Sleeping/sleep position post cabg - British Heart Fou...

British Heart Foundation
18,865 members12,889 posts

Sleeping/sleep position post cabg


Hi all, l am now about a week and a half post op, double CABG. Everything seems to be moving along ok, I’m doing my exercises, getting a bit stronger by the day, the op seems like ages ago already. One thing I’m struggling with is sleep. Not so much getting to sleep, but trying to sleep on my back when my natural thing has always been to sleep in a foetal position. To be quite honest, I don’t remember at any time any of the doctors or nurses saying I have to sleep on my back, it seemed pretty obvious in the days after the op so it’s probably a bit of an assumption that this is what is best to best allow my breast bone to heal. Fellow CABGers, did you have an issue with this too?

Ta muchly in advance, John

13 Replies
skid112Heart Star

Hi John,

best to sleep on your back for a while longer, it will be very uncomfortable, if not downright painful any other way until the bones are knitted back together. Try a few pillows to prop your self up that may help, or in my case I got used to a few hours in bed then having naps during the day until the discomfort eased


in reply to skid112

Thanks Mark. That makes sense.

I struggled with sleeping on my back as I have a problem with my shoulders and back. After my first AVR I used a rolled up duvet to raise the top part of my body, to mimic the hospital bed. This time I got a bolster pillow, which was then useful once I could sleep on my side as it stops you ‘folding in’ by keeping you on your side rather than rolling forwards. I did only sleep on my back for about three weeks in total and didn’t have any problems.


Hi there StigOhara

welcome to the zipper club :) I struggled to sleep on my back also. It was so bad that i managed to turn onto my side in hospital and the nurse told me off. When I returned home I bought some "v" shaped pillows to sleep with. Best post op purchase I ever made.

Good luck with the recovery


in reply to Phil-52

Thanks Phil, quite a few folk have suggested V pillows so there must be some thing in it 😀

My main memory of sleeping - or lack of - was having to do it sitting up and only dozing off for 20 minutes or so at a time. This lasted for a good 6 weeks or so until I was able to lie down.

in reply to shopman

Thanks shopman. I have to say I have no problem falling asleep, it’s just the waking up 2, 3 Or If I’m lucky, four hours later with a stiff back. I’m getting more used to this now...going downstairs, sitting for an hour then back to bed for another hour or so sleep. I’ve experimented with various pillow combinations too.

............." To be quite honest, I don’t remember at any time any of the doctors or nurses saying I have to sleep on my back"...........

I do John! I was told it was most important. To be honest it seems logical to me that its the best position. Even now (7 weeks post-op) I don't feel I'm doing myself any good laying on either side (as much as I'd like to).

This is just my experience mind and I'd welcome other people's thoughts, but it seems paramount to me that great care must be exercised to give the breast bone every help possible to mend as quickly as possible.


Thanks Alec. They probably did tell me but in my drugged up haze I don’t remember 😀

I had a quadruple CABG on 23rd May this year and like you had difficulty sleeping on my back. 2 or 3 days post op. I googled this and read that it was OK to sleep on your right side post CABG, On her next daily visit, asked my Cardiac Consultant if it was OK to sleep on my right side. He said "Absolutely not! You must sleep on your back for 5/6 weeks after surgery, to ensure that the sternum has fully healed, before attempting to sleep on your side. I found this advice to be correct as 10 weeks post op. I have only been sleeping on my side for the last 2/3 weeks. Attempts before have resulted in a pain and discomfort emanating from by breast bone, which meant that it was still in the healing process. I too am a naturally side sleeper and gradually got used to sleeping on my back and whilst not ever getting the best night's sleep it was bearable.

Thanks Bernie. I have found doing my stretching exercises shortly before laying down to sleep has helped me feel more comfortable. Am at the point already ( now nearly, bar a few hours, 2 weeks post op) where I’m getting used to waking early. Just go downstairs and sit on the sofa for a bit and cat nap as needed during the day.


All I was told was to adopt a comfortable position to sleep in. I propped myself in so I would not roll over for like you I also sleep in a similar fashion but always on my left side. For the first few days that worked because of the discomfort levels but then soon after I would find myself waking having slept on my left side. So then I would try and lean into that position with an arm out preventing me from rolling right onto my side - that worked too. One thing to remember, the breast bone is sewn back together with wire = it will not fall apart in a sleep position! All you have to deal with is the tissue and muscular damage and bruising which boils down to how much pain you can take - want or want to risk. From about day five I was sleeping more towards my side than my back and had no real hardship from that - its all pure supposition since everyone's pain levels differ as does out healing but rest assured sleeping on or towards the side will not kill you. We all have to do what we find acceptable to a good nights sleep, which is, after all, the best medicine in the world to help us recover.

Hi, I was told 8 weeks before sleeping in my side, once sternum has knitted back together. Sleeping on my back was hard because pillows too low hurt chest and affected breathing and too high stiff neck. Rolling a towel to put under neck helped me have higher pillows. Once I could sleep on side I hugged a pillow which really helped.

You may also like...