Best Way To Sleep With Broken Sternum


Getting a restful sleep with a broken sternum is quite toilsome. Your chest muscles and shoulders will be sore and a tightness will grip your rib cage for some time. During the initial periods of healing from a broken breastbone injury, your movement during sleep would be very restricted. In fact, you may experience some breathing difficulties as sternum pains wouldn’t allow your chest to move.

Having a fractured sternum means that your central bone, which is joined to rib columns through cartilages, has broken upon a high impact incident. Since sternum bone protects your vital organs like the heart, lungs and other important blood vessels, protecting it from any further damage is crucial.

Getting adequate rest and undisturbed sleep during this time will speed up recovery and avoid any further damage.

How To Sleep Better With Broken Sternum Pain

The best way to sleep with broken sternum is to make sure you sleep more. Adequate rest is a necessity when recovering from a cracked sternum injury. Without getting better sleep, your sternal fracture wouldn’t heal in time. Sleep on a comfortable bed and opt for a good sleeping position that doesn’t put any pressure on sternum. Your sleeping position, environment and the quality of sleep are some of the top factors that will help determine the fractured breastbone recovery period. Here are practical tips that will help you sleep comfortably with broken sternum:

1. Sleep Sitting Up

Sleeping in the upright position can be conducive to fast recovery as it wouldn’t aggravate the injury. This is a good sleeping position that allows you to be less mobile and keeps your body in a stern position. Sleeping upright wouldn’t put any force on your sternum hence keeping the pain minimal.

Here are some essentials that will help you sleep comfortably in upright position:

Reading pillow with arms

It would be great to invest in a reading pillow like BedLounge to aid you in sleeping comfortably at night. A reading pillow with arms like one of these is probably the easiest solution to sleep upright and will protect you from slouching in a dangerous position. It will keep your back straight and your arms rested, making your broken chest bone heal fast. You can also use a reading pillow during the day to support your back and arms while watching TV or reading a book.

Chaise Lounge Chair

chaise lounge chair for sleeping with fractured sternum

Another great product, though expensive, to help you sleep comfortably with cracked sternum is a Chaise Lounge Chair. It comes with a steel frame and plastic forearms that will make your position stable. This chair’s padded headrest will support your head and neck during the night. It has smooth transition options, which will give you the flexibility to adjust your back and legs in an ideal position while sleeping with sternum pain.


A recliner is often used for sleeping after bone fractures because it helps you elevate your feet above your heart level. This allows gravity to ensure that there is a reduction in stress and inflammation which makes your sternum injury heal faster. You can switch your position with the help of a button and conveniently sit or lie during the night. Sleeping in a recliner sofa provides the most comfortable support that one needs after a cracked breastbone.

2. Use a Nursing Pillow when You Sneeze

Along with coughing and breathing difficulties, sneezing can be quite a problem when recovering from a fractured sternum. You cannot put pressure on your chest while sneezing since it can damage the breastbone.

The best way to counter it is to get something like a nursing pillow that you can put around your chest while sneezing. The pillow will absorb the force keeping the sternum stable and avoiding any further damage.

3. Restrict Your Movement While You Sleep

Doctors put a lot of emphasis on keeping your movements restricted while sleeping with a fracture. In case of a broken sternum, you need to be specifically cautious while twisting and turning in any direction. It might be done unconsciously and you could be in a dangerous position that can deepen the crack and prolong the recovery period.

4. Sleep As Much As Possible

Sleeping should be your priority when healing from a breastbone fracture. The more you sleep, the better your immunity gets and is able to fend off any potential infections.

When you are sound asleep, your body releases recovery hormones that can heal the sternal fracture. Damaged muscles and tissues rejuvenate in the sleep. Therefore, if you are not giving your body the ideal rest, it will be difficult for it to bounce back in form.

Fractured Sternum Healing Time And Long Term Effects

Best Way To Sleep With Broken Sternum

Recovering after a broken sternum is a tough feat. The recovery period for minor sternal fractures is about 6 to 10 weeks, depending on your bone strength and pre-existing conditions. Make sure you get plenty of sleep as it will help speed up your recovery. There is always a possibility of infection and organ damage which may prolong the recovery period.

The short-term effect in the minor fractures is chest pain that can last for several weeks even after the sternum has healed. There may be a chance of chest infection caused by not clearing out phlegm due to difficulty in coughing.

In severe fractures, where the sternum fails to heal on its own, there could be damage to underlying tissues and vital organs such as the heart and lungs. This may lead to the development of pseudarthrosis or a false joint and may need corrective surgery.

Additionally, while recovering from a broken sternum, you might feel a stiffness in your shoulders and arms caused by lack of immobility. So make sure to get out of bed and take a walk for a few minutes during the day.

Driving With A Fractured Sternum

When you are diagnosed with a fractured sternum, it is better to stop driving until you have recovered completely. This is because driving requires you to move your arms and shoulders. Due to stiffness of the chest, you would not be able to make any quick maneuvers which can potentially lead to a car accident. Also using a seat belt may result in additional pressure on the sternum which is not good for its healing.

Frequently Asked Question

How hard is it to break a sternum?

Almost 3% of sternum fractures happen due to car accidents when the chest strikes with the steering wheel. Sternum bone is normally sturdy but a break in it is the result of a traumatic blow to the chest. It may also break during a dangerous forward bending that forces the upper back and cracks the sternum. Under other circumstances, breastbone fracture is common among athletes that collide with one another while playing.

Can you crack your sternum from coughing?

You are more prone to a sternal fracture from coughing when you are already suffering from a disease that has made your bones weak. Coughing hard can give a serious blow to your chest which in turn can result in a cracked sternum.

Can anything be done for a fractured sternum?

A diagnosis can be made after an X-ray to understand the seriousness of your broken breastbone. There are no specific treatments for minor fractures other than controlling infections from developing in your chest area which, if developed, will not let the injury heal. Adhering to prescribed medication, diet and exercise will help heal faster. Severe sternum fractures don’t heal on their own and require surgical procedures to be performed.

What does a sternum fracture feel like?

There will be intense, sharp ache in the center of your chest which will increase with coughing, laughing, breathing deeply or sneezing. This may be followed by bruising, swelling and difficulty in sleeping. In case of a much more dramatic fracture, there will be stronger pain and visible deformities. It will cause severe difficulty while moving the upper back or chest resulting in immobility of the ribs.

Does the sternum grow back together?

If the trauma is severe, the sternum is hinged together with help of wires or a titanium plate in a surgical procedure which helps the broken fragments stick to one another. If there is minor breastbone damage, with no infections and injury to the organs, it can recover fully on its own in a matter of 8-10 weeks. The bruising will disappear in about 2-4 weeks.

Is sternum pain serious?

It depends on the type of fracture you have suffered. In case of a sternum breakage that doesn’t require surgery, the pain will be lesser and will just restrict your movement for several weeks. In a traumatic sternum injury, there will be more pain and restriction, including pain for months after surgical procedures. If you are experiencing sternum pain without an accident, immediately seek medical attention.

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