One of my first queries when I was getting ready to have my stoma made was, ‘but how will I sleep with it attached to me?’
And sure for some, this might not phase them at all; it would be a welcomed break from not sleeping at all or having very broken and unsuccessful sleep. But I worried, none the less. Would I squash it? Would doing that hurt? Would I feel it leak or move? Could I even lie on that side with a bag on? I had all these ‘fears’ and more but like anything, the real thing will prepare you.
However, learning how to sleep again after stoma surgery is odd. After all, we’ve been sleeping the same way since the day we were born. But when you have a stoma, your old sleep positions might need a little adjustment.
For the first few weeks after surgery, your abdominal muscles and skin surrounding your stoma will be sore. You may find that lying on your back with your chest and head propped up with pillows helps alleviate any discomfort you may have when lying flat. Once the stoma area heals, you can start experimenting with your usual sleep position.
If you’re a side sleeper and prefer lying on the same side as your stoma, this position shouldn’t cause too much concern because your pouch will be supported by the bed. If you favour sleeping on the opposite side of your stoma, you can choose to place a pillow near your stomach for your appliance to rest on, so it doesn’t pull at your skin as it fills up during the night.
Stomach sleepers may have the hardest time adjusting since lying directly on your appliance is obviously not an ideal scenario. If you can’t seem to sleep in any other position, try bending your stoma-side leg and placing a pillow beneath that knee. This will create a gap between your pouch and the mattress so you’re not putting any direct pressure on it.
Back sleepers can return to life as usual without the addition of extra pillows or props. Your appliance will be supported by your own body and you shouldn’t have to worry about squishing it during the night.
If you’re considering changing sleep positions during this transitional period, most doctors agree that back sleeping is the healthiest for neck and spine alignment, and there’s an added bonus — less facial wrinkles down the road! But in the end, it is about what feels most comfortable to you and your body.
- Get used to emptying the bag before going to bed – this leaves less output in the bag and less chance of a leak from it overfilling.
- Plan to eat earlier in the evening to avoid an active stoma – eating a large meal or drinking in large quantities just before turning down for the evening is likely to disrupt sleep due to having to empty your pouch several times throughout the night.
- Use accessorises – flange extenders, larger pouches, even two piece systems ; all can help you feel comfortable at night and prolong your bag wear time.
- Compromise on sleeping positions – Put Pillows Around You. These will give you much needed support if you are a restless sleeper or just change position during the night.
- Ensure a secure fit when applying your bag – actually having a secure bag in the first place, will help boost your confidence in feeling secure during the night, and hopefully reduce the amount of time you spend awake worrying.
How to handle an ostomy leak in the middle of the night
Try as we might to avoid this particular situation, there will come a time when you wake up to the dreaded discovery that your bag has leaked while you slept. Half asleep, you will realise that you are covered in a mess and inevitably have to stumble your way through a shower and bag change in the middle of the night.
Through groggy eyes, you will have to clean yourself off, change your bag, strip and change the sheets, and get yourself back to bed. The best thing you can do in this situation is to remain calm. As badly as you want to cry or scream or curse, just take a deep breath (maybe mutter a few curse words to yourself) and deal with the situation.
Panicking and getting upset, even as completely justified as that is, will only make matters worse.
Comfort Medical – Tips for Better Sleep After Ostomy Surgery
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