How to sleep after a total knee replacement

Updated November 21, 2016

Knee replacement surgery can make a dramatic difference in a person's life, especially if you have been suffering from chronic pain and the inability to perform day-to-day tasks. Getting a good night's sleep is often one of the difficulties in the rehabilitation part of a total knee replacement surgery. The pain of the surgery and physiotherapy, not to mention the discomfort of shifting in bed, can lead to sleepless nights. When that happens, turn to both pain medications and sleeping modifications to send you off to the Land of Nod.

Realise that you will get very little deep rest immediately following the surgery. Doctors and nurses will be checking you every few hours, so be prepared for this. Stay "ahead" of the pain by taking your pain medications as prescribed.

Have pain medication available to you at night during the rehabilitation period. In the evening and night, the endorphins (natural pain relievers) from the day fade, and any pain will be twice as noticeable. Take your pain medicine 30 minutes before turning in for the night.

Prop the knee up on pillows to keep it from swelling while you are sleeping. You can also place a pillow under your ankle to keep the leg up.

Cover the knee with an extra blanket, as cold can easily "set into" the knee once it has been operated on, causing a deep ache that is hard to banish.

Ask your doctor for a sleep aid if all these things do not help you get some rest each night. However, tell your physician about all pain medications you are taking---both prescription and over the counter---to avoid an overdose or adverse drug interaction.


Never take a sleep aid along with prescription pain medication without clearing it with your doctor first.

Things You'll Need

  • Pain medicine
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Sleep aid
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