How do you Sleep With Rib Pain? [The Complete Guide]

woman suffering rib pain

Have you ever tried to sleep with rib pain? If yes, you’ve surely experienced how difficult it can be especially for stomach and side sleepers. Unless you’re used to some variation of back sleeping, getting a fair crack at hitting the hay peacefully can be next to impossible.

If you’re experiencing unusual pain in the rib area then chances are you’ve suffered bruised or broken ribs. This may be due to falls or accidents from playing sports and other physical activities. Taking part in a physical fight involving punches can also lead to rib pain after landing a few in that area.

The first step after noticing signs of discomfort in the rib region is to book a doctor’s appointment. The doctor will ask questions like how long the pain has persisted and the degree of discomfort you’re experiencing. This can make it easy for a treatment plan to be prescribed.

However, if you live in a country where it can take a bit of time to get a doctor’s appointment, the following signs can confirm whether you’ve suffered some sort of rib injury:

  • Excruciating pain in the chest area particularly when you inhale or cough
  • Tenderness or swelling in the affected area
  • Feelings of cracks (in the case of broken ribs)
  • Visible bruising of the rib region

The good news is that the majority of rib injuries heal naturally within the space of 4-6 weeks. Surgery is usually not an option because unlike other bones, the ribs cannot be simply splintered or supported. 

Hence, patients can breathe easy knowing that they’re unlikely to undergo the surgeon’s knife due to the condition.

Unfortunately, rib injuries have to be allowed to heal on their own so you can expect the pain and discomfort to linger on for quite a bit. You may be desperate to heal quickly to facilitate a return to work or school but a little bit of patience will have to be exercised.

Getting lots of rest is one of the best ways to keep the natural healing process on track so a good night’s sleep is essential daily.  Remember, sleep can help the body to replenish and restore the necessary processes that keep the immune system at maximum capacity. This can speed up the time it takes to get your old self back.

Unfortunately, enjoying a night of bliss can be next to impossible when the body is in severe pain. You’ll have to get used to the fact that the old sleeping routines may not work anymore. You’ll not only have to switch positions but you may also have to get comfortable with spending more time in bed.

How do you Sleep With Rib Pain?

Figuring out how to sleep properly with rib pain can be extremely difficult. This is especially true for those who have ultra-busy schedules and spend a lot of time undertaking physical activities. Here are a few ways to enjoy superior slumber despite suffering rib injuries that can otherwise keep you awake.

  • Take over the counter pain killers
  • Cold compress
  • Find the most comfortable sleeping position
  • Get more pillows
  • Try compression every time you move
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Apply heat to the affected area

1. Take Over the Counter Pain Killers

Over-the-counter painkillers can be your best buddy when trying to sleep with rib pain. This is because they contain anti-inflammation properties that can reduce the swelling in the affected area and enhance the ability to heal.

Remember, rib pain almost always shows some signs of tendering or bruising. While this can be scary when you first take a look at the affected area, know that the unsavory-looking appearance is the body’s way of staying on top of the pain.

Popular pain killers such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen may work well for many patients. They may provide soothing relief which can make it easier to nod off.

However, if you’re a light sleeper or suffer from insomnia regularly, over-the-counter pain killers with diphenhydramine may be your best bet. Diphenhydramine is a popular antihistamine that aids gentle sleep.

Personally, I take Advil PM Caplets whenever I’m in any form of pain that is interfering with my nighttime rest. I always order from Amazon thanks to the great price and quick shipping.

2. Apply Ice Packs

woman with ice pack on the head

It is no secret that applying ice packs on any swollen or bruised area can provide instant improvements. If you’re feeling unbearable levels of pain at bedtime, it is time to get an ice pack from the freezer.

Applying ice on the affected area can also numb the pain and increase your chances of falling asleep. The trick is to apply the ice packs on the ribs for about 20 minutes just when you want to nod off.

The reduced pain can kick in quickly, launching a chain of events that may lead to dozing off within a short period. If the pain persists, do not hesitate to ice the bruised region for 20 minutes every hour until you fall asleep.

When using ice packs, it is important to:

  • Apply it consistently within the first 3 days of the injury or bruise
  • Avoid applying ice directly on the affected area
  • Avoid applying it for more than 20 minutes every hour as that can lead to frostbites
  • Limit the number of times you apply the ice to prevent damaged skin tissues

The Coldest Ice Pack from Amazon provides soothing relief for sprains, tears, bruises, fractures, and body pains. It allows me to sleep easy each time I suffer some sort of body pains. Just wrap it around the affected area and watch the magic happen right in front of your eyes.

3. Find the Most Comfortable Sleeping Position

What’s your favorite sleeping position? If you’re a stomach or side sleeper, you may have to make the necessary adjustments to rest soundly in an unfamiliar position. In most cases, lying down on the back may be the most suitable option when battling rib pain.

The back can offer little to no pressure on the bruised ribs, making it easier to catch some Zs. If the bruising is found on only one side of your ribs, sleeping on the opposite side may also be an option. Unfortunately, there’ll always be a risk of switching back to the side of the pain by accident while sleeping which can be deeply uncomfortable.

This is why recliners or adjustable beds can come in handy for anyone that desires effortless sleep with rib pain. The flexible angles available on these beds allow seamless switching between different options until you find the one that works.

The LUCID L100 Adjustable Bed from Amazon has been worth every penny since it arrived in my home. It is my go-to option every time I’m struggling to sleep due to any form of body pains or injuries. Seriously, you should consider buying one because it has been a game-changer to my sleep.

4. Get More Pillows

Rib bruises and injuries can make nighttime rest very complicated depending on the degree of the injuries and the specific region the discomfort is coming from. Thus, there’s no one-size-fits-all sleeping position or angle for everyone.

This is why getting more pillows can be such a good idea. Placing these pillows in the right areas can eliminate the risk of lying down on the bruised ribs and aggravating the pain. After all, the idea is to cushion the affected area with enough pillows to prevent direct contact with the sleeping surface.

For instance, the majority of back sleepers say they sleep better by sliding a pillow under their necks. Also, placing additional pillows under each of the arms can prop up the upper body to prevent accidental rolling onto the site of the bruising.

Putting a few pillows under your knees can also work well as this may reduce the pressure on the back region.

If you’d rather lie down on the side, placing a few pillows under the torso in addition to regular neck pillows can offer comfortable support for a good night of rest. Whichever sleeping position you settle on eventually, make sure to surround the body with more pillows especially if you’re a restless sleeper.

This should limit those unnecessary in-bed movements which worsen the degree of the rib pain.

The SUMITU Sleeping Pillows from Amazon provides world-class cushioning and support for the neck, head, and other body areas. It is hypoallergenic, never goes flat, and feels extremely cozy to the touch. It is highly recommended.

5. Try Compression Every time You Move

Unnecessary movements can be bad after suffering rib injuries. The truth is, it is important to stay as still as possible during the immediate 72 hours after suffering the bruising or injury.

Unfortunately, some movements may be essential no matter the degree of your pain. This can include taking bathroom breaks, eating, and staying hydrated. Compression with each movement can lead to more comfort and pain reduction.

This is why getting a compression belt can be such a convenient option. All you have to do is wear the belt before getting out of bed. If you’re thinking of undertaking any activity that requires movements that may increase your pain, wear the belt too.

However, don’t forget to remove the belt immediately after returning to bed no matter how good it feels because compressing the rib for longer periods can inhibit healing over the long-term.

The Everyday Medical Broken Rib Brace from Amazon works well in providing compression during movements. They’re suitable for both men and women and are available at an affordable price.

6. Deep Breathing Exercises

woman taking deep breaths outdoor

Have you ever tried to breathe while suffering from broken or bruised ribs? The pain can be unbearable because the lungs, which is the main organ responsible for the breathing process are found in the ribs.

Due to the extreme pain, many of us try to get around that by ditching deep breaths in favor of short ones. However, this can be extremely bad for your health in many ways and may lead to unnecessary pressure across several areas of the body.

This is why medical experts recommend deep breathing during rib injuries despite how painful they can be. Not only can deep breaths eventually help the bruised region heal on schedule but may also relax the body for a more restful night when you finally nod off.

You can engage in deep breathing exercises by drawing a few deep breaths in and out for a couple of times before going back to your normal rate of breathing. Doing this a few hours to bedtime can send the right signals to the brain to relax and launch the necessary internal processes to improve the duration and quality of your sleep.

I personally use the Body Quiet Meditation Cushion from Amazon for Meditation and Yoga exercises. The seat is tall for excellent alignment of the hips and spine for correct posture. This means zero pressure on my back, knees, and ankles for superior comfort and longer, pain-free meditation and yoga sessions. I highly recommend it.

5 Ways To Get Maximum Healing from Rib Pain

Rib injuries take time to heal so you must exercise the necessary level of patience. Trying to rush the process may backfire on you severely. However, following these steps can speed up the natural healing process and increase the chances of getting back to full-body fitness in time.

  • Eat healthily
  • Sleep as much as you can
  • Undertake light exercises like walking
  • Don’t keep your cough in
  • Quit smoking 

1. Eat Healthily

fruits and vegetables in a plate

Eating healthy can be a surefire way to heal quickly from rib pain. According to Phyllis A Bach, a certified nutritionist in her book “Prescription for nutritional healing”, eating half of a fresh pineapple fruit daily can speed up the body’s ability to heal from broken, bruised, or fractured ribs.

The book also recommends ditching red meat when suffering from the condition. Sodas and foods containing preservatives should also be kicked to the curb.

Besides, foods rich in phosphorus, calcium, zinc, and potassium like yogurt should be high on the menu, according to biologist and nutritionist George Mateljan in his book “The World’s Healthiest Foods”

2. Sleep As Much As You Can

If you’re desperate for rib pain to heal quickly, it is important to put in the work. Sleep is one of the best ways to stimulate the body’s immune system to be at its best. Doctors advise the average person to seek a full 8 hours of shuteye every night.

Additionally, try to spend as much time in bed and do not hesitate to take short naps. These tips below should allow you to get the best sleep possible and wake up feeling good.

  • Reduce the temperature in your bedroom
  • Avoid drinking too much water to prevent frequent urges to take toilet breaks
  • Ditch caffeine and diuretics that can interfere with sleep
  • Turn off the TV, smartphones, and other gadgets
  • Eat at least 3-4 hours ahead of the regular sleeping time for easy digestion
  • Do not hesitate to snack on pro-sleep diets like warm milk
  • Use mind-calming techniques such as meditation to fall asleep much quicker

3. Undertake Light Exercises 

Spending as much time in bed can be good for anyone recovering from an injury but so is undertaking light exercises. Activities such as walking every couple of hours can help recharge the healing process and prevent the risk of developing night sores.

Undertaking light exercises can also increase oxygen supply to the lungs and promote quick healing from the bruises and abrasions. Additionally, doing some sort of physical activity may also clear up mucus from the lungs for long-term health benefits.

4. Don’t Keep Your Cough In

If breathing with rib pain is uncomfortable, can you imagine how it feels to cough with the condition? Well, the pain can be excruciating. This can deter many from trying to cough in the first place even when there’s a strong urge to.

However, keeping your cough in can lead to serious lung infections. To reduce the pain, we recommend holding a pillow against the chest each time you cough.

Hopefully, this will make you slightly less comfortable and as the bruising heals, you’ll have an easier time coughing.

5. Quit Smoking

The adverse effects of smoking on the lungs are well-known. Smoking while suffering from broken or bruised ribs can delay the healing process and leave you in more pain than necessary.

Quitting the habit may also improve the immune system and promote the recovery period of your rib injuries.


Congratulations on reading everything we’ve shared on how to sleep with rib pain. You’re now well-equipped to catch maximum shuteye even in the face of the debilitating rib pain.

Remember, the first step is to minimize the severity of the pain especially during the first couple of days after suffering rib injuries. Deep breathing exercises, compression during each movement, and ice application are techniques that can come in handy for healing and pain reduction.

This should enable you to get back on your feet much quicker.

Gabriel Smith

Hello, my name is Gabriel and I LOVE to sleep. Okay, you’re right, a lot of people do like sleep. But my passion is actually not sleeping. My interest lies in the “theoretical part”. What to do before bedtime. What a good night’s sleep is. etc. In short, how to sleep well. I hope you share the same interest as me, and enjoy reading everything about sleep.

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