Let’s face it. All aspects of a broken arm suck. But there is one thing in particular that a broken arm can have a particularly negative impact on. Your sleep.
As you lay yourself down, your arm will rest below the level of your heart, resulting in an increase in swelling, and along with it pain. And if there is one thing that can stop you from sleeping properly, it’s pain.
Now it is highly likely that rest is one of the things your doctor would have recommended in speeding along the recovery process. So you are going to want to learn how to get comfortable quick-smart when laying down.
In this article, we’ll explore some adjustments you can make to your night-time routine to ease the woes of sleeping with a broken arm, from settling into a new sleep position, to adopting an anti-inflammatory diet.
- Best sleeping positions for a broken arm
- Sleeping with an arm sling
- Reduce night-time swelling with proper dieting
- Natural sedatives
Best Sleeping Positions for a Broken Arm
Regardless of the type of break you’ve suffered, broken bones all have one thing in common:They require elevation above the heart. Elevating the arm prevents blood from pooling and causing swelling in the break, meaning the position in which you sleep plays a major role in the quality and speed of your recovery.
It’s for this reason that sleeping on your side or back are your best bets for a quick, comfortable recovery.
Below are the three most simple, practical and healthy sleep positions for those suffering from a broken arm:
1. On your back or side with hand resting behind the ear
While it may seem a bit unnatural at first, sleeping in this position allows you to lie comfortably if your pain stems from pressure applied to the underside of the forearm.
However, you’ll want to ensure that your pillow is wide enough to accommodate any unconscious tossing and turning that might throw your arm off the pillow.
In the days following your break, your arm will be extremely sensitive, and so much as a two-inch fall from pillow to mattress can result in tremendous pain.
2. On the (other) side with the arm resting palm down on a pillow
This is the default position for those using a full-length body pillow. However, a regular pillow with some width to it works as well. Better yet, grab yourself an abduction pillow!
Sleeping in this position is recommended for those who experience pain and sensitivity when pressure is applied to the outside of the forearm. It’s also an alternative for those who would otherwise sleep on their stomach.
3. On the back with arm resting on a pillow or across the chest
While sleeping on your (non-injured) side naturally elevates the arm well-above the heart, requiring no further modification, back sleepers can reap these same benefits by resting their arm on a mound of pillows to their side, or folding the arm across the chest.
The main benefit of sleeping on your back is that it poses the least risk of rolling over onto the arm during sleep.
However, if you find it difficult to sleep on your back, I recommend reading a guide that details how to do just that!
Now, if you’re sleeping with an arm sling, read on, because while these movement-restricting devices can be tricky to get used to, there are a couple of things you can do to make sling-sleeping easy and painless.
Sleeping with an Arm Sling
If you’ve suffered a break to your shoulder, elbow, or wrist, then your doctor has probably spoken to you about using one of these.
Wearing an arm sling to bed is often recommended for the first 6 weeks following a break as they expedite the healing process by restricting movement in the target area.
Another benefit is that they allow shoulder muscles to relax, reducing feelings of tightness.
However, simple and effective as they may be, wearers’ chief complaint is that they’re just not that comfortable, and tend to require adjustment to the sleep routine.
Of course, “adjustment” doesn’t always have to be a bad thing (or even difficult for that matter.)
In fact, it can be as easy as finding a new pillow!
Invest in a Specialized Pillow
As we previously discussed, the pillow market has effectively become one of immense specialty, with different pillows for every body, purpose, sleeping position, and budget.
If your broken arm is causing you to go to bed in a state of discomfort, whether the result of painful inflammation or simple difficulty in adjusting to a
new sleeping position, consider spoiling yourself with one of these sling-friendly pillows:
1. Arm Elevation Pillow
While the arm elevation pillow comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and models, it generally takes the form of an odd-looking, square contraption not unlike something you’d find in a Dr. Seuss book.
But don’t let looks fool you, this pillow is incredibly effective at reducing inflammation, pain, and stress in your broken arm, and is often recommended for use immediately following casting or surgery.
The arm elevation pillow works as its name suggests: by keeping the arm comfortably elevated at an upward angle, preventing further inflammation and swelling within the arm.
Depending on the nature of your arm’s break, your doctor may approve or suggest the use of this pillow at night in lieu of a sling.
Unfortunately, this pillow does come with one major drawback- it requires the user to sleep on their back.
Note: These pillows hover around the $40-60 range, so you’ll want to do some shopping around for the model that best fits your budget.
2. Body pillow
Broken arm or not, if you’re a side-sleeper, you may want to consider checking out the body pillow.
This full-length pillow works best when “spooned” in a semi-fetal position, with the pillow running the length of your head, and resting between your thighs. Sleeping in this manner allows you to rest your broken hand by your head in an elevated position, while also keeping your spine in alignment.
Back sleepers can also benefit from the pillow as its length allows the broken hand to be elevated in two resting positions: with the back of the hand resting behind the ear, or palm down and near the hip.
But if elevating your broken arm isn’t enough in your fight against painful, night-time swelling, then your lifestyle habits may be to blame. Consider further supplementing your recovery through natural means such as dietary changes, herbal remedies, and additional rest and hydration:
Reduce Night-time Symptoms Through Proper Dieting
In some cases, elevation alone isn’t enough in the fight against night-time swelling.
If you experience throbbing when stimulating blood flow by moving your arm, then you may want to look into expanding your anti-inflammatory repertoire as your cast is likely cutting off circulation.
Should swelling continue unabated, then you may have to be fitted with a new cast.
While your doctor will ultimately determine the best course of action for you and your arm regarding medications and treatment, there are number of safe, natural, anti-inflammatory remedies for use before bed that don’t require a prescription.
For further supplementation in your fight against painful inflammation, consider modifying your diet to incorporate the following foods and food items.
Eat a smart supper
There’s a lot of truth to the old adage “you are what you eat”, and nowhere is that more evident than when recovering from an injury.
And just as there are foods that reduce swelling, so too, are there foods that stimulate it.
In the interest of making your last meal before bed one that will benefit your body, consider adjusting the intake of the following ingredients:
Foods to incorporate into your dinner:
The greener the better. Green vegetables contain massive amounts of chlorophyll, which acts to reduce inflammation. An added benefit is their versatility in complementing a wide variety of dishes and smoothie blends.
Bottom Line: Stock up on bok choy, lettuce, broccoli, and cucumber.
Coconuts (and subsequently coconut oil) are packed with a chemical compound known as medium-chain triglycerides, which work to not only reduce inflammation, but also to promote healthy immune system function as a natural antibiotic.
An added benefit is that in addition to being consumed, coconut oil can also be applied topically. Topically applied coconut oil not only fights inflammation, but also aids in maintaining healthy skin.
Bottom Line: Swap your vegetable oil for coconut oil. Coconut oil isn’t just great at fighting inflammation, it’s also more nutritionally sound. Unlike other oils, coconut oil won’t give you an insulin spike, nor does it contain any GMO’s.
Mushrooms reduce inflammation in an effective, yet roundabout way: by boosting your immune system through the slowing of cell damage. In doing this, your body has less need for taking inflammatory measures.
Bottom line: Incorporate diced portabella, shiitake, or maitake mushrooms into your suppertime salad. Your body will thank you in the morning.
Foods to avoid before bed:
Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Balance your intake of Omega 6 and Omega 3 Fatty Acids. While Omega 3’s work to stimulate enzymes that reduce inflammation, Omega 6’s work to induce inflammation. While both are necessary for proper bodily function, they must be kept in balance between a 1:1-1:5 ratio.
Bottom line: Balance your consumption of processed vegetables, eggs, and poultry with fish, flaxseed, and cauliflower.
These are the bad carbs. In contrast to their healthy, refined counterparts, simple carbohydrates enter the body quickly and spike insulin. This in turn stimulates pro-inflammatory hormones, which you are actively working to limit.
Bottom line: Avoid fast food, white bread, and flour.
Due to the high levels of hormones and antibiotics that are injected into the average dairy cow, trace elements of these chemicals are routinely passed on into the milk we drink/a>. These chemicals can stimulate inflammatory hormones in the body and and should be avoided by those working to limit inflammation and swelling.
Bottom line: Avoid cows milk, it’s not like milk helps you sleep anyway. Use almond milk instead. In addition to being devoid of hormones and antibiotics, almond milk is also high in inflammation-reducing Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
Natural Sedatives for Insomnia due to Discomfort
If you’re still not able to sleep after changing your diet, sleeping position, or investing in a specialized pillow, don’t worry. There’s one more thing you can do.
If you’re in pain, or suffering insomnia due to difficulty in adjusting to a new sleep position, consider using one of these natural, herbal sedatives:
Valerian is a pink/white flowering plant often found in perfumes. When ground into an extract, the root of the Valerian plant can be ingested in capsule form and used as a natural sedative to be taken before bed.
Valerian extract is sold as a dietary supplement and can be found in most grocery stores’ organic section.
When taken in capsule form, Valerian Extract works quickly and effectively to sedate even the most uncomfortable of cast-wearers.
Note: Valerian is not recommended for use with antihistamine medication. Be sure to consult with your doctor before using this supplement, especially when taking prescription medication.
Passionflower is a purple/white plant that can be described as “alien” in its beauty. But there’s more to the plant than just its looks.
Passionflower is also an effective pain-relieving sedative, and can even be applied topically to curb inflammation!
Though it was once sold as an over-the-counter sleep aid, this flower is now mainly found in herbal blends such as teas and other organic mixtures.
Note:As with all other supplements, consult with your doctor before using Passionflower as it is not recommended for pregnant women or for those using certain medications.
What can’t tea do, honestly?
Green tea is renowned the world over for its numerous health benefits, many of which can be directly attributed to the key amino acid, L-theanine.
L-theanine has been proven to reduce anxiety, heart-rate, and blood pressure, and in addition to being found in green tea, this amino acid is also sold as an isolated compound.
One benefit of taking L-theanine in its isolated form, is that it circumvents the natural caffeine content found in green tea. So if you’re sensitive to caffeine, this is an excellent alternative, especially for consumption before bed.
Note: While Green Tea is generally considered to have few to no interactions with prescription drugs, it’s best to play it safe and consult your doctor before taking supplements of any kind.
Got any tips for sleeping with broken bones? Share them in the comments section below!