sort of bone manipulation, or require bone healing, per se [2].

So you don’t need to worry about NSAIDs like ibuprofen prolonging your healing time.

Speak to your surgeon if you have any concerns about the pain management medications prescribed to you. 

Take your pain medication as prescribed and for as long as it is indicated.

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5: Take Extra Naps as Required to Promote Healing

Normally, napping during the day is discouraged since it may stop you from getting to sleep at night.

However, when recovering from rhinoplasty surgery, napping as required may help to promote healing.

While you sleep, your body is resting, and focusing on healing itself.

This is why rest is crucial during the recovery period from any surgical procedure, including the rhinoplasty procedure.

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6: Avoid Caffeine to Improve Sleep Quality

Avoiding caffeine after your rhinoplasty surgery can help to improve your sleep quality and thus boost recovery.

Caffeine is a stimulant that will keep you awake and alert for hours, and while it is a great fix for slow days, it should be avoided like the plague during your recovery period.

Taking a stimulant drug that reduces your sleep duration and quality can consequently reduce the time your body gets every day to heal itself.

A prolonged recovery period means higher risks of complications, such as pneumonia, infections, and blood clots arising.

A recent preclinical study found that caffeine can cause problems when it comes to postoperative pain management [3].

Caffeine causes sleep loss after the surgery, which can enhance the pain and discomfort of the first week, and even prolong it.

Moreover, this study found that caffeine consumption during the preoperative stage (the days leading up to the procedure) can also cause problems during the recovery period.

This is because fatigue and sleep loss before the procedure can extend into the recovery period.

In my professional experience, caffeine should be avoided in the days leading up to the procedure, and for at least two weeks afterwards. 

Click here for 15 ways to sleep better after drinking coffee.

7: Before Your Surgery, Prepare a Recovery Area to Rest in

Before you go in for your rhinoplasty surgery, it’s crucial that you prepare a recovery area that you can use straight away for rest once you get back.

I always tell my patients to prepare a comfortable place with multiple pillows and blankets before even going into the surgery. 

You can use these pillows to stop you from rolling over on to your nose, and to elevate your legs – as a way of treating back pain from lying down.

Click here to see the best mattresses for a comfortable night’s rest after rhinoplasty surgery.

Conclusion: Sleep On Your Back Alone

The best sleeping position after the rhinoplasty procedure is on your back on your own – with no bed partner, children, or pets present.

Pain medications can also help you to get a better night’s rest and thus improve your recovery.

Always consult with your doctor or surgeon for the best advice.

Up next: see the best adjustable beds to help you recover from rhinoplasty surgery here.


Sources and References

1: Yamasaki, Alisa et al. “Patient Recovery and Satisfaction with Perioperative Care After Rhinoplasty.” Facial plastic surgery & aesthetic medicine, 10.1089/fpsam.2021.0034. 16 Sep. 2021, doi:10.1089/fpsam.2021.0034

2: Wheatley, Benjamin M et al. “Effect of NSAIDs on Bone Healing Rates: A Meta-analysis.” The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons vol. 27,7 (2019): e330-e336. doi:10.5435/JAAOS-D-17-00727

3: Annie.Hauser. “Sleep Loss and Post Surgery Pain: Effect of Caffeine on Pain Tolerance.” University of Michigan, 1 Oct. 2018, labblog.uofmhealth.org/lab-report/to-reduce-postoperative-pain-consider-sleep-and-caffeine.

Medical Disclaimer

No part of this website offers medical advice – always consult with your own doctor or surgeon for the best guidance.

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Main image: ‘Beautiful Woman’s Face’ by eckmannoleg (Getty Images Pro) – used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.

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