Seniors Mobility Aids

How to Sleep in a Recliner After Shoulder Surgery [Guide]

Written by Dayna
Last Updated :
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After I had shoulder surgery, sleeping reclined was the most comfortable position for me. You need to know how to sleep in a recliner after shoulder surgery!

You’ll be in pain and restless if you do it wrong.

Read on to know how to sleep comfortably in a recliner after shoulder surgery.

Why Should You Sleep in a Recliner After Shoulder Surgery?

Sleeping in a recliner after shoulder surgery maximizes healing and is more comfortable and safe.

recliner in the living room

Good quality sleep can influence the healing process after shoulder surgery. But you can’t be in any sleeping position for long because of the pain in the shoulder.

Is sleeping in a reclined position for a few weeks after surgery comfortable? Oh yes, it is. Here is why.

1. It Prevents the Buildup of Tension in the Shoulder Joints

A few days after surgery, your shoulder injury will still be healing. You don’t want to exert any pressure on it while sleeping since that will strain the muscles.

The reclined position stops the buildup of tension in the shoulder after surgery. A regular sleeping position builds this tension up. That’s why shoulder surgery patients need to sleep in a recliner.

2. It Is The Most Comfortable Position

It doesn’t interfere with the blood circulation in that part of your upper body and ensures you don’t lie on the injured shoulder.

So you can’t afford to sleep in any way that requires you to rest on your injured shoulder on your back.

It is also the best sleeping style if you have a shoulder sling. Usually, you can’t sleep in a bed with an arm sling, as shown in the video below.

You would have to deal with shoulder pain, making it an uncomfortable position to sleep in.

3. It Will Fasten the Healing Process

The injured muscles should get as little disturbance as possible after major surgery to hasten the healing process.

Therefore, you need to maintain your body in a semi-reclined position that will stop you from tossing as you sleep.

4. It Maximizes Sleep

Getting enough sleep after major surgery can be a tall order, especially if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (1).

People with shoulder surgeries find it challenging to sleep, thanks to a combination of pain and the wrong sleeping styles.

So you need to maximize your sleep. You need all the rest you can get. It’s also why sleeper recliners for elderly people are so common.

5. It Reduces Excess Pain

Sleeping in a regular bed after surgery will strain your shoulder muscles, and you’ll feel excess pain.

You can avoid this discomfort after surgery by sleeping in a recliner instead.

Is It OK To Sleep in the Recliner After Surgery?

Is sleeping in a recliner bad for you? Of course, it’s not. Recliners won’t put any pressure on the shoulder and will help you maximize sleep.

Better sleep is key to enabling you to heal faster. The pain levels often won’t let you sleep in common body positions, such as in the fetal position.

You need to reduce any weight on the shoulder as much as possible. That’s why arm slings are standard for patients with shoulder surgery.

You might find it hard to sleep in a bed after shoulder surgery. The recliner is easier to lie down on since it’s angled.

However, you can use lots of soft pillows on your bed to make it easier to lie down to sleep. A single pillow won’t be enough to prevent feeling pain in bed.

You can make a suitable pillow prop with several pillows, though. A wedge pillow could come in handy here, thanks to its angle.

The recovery process for this type of surgery will need you to get restful sleep. So it’s okay to sleep in the recliner after surgery.

Struggling with sleep due to persistent back pain? Dive into my article “How to Sleep With Back Pain” and discover strategies to ensure a restful night despite the discomfort!

5 Tips To Follow for Sleeping in a Recliner After Shoulder Surgery

Research shows that sleeping in the recliner is more popular than in the bed for shoulder surgery patients (2).

Some, however, still feel uncomfortable even sleeping in the recliners. That’s why you need to know how to sleep in a recliner after shoulder surgery.

It’s also common for some patients to fall out of the recliner when asleep.

Here are some tips to follow if you want to know how to prevent shoulder surgery patients and even how to prevent the elderly from falling out of recliners.

1. Prepare Everything You’ll Need to Stay Comfortable

If you’re the type to need a glass of water at night, have it next to your recliner chair. Also, have your pain medications next to the recliner chair before sleeping.

The lesser you move about as you sleep, the better the rest you get.

2. Cold Therapy Before Sleep

Use cold packs of ice to numb the shoulders to make it easier for you to sleep.

3. Make the Recliner More Comfortable

A recliner seat can be made of leather or other materials. So sleeping on it without additional sheets could become uncomfortable, even in a reclined position.

Use pillows and sheets and carry enough blankets for warmth through the night to sleep comfortably in a recliner after shoulder surgery.

4. Use Pillows for Extra Support

Some recliners have hard headrests that will make it hard to catch sleep. Use pillows on the headrest to cushion the neck.

The pillows will also help prevent back pain if you strategically place them on the recliner.

5. Have Some Leg Support

Since you’ll be in a reclined position, it could be easy for blood to collect in your legs. To prevent this, have some leg support or compression socks.

Check out this video on how to rest comfortably in a recliner seat:

To better understand back pain management, explore my article “Does a Walker Help with Back Pain.”

How Long To Sleep In a Recliner After Shoulder Surgery?

Patients of shoulder surgery can sleep in a recliner for about 4–6 weeks. After a few weeks, you could try sleeping in bed if you have a wedge with a 45-degree angle.

However, if you feel you only get a comfortable night from sleeping in the recliner, you can sleep there for as long as you want. Some patients even sleep in them for as long as six months.

That’s possible if you have the best recliner for post surgery. The rule is to only get back to sleeping on the bed when close to healing.


1. Must I have a recliner chair to sleep well after shoulder surgery?

No, you don’t need to have a recliner chair. You can always use pillows to tailor-make a bed to be in a reclining position.

2. Must I sleep with the arm sling after shoulder surgery?

Yes, you must sleep with the arm sling after shoulder surgery. Only remove the sling when taking a bath or when dressing.


Now that you know how to sleep in a recliner after shoulder surgery, I bet you’ll recover quicker.

Recliners are a comfortable way to sleep with a shoulder injury. You only have to ensure you sleep in the correct position.

man ssleeping in a Recliner

What other techniques do you think someone recovering from shoulder surgery can use to sleep comfortably? Please share them with us in the comments.


  • 1. Su X, Wang D-X. Improve postoperative sleep. Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology. 2017;31:1.
  • 2. Horrall Stith E, Borrero L, Santurri L, Breeden L, Shemanski S. Patient Perceptions of Acute Phases of Rehabilitation Following Shoulder Arthroplasty. The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy. 2020;8:1–13.

About Author

Dayna has an incredible passion for helping others and a keen business sense to boot. She also has a knack for anticipating the needs of her readers. She launched LoAids as a way to help her own loved ones live life to the fullest in their golden years. Follow her on LINKEDIN and TWITTER

19 thoughts on “How to Sleep in a Recliner After Shoulder Surgery [Guide]”

    • I would like to thank you for your comment. Astonishingly, there are ways that can reduce the force on your arm while asleep. If you had surgery, or have injured your arm, here are a couple of tips that may help:

      Adjust your recliner to a comfortable position.
      Use a pillow underneath your arm and elevate it so as to promote circulation.
      Wear a sling while sleeping to ensure that your arm is stable during the night or when taking a nap.
      Avoid sleeping on your arm and keep loyal to a proper posture at all times.

      For more information, you could consult your Doctor and, of course, some helpful materials such as these to further the healing process:

      6 Tips for Sleeping Comfortably After Shoulder Surgery – The Orthopedic Clinic (orthotoc.com)
      Postoperative Care (wustl.edu)

      Let me know at any time should you have any further questions. I’m always happy to help and hope you have a speedy recovery! =)

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