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How to Sleep with a Broken Ankle in a Cast (Explained)

Here you are, lying on the couch with a broken ankle, searching for how to sleep with a broken ankle in a cast. The doctor told you to keep your leg elevated, but that stack of pillows simply isn’t doing the trick, and your family is tired of carrying them from couch to bed. The stack isn’t firm and keeps slipping from under your leg. All of this makes a difficult situation even more challenging.

Maybe you’re looking at weeks of being bed-bound, and you can already feel the stress. You know that a good night’s sleep is crucial to recovery, but when you have a heavy cast around your ankle, even something as simple as sleep can seem more strenuous than relaxing. Well, look no further, because we will help you sleep better and speed up the recovery process. 

Does Sleep Heal Broken Bones?

You don’t have to be a scientist to know that sleep helps heal our bodies. One night of solid rest, seven to nine hours will have you geared up for the day. And when you cut back on sleep for a few nights, you feel the consequences immediately – it affects your mood, your thinking, and your energy levels. 

When we sleep, our bodies go through the recovery process. There are four stages of sleep, and as we fall deeper into these stages, our muscles increase blood flow bringing oxygen and nutrients to the cellular level. The hormone prolactin that regulates inflammation is released during sleep. If you are sleep-deprived, you are putting yourself at risk of inflammation, which can prolong your recovery process. A protein called HGH – the human growth hormone is also produced when we sleep, and it helps repair muscles and bones. 

New evidence suggests sleep is crucial for bone health and bone remodeling – a process of removing mature bone tissue and forming new. These processes play a significant role in fracture recovery. Sleep deprivation affects bone marrow, leading to a decline in bone flexibility, which is vital to preventing bone fractures. 

How to sleep with a broken ankle

Why Elevation is Key

Where there is an ankle fracture, there will be swelling. To alleviate the swelling and the pain, you should keep your leg elevated as much as possible. It especially applies to the first five days and then when symptomatic. You should try to sit with your foot above your knee level at least four times a day. Try to keep your ankle at the level of the heart. All this will help lessen the swelling, which will stop further damage to surrounding tissue. 

You can roll up some blankets and pillows to elevate your leg. It will work, but it won’t be the real deal. Your leg will slowly, over time, sink into the pillows, and it will no longer be elevated. You might find yourself readjusting the pile of blankets and pillows every few hours. If you want to get a good night’s sleep and speed up the recovery process, waking up every few hours doesn’t sound quite ideal. Because elevation is so essential, you might want to invest in a specialized pillow that will keep your leg elevated and comfortable. Even when your injury heals, this kind of pillow is great to take the pressure off your lower back or simply to rest your legs after a long day or a hard workout. 

Best Broken Ankle Sleeping Positions

Depending on the severity of the fracture, recovery can take anywhere from 6 to 16 weeks. Make sure to take any medication that your doctor prescribed because the pain can be hard to endure and might affect your sleep. Here are some tips on how to sleep more comfortably and help your body heal faster. 

How to sleep with a broken ankle in a cast tip #1: Sleep on your back

Supine position is the best way to distribute your weight during the night evenly. It also makes it easy to place your specialized pillow and keep your leg elevated as you sleep. If you’re not used to this position, you will probably toss and turn during the night. To stop this from happening, you can surround yourself with pillows (AKA the Pillow Fort method). When you are supported all around, you might find it more comfortable and easier to fall asleep. 

How to sleep with a broken ankle in a cast tip #2: Side sleeping

If you can’t relax or you’re not used to sleeping on your back, try sleeping on your side. You should avoid sleeping on your side as it can put extra pressure on your broken ankle. However, you can place pillows or a yoga bolster between your knee and cast to ease the stress. 

How to Sleep with a Broken Ankle in a Cast

Besides a comfortable position, there are other things you can do to ensure a good night’s sleep. Try to avoid any blue lights from screens for at least 2 hours before bed. Have a light meal 3-4 hours before bed and beverages at least an hour before. It’s never fun to get up to go to the bathroom, especially if you have a foot cast.

If you can’t get a whole night’s sleep, make sure you nap during the day. To ensure you won’t fall off the bed, you should always sleep in the middle of the bed and possibly support yourself with pillows if you tend to turn a lot. If you have a partner, child, or pet whom you usually share a bed with, or all of the above – it’s probably best if they slept elsewhere during your recovery. Because you have a cast and one or more pillows, a lot of heat will generate, and you might feel hot. Wear lighter clothes to avoid excessive sweating and waking up in the middle of the night. 

If Your Ankle’s Broken, Your Sleep Shouldn’t Be

A lot of frustration and impossibilities come with wearing a cast and lying all day. You can’t do all the things you’re used to, you can’t move freely, and you might depend on others for help. We wouldn’t wish this on anybody, but as they say – it is what it is. If you’re wearing a cast and you’re bed-bound, try to make the most of it. It might be a great chance to catch up on all those books you’ve been piling up, or you can binge on your favorite show guilt-free. 

But most importantly, your sleep shouldn’t pay the price. Do the research, get the elevation pillow, and do everything that’s in your power to rest well. Sleeping well is like a super-power. Don’t let it go to waste. 

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