How to Sleep With a Broken Fibula (10 Ways)

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This article has been medically reviewed by Darshan Shingala (M.D, MPH) – a qualified and practicing medical doctor – for maximum factual accuracy and reliability.

A broken fibula is an injury to the bone on the outside of your lower leg that can be painful and stop you from getting to sleep.

So how can you get to sleep when you have a broken fibula?

To get to sleep with a broken fibula: take doctor prescribed pain medications as directed, use the RICE protocol, develop a bedtime routine, sleep on your back, keep the room at 16-19°C, and limit meals, drinks, and activities that could disrupt sleep – sleep medication should be a last resort due to addiction potential.

The rest of this article explains in more detail how to get to sleep when you have a broken fibula.

Related: click here for 8 doctor-advised ways to sleep better after ankle surgery.

10 Ways to Sleep Better With a Broken Fibula

The fibula is the long, thin, and lateral bone of the lower leg – also known as the calf bone – located below the knee joint that extends to the ankle joint.

In addition to providing support to the ankle joint, the fibula also acts as a point of attachment for several muscle groups.

A fractured fibula denotes a break in the continuity of the bone at any point.

Fibula Fractures Vary in Type and Severity

In adults, most fibula fractures are caused by trauma such as a direct blow to the leg, twisting of the ankle, or an injury caused by falling down.

In some cases, the traumas can also be high-impact such as an injury during a car accident or after falling from a great height.

Depending on the etiology, fibular fractures can vary in their type and severity.

The most common symptoms of a broken fibula are pain, swelling, tenderness, and problems with weight-bearing.

Fibula Fractures Can Take 6-16 Weeks or More to Heal

The management of the fracture can be different depending on the individual case.

The most common treatment approaches are surgical fixation, such as open reduction or internal fixation, and conservative therapy.

In most cases, doctors use a combination of treatment options that best fit the patient depending on the severity of the case.

On average, most fibula fractures heal within a period of six to eight weeks but severe fractures may take up to 16 weeks or more to heal.

Oftentimes, children demonstrate speedy recovery when compared to adults.

However, it is needless to say that the healing time period can be variable depending on whether there was surgical intervention or not.

Casts or Splints are Used to Immobilize the Leg

In most cases, patients are advised to keep the broken bone immobilized for several weeks, preferably in a cast or splint.

The primary aim of immobilization of the fracture is to allow adequate healing of the injured bone by restriction of motion.

Immobilization of a broken bone can help to considerably reduce signs of inflammation such as pain and swelling.

It can also help in the reduction of muscle spasms, and allow proper alignment during the healing process.

Pain Can Affect Sleep

The recovery period can be quite long after a fibula injury.

During the long recovery period, patients may experience difficulty adapting to a new sleeping routine.

Here are 10 ways to help you sleep better when you have a broken fibula:

1: Take Doctor Prescribed Pain Medication

It is important to regularly take the medications prescribed by your physician to manage the pain and minimize swelling of the leg.

To effectively manage pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, or narcotic analgesics such as oxycodone are usually prescribed by healthcare practitioners.

These medications may be prescribed for either oral consumption or for topical application.

Please be safe with these medications.

Always consult with your doctor before consuming any drugs, follow the prescribed medicinal dosage, take your medicines at the advised time of the day, and report to your doctor any adverse side-effects.

2: Apply Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation

RICE: Rest, Ice, Compress & Elevate

RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Apply the RICE principle before going to bed in order to minimize discomfort, swelling, and pain for better sleep as follows:

2.1: Rest

Taking adequate rest and avoiding any activities which may induce stress to the injured bone may significantly speed up the healing process.

Before bed, avoid any activities that may aggravate the discomfort in your leg in order to sleep better.

2.2: Ice

Applying ice regularly to the injury can significantly reduce pain and swelling.

You can ice the injured area about 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime.

It is important to note that ice should not be applied directly to the injury.

Use a towel to wrap the ice before applying it onto the skin surface.

2.3: Compression

It is often recommended to compress the injured area to reduce swelling.

However, it is important to make sure that the area is not compressed too tightly as it may cause restriction of blood flow.

Please talk to your doctor regarding the most adequate method and duration of compression for your broken fibula.

2.4: Elevation

It is highly recommended to use multiple pillows for elevating the cast.

It is important to keep the fractured bone elevated above the level of the heart to prevent swelling.

In addition to the prevention of the development of edema, the elevation of the injured leg can also reduce overall inflammation and help in pain reduction.

3: Reduce Distractions Before Bed to Trigger Sleep

It’s important to minimize any distractions before bed in order to reduce how long it takes for you to get to sleep, as follows:

3.1: Use Noise Canceling Devices to Create a Calming Ambiance

It is difficult to fall asleep in a noisy environment.

So, try to create a calming and silent zone in your bedroom that will help you to unwind, relax and fall asleep easily.

This can be achieved by using noise-canceling devices or even playing soft calming music at a reduced volume in the background.

3.2: Dim the Bedroom Lights 1-2 Hours Before Bed

Excessively bright lighting can disrupt your sleep.

So, try to dim your bedroom lights 1-2 hours before bedtime and eventually switch off all the lights closer to bedtime.

In addition to this, it is important to make sure that the lights do not flicker unnecessarily as this may trigger headaches and disrupt sleep in some people.

If you work nights or otherwise need to sleep when there’s daylight, check out these 19 ways to black out your bedroom for better sleep.

3.3: Stop Using Electronic Devices 2-3 Hours Before Bedtime

The blue light emitted from electronic devices can disturb your sleep.

Hence, it is a good idea to limit the use of electronic devices such as mobile phones, laptops, and television before bedtime.

Try to observe a no-screen time for up to 2-3 hours before going to bed.

It is also reported that some people experience reduced frequencies of nightmares by limiting their electronic device usage for a few hours before bedtime.

4: Eat a Light Meal No Later Than 3-4 Hours Before Bed

It would be a good idea to consume a light dinner so that you feel settled and comfortable when you go to bed.

It is also recommended to not consume dinner too close to your bedtime.

Ideally, one should consume their last meal at least 3-4 hours prior to going to sleep.

It is also suggested to avoid the consumption of certain foods that are known to exacerbate acid reflux or indigestion (buying an adjustable bed can help to combat acid reflux by elevating the upper portion of the bed).

For example, you must try to avoid a high-protein or a high-fat meal before bedtime.

Research suggests that the consumption of a dense meal such as a high-protein meal or a high-fat meal right before bed contributes to sleep disturbances.

4.1: Avoid Spicy Food Before Bed

It is also best to avoid spicy food items for dinner, such as dishes containing spices like cayenne or tabasco.

There are several reasons for refraining from spicy dinner.

For example, spices are usually thermogenic and can increase the basal body temperature which in turn makes you feel more awake.

It is also reported that spicy foods can boost your metabolism due to their active ingredient, capsaicin.

This metabolism-boosting property can trigger heartburn in some people.

4.2: Avoid Caffeine 8 Hours Before Bed

It is best to avoid the intake of caffeine at nighttime to ensure uninterrupted sleep.

This is because caffeine has a stimulating effect on the nervous system and it can keep you awake at night for long hours.

It is highly recommended to avoid the intake of caffeine for at least eight hours before going to bed.

Discover 6 ways to get to sleep after consuming caffeine before bed here.

5: Stop Fluid Intake 2 Hours Before Bedtime

Stop drinking fluids 2 hours prior to going to bed so that you don’t have to get up to go to the bathroom during the night – which would disrupt your sleep and increase the pain and discomfort due to having to put weight on your broken fibula.

In addition to this, it is important to avoid consuming liquids that induce diuresis such as coffee and alcohol.

In general, chronic usage of caffeine and alcohol has been linked to the disruption of sleep homeostasis.

When referring to water in particular, it is definitely very important to stay hydrated during the day by drinking plenty of water.

It is recommended to drink at least eight to ten glasses of water per day to prevent dehydration, keep your energy levels high, and speed up your recovery.

However, you must exercise caution when drinking too much water closer to bedtime.

This is because you might find yourself waking up multiple times during the night to urinate and it may put added pressure on your broken bone.

It would be best to consume large quantities of water during the day and slowly taper off your water intake during the evening hours.

This technique will also help to prevent the development of swelling and edema in the injured area.

6: Sleep On Your Back to Reduce the Pain

To sleep comfortably with a broken fibula, try lying down on your back – research suggests that the supine position is one of the most comfortable sleeping positions because it can help to distribute your weight more evenly across the mattress and thus reduce pressure points on your body.

You should buy a mattress that has the right firmness and qualities relative to your dominant sleeping style (find out how to do this and buy a quality mattress here).

A good mattress can provide adequate cushioning and support to your musculoskeletal structure and help you to maintain your body posture.

There are several additional health benefits to sleeping in the supine position (on your back) such as stress relief, good body posture, and relief from headaches.

7: Use Additional Pillows to Stop You Turning Over

Learning to Sleep on Your Back

If you’re a side sleeper, a front sleeper, or have trouble sleeping on your back, then placing extra pillows next to your hips can help to stop you from turning over during the night and otherwise place extra pressure on your broken fibula that could worsen the pain.

Body pillows, bolster pillows, or a wedge cushion can provide extra comfort and support to the injured area as well as help to keep you sleeping on your back.

8: Keep the Room at 16-19 Degrees Celsius

It is advised to regulate the bedroom temperature and maintain it between 16 to 19 degrees Celsius (60.8F – 66.2F).

This is because an ambient temperature lower than the core body temperature can aid in falling asleep faster.

If the room is warmer or colder than 16 to 19 degree Celsius, you may experience restlessness, sleep disturbances, and it may even affect the quality of your dreams.

If the bedroom is installed with a thermostat, it is easy to maintain the room temperature.

Alternatively, you may use an air conditioner or even consider opening the windows to let in some fresh air and a cool breeze.

In addition to maintaining a cooler room temperature, you may also consider wearing socks to bed to keep your feet warm and ensure faster peripheral vasodilation which may assist you in falling asleep.

9: Follow a Sleep Routine to Set Your Body Clock

It is advised to develop and follow a sleep routine in order to set your body clock so that you will feel sleepy at the same time each night and make it easier to get to sleep faster.

Some of the practices that you can try are as follows:

9.1: Go to Bed at the Same Time Each night

Going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time the next day is crucial to maintaining a proper sleep routine.

Maintaining a regular sleep schedule will help to calibrate your biological clock, also known as the circadian rhythm.

The circadian rhythm is responsible for your sleep-wake cycle and it is represented by an endogenous oscillation that repeats every 24 hours.

If your circadian rhythm is well-aligned, you can significantly repair your sleeping disturbances and even receive some added health benefits such as maintaining a healthy body weight, reducing symptoms of anxiety, and preventing the development of neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia.

9.2: Relax Your Body With a Warm Shower

Taking a warm shower before the bed can relax the body, ease muscle tension, and relieve unnecessary stress.

It is often recommended to opt for a warm shower to help you to unwind and fall asleep quickly.

9.3: Calm Your Mind With Meditation

Research shows that guided mindfulness-based meditation practices can significantly calm the mind, reduce stress, and induce a night of restful sleep.

It is advised to develop and follow a 10-15 minute meditation routine before bedtime.

Check out these other 12 relaxation strategies to use before bed here.

10: Take Doctor Prescribed Sleep Medications With Caution

If you’re still struggling to get to sleep with a broken fibula, then you should talk to your doctor about taking prescribed sleep medications.

You may be prescribed melatonin or zolpidem to improve the quality of your sleep.

Please be careful while consuming these drugs.

You must follow your doctor’s advice, read the label carefully and be aware of how these sleep medications interact with other drugs or food items, such as alcohol.

In general, it is strongly advised to avoid consuming sleep medications with alcohol as it may have serious adverse reactions.

It is extremely crucial to practice safe lifestyle habits while using these drugs.

For instance, do not drive, cycle, or use heavy machinery for at least 5 hours after taking these drugs.

It is also important that you disclose to your doctor any health conditions that you may have, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or if you have any autoimmune conditions.

Information about melatonin and zolpidem is as follows:

10.1: Melatonin

Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone produced by the pineal gland in the human body.

It is quite popularly known as the ‘sleep hormone’.

It can help to regulate your circadian rhythm and improve the quality of your sleep.

Melatonin is available in tablet form and it is less likely to cause symptoms of dependency when compared to other sleep medications.

10.2: Zolpidem

Zolpidem is a prescription-only drug that can help you fall asleep.

You must use this drug with caution as it may be habit-forming.

Also, do not consume several tablets at once and strictly follow the doses recommended by your physician.

It is available in tablet form and as an oral spray.

It is best to discuss with your doctor which form of administration may be most suitable for you.

Sleep Medications Are a Last Resort

Prescription sleep medications – especially zolpidem – should be seen as a last resort to get to sleep with a broken fibula because they may cause dependency and make it difficult to get off them once your broken leg has healed.

Care should also be taken when taking pain medications too – always follow your doctor’s advice.

The RICE technique, developing a good sleeping routine, and trying relaxation strategies are more natural ways to get to sleep when you have a broken fibula.

Up next: how to sleep better with a fractured pelvis.

Sources and References

[1] NCBI – Short and Long-term Health Consequences of Sleep Disruption. Accessed 16/2/21.

[2] PubMed – Intramedullary Fixation of Distal Fibular Fractures: a Systematic Review of Clinical and Functional Outcomes. Accessed 16/2/21.

[3] PubMed – Distal Leg Fractures: How Critical is the Fibular Fracture and its Fixation? Accessed 16/2/21.

[4] PubMed – Coffee, Caffeine, and Sleep: A Systematic Review of Epidemiological Studies and Randomized Controlled Trials. Accessed 16/2/21.

[5] PubMed – Alcohol Disrupts Sleep Homeostasis. Accessed 16/2/21.

[6] PubMed – Restricted and Disrupted Sleep: Effects on Autonomic Function, Neuroendocrine Stress Systems and Stress Responsivity. Accessed 16/2/21.

[7] PubMed – Complications After Surgical Management of Distal Lower Leg Fractures. Accessed 16/2/21.

[8] NCBI – Fibula Fractures. Accessed 16/2/21.

Medical Disclaimer

Although this article was reviewed by a qualified medical doctor, none of the information is designed to replace the advice given by your own doctor who understands your unique condition.

Image Attribution and Licencing

Main image: ‘Broken Leg’ by Ocean Digital (Getty Images) – used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.