How to Sleep Well While Wearing an Ostomy Pouch
The importance of getting a good night’s sleep can never be understated. Getting enough Z’s at night helps regulate our mood, boost our immunity, and repair muscles, tissues, and cells. Losing just a few hours of sleep at night can lead to irritability, fatigue, and poor eating habits. Long-term sleep deprivation can even trigger illness. In other words, sleep is a nightly medicine we all must take. Wearing your ostomy pouch to bed is an added challenge that only a small percentage of the population must face. But just like your first experience with your pouch, wearing it to bed is all about adapting.
Here are some tips for getting a good night’s rest if you have an ostomy pouch, courtesy of Instride:
Think About Your Eating Schedule
It’s hard for anyone to get a good night’s rest if they’re worried about waking up in the middle of the night to pee. If you’re new to wearing an ostomy bag, it may take a little while for your body to get used to its new method of output. You will likely fill up your pouch more often in the beginning. In order to compensate for that, stop eating and drinking heavy quantities 1–2 hours before bedtime. You may want to set an alarm for every few hours in the beginning to empty your pouch (but don’t worry, your body will produce less output as time goes by).
Securing the Pouch
You want the pouch to remain secure as you sleep so that the weight of it doesn’t feel uncomfortable and wake you up. The best way to keep it close to your abdomen is to wear a tight-fitting shirt or tuck it into the waistband of your pyjamas. If your pouch as a belt tab, you could also use a breathable ostomy belt. If you end up tucking it into your jammies, just make sure that the waistband isn’t too tight, lest the output gets stuck at the top part of the pouch.
If the weather is too hot to wear a tight shirt or pyjama bottoms, you can try securing the pouch with a bandeau around your stomach.
Sleeping Position is Everything
It’s a little too late in the game to get you to change your sleeping position, so here’s how to adjust your favourite sleeping posture to accommodate your pouch and your stoma:
- Stomach sleepers: If you’re the most comfortable face down on the mattress, try sliding your leg up a little with a bent knee to create a small space for your pouch to sit under without being squished.
- Back sleepers: If you sleep in this position, count yourself lucky: you’re in the optimal pose.
- Side sleepers: If you’re used to sleeping on the side of your stoma, the mattress will support the weight of the pouch. You may have a hard time sleeping at first if you’re worried about pulling on your pouch, but you’ll eventually get used to the sensation. If you sleep on the opposite side of your stoma, simply rest a pillow beneath the pouch for support.
- Post-surgery: Your stomach may be in too much pain to lie down, so use pillows to prop yourself up at an angle.
Manage Your Stress Levels
If you’re constantly worried about a leak or odours, you won’t be able to relax. While your pouch is designed to be leak-proof, it may not feel as secure as it should. Ask your doctor/nurse about ways to reduce the chance of leakage. But also (and this is very important), try to relax. You will eventually get used to the sensation of your ostomy pouch and how it should and shouldn’t feel. If you sleep with a partner and have concerns about odours, you can try easy-to-use ostomy deodorants.
The same rules about sleeping apply to everyone. If you can’t manage your stress levels, your quality of sleep will inevitably suffer. If something is going on at work or in your personal life that keeps you up at night, you won’t be able to relax and let your mind drift into a state comfortable enough to fall asleep. Here are some ways to reduce your stress:
- Go for a nice long walk in nature
- Maintain a weekly exercise routine (but try not to work out too late in the day, as this can trigger sleeplessness)
- Eat a balanced diet and avoid sugary and processed foods
- Forego caffeinated and alcoholic drinks for a while
- Practice yoga and meditation
- Enjoy a warm bubble bath
- Put away your phone and computer at least an hour before bed
- Do something fun and relaxing: read a book, catch up on your favourite show, etc.
Learn More About Your Ostomy Pouch
Reading more information about your ostomy pouch is a great way to increase your understanding and comfort. The more you know about how the pouch works, the less anxious you’ll feel about leaks or accidents. Take a look at these helpful Instride articles: