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“When Can I Sleep On My Tummy After Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Nicole

Posted by Adam Pick on June 29th, 2010

I just received an interesting question from Nicole about sleeping on your stomach after open heart surgery.

Nicole writes, “Adam – I had my mitral valve repaired 2 weeks ago. The surgeon used a sternotomy, so my chest is still sore. I’m a tummy sleeper, so I’m not sleeping well. How long until I can sleep on my stomach? Thanks! Nicole”

Sleep After Open Heart Valve Surgery On Your Stomach (Tummy)

Like Nicole, I am a tummy sleeper as well.

For me, it’s the most comfortable position to sleep. Plus, Robyn (my wife) has learned that when I sleep on my stomach, I don’t snore… as loud. That said, after my surgery, it was a tough adjustment sleeping on my back – for me and Robyn.

As for Nicole’s question, I do not have a definitive answer for her. It needs to be stressed that healing is a personal process. Some patients heal faster than others. I know, from experience, that benchmarking healing milestones (spending time alone, driving, returning to work, etc.) can really upset and frustrate patients during their recovery.

Please Remember: The Road To Recovery Is Not Always This Direct

If you are curious… My return to “tummy sleep” was a two-step process. First, at 4 weeks, I began sleeping on my side for a few hours each night. Then, at about 6-7 weeks, I was sleeping on my stomach full-time.

Again, please remember that we heal at different rates. I’m sure many of the former patients who visit this blog had completely different experiences specific to sleeping after cardiac surgery. I hope this helps Nicole (and perhaps you) learn more about sleeping after heart surgery.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick A dad, a husband and a patient, Adam Pick founded this website in 2006 to educate you about heart valve surgery from diagnosis to recovery.
You can get the latest updates about heart valve surgery from Adam at his Facebook, and Twitter pages. Click here to email him.


Jane O'Shea says on June 29th, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Ihad double valve replacement on June 16. I have also got a cyst in my spine so I cannot sleep on my back. I sleep a little sitting up and a little on each side – my husband moves me around. I concentrate on hugging a pillow and not complaining because I know that after the spine surgery is completed I will be fine!


Lucy grubbs says on June 29th, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I had avr done nov 16th. I hated sleeping on my back but knew that’s what I needed to do to heal. And also semi sitting At about six weeks I started to slowly move to sleeping on my sides. At first just a few minutes and then a week later ivwould wake up on my side. The soreness would awaken me. But it does get better week after week but don’t push it. For me during day was fine. It was nights that were the hardest, gettin in and out of bed I hated it. But I am really loving life now it was well worth it. And boy does time fly!


T. L. Mazzei says on June 29th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I was a long time belly sleeper since childhood and am now 82+ tears old. I had surgery last October and could not sleep on my back to save my soul. I started sleeping on my right side and have not returned to sleeping on my belly again. I find I do not have regurgitating problems since my stomach empties out easier and I do not awake for a bathroom call as often during he night. I find I sleep sounder and I am better rested in the morning. Try it out and you find it is better for you.


R. P. says on June 29th, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I had my pulmonary valve replaced on Dec 3. For about 2 months I was only able to sleep on my back, it hurt too much to turn on my side and stomach. Even laying on my back was really painfull, so I just slept less. But as time goes by the pain was less and less and now I can hardly believe I had open-heart surgery!


Robin Hirsch says on June 30th, 2010 at 12:31 am

Indeed, we all heal at different rates. I couldn’t button my shirt for 3 months. The irritation on my incision site was awful…fortunately it was summer.


stephanie crummey says on June 30th, 2010 at 6:58 am

I too was a tummy sleeper, and had my operation 4 weeks ago. I was unable to sleep in any position other than on my back, and am still in the process of elimination a pillow per week (approximately) – I have found that using a V shaped pillow is extremely useful as it seems to relieve some of the pain I feel in my neck, shoulders and back. This gets better slowly, and as ADAM said it is different for many people. Good luck, just be patient! (sorry about the pun!).

Stephanie Crummey ( Plymouth UK)


Ernie says on June 30th, 2010 at 10:23 am

I am at 5 months after Mitral Vale Repair [Jan 18, 2010] My aortic valve is somewhat narrowed, but it was left allone. I am 74 years of age.I am finding that I can do more and more in a natural way without pushing myself really.
It truly is amazing how our body does heal itself. I am so thankful for all that was done for me by the skilled doctors and nurses. God is very good at handling people, He loves them.
I just enjoy breathing, as if my heart is saying “that is delicious”…it really is.
All the best to you, E. F.


Don Hull says on June 30th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

I had mitral valve replacement surgery with a sternotomy in April of 2009. I can’t remember how many weeks it took to sleep again on my stomach (it was several), but I do remember sleeping on my left side with a LARGE pillow tucked under my side all the way down to my knees. I literally hugged that big pillow. In addition to the physical comfort I enjoyed an emotional feeling of well-being with that pillow. Now it’s been over a year and I can sleep in any position I choose.


Andrew Wrigley says on July 2nd, 2010 at 4:07 am

I had to sleep sitting up for weeks after surgery. Plus, was still on amoxycillin every four hours for endocarditis, so didn’t get much sleep.

But one year later, I play tennis 2 or three times a week, plus we are doing the Yorkshire Wolds Way, a 79 mile walk from Hull (where I was operated on) to my doorstep near Filey.


Valerie says on July 4th, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Hi Nicole, I have the same problem….can’t wait to lay on my tummy again. For me, I’m 3 weeks post op and I’m able to sleep for about an hour on my side now, then have to flip back to my back. I still sleep on our couch, which is a lot more comfortable and supportive for me. I keep trying to go back to my bed, but always end up back on the couch!


Carol says on July 5th, 2010 at 3:22 am

I just got home from gallbladder surgery, not heart surgery, but am a tummy sleeper and have not been able to sleep well since the surgery on my side or back. I appreciate all of the suggestions. Thanks!


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