Before we get into the tips for restoring your precious sleep, let's answer the big questions that I am sure are popping into your head while you read this - Do I even need to wear a knee brace to bed? Or Can I sleep with a knee brace on?
The short answer is YES.
If you have been advised by your doctor or a medical professional to wear a knee brace for support, then you should most definitely wear it while you sleep. The same goes for when you are wearing a knee brace to nurse a minor injury or if you rely on a knee brace in your day-to-day chores.
The primary reason you are wearing a knee brace is to support your knee - whether it is to recover from an injury or you have a weakened knee. Irrespective if you are awake going about your day to day, or in bed asleep, your knee still requires 24/7 support.
In fact, some may argue it is more important to wear a knee brace at night while you are asleep. The reason for this is that while asleep, you are not aware and have little control over your movements. Most people will toss and turn at night, and if your knee doesn't have the support of a knee brace, you could risk further injury to your knee.
I'm sure this is not what you wanted to read, however there is hope to achieving a good nights sleep rest. Simply follow my tips I detail below and you'll be waking up refreshed like normal.
Tips for a Good Night's Sleep Wearing a Knee Brace
So you know the reasons for why it is important for you to wear a knee brace to bed. But how can you wear a knee brace in bed without it keeping you up all night?
A knee brace is understandably uncomfortable - it feels heavy, bulky and restrictive on your knee and leg.
Fortunately, as I mentioned before I have been in this exact predicament after I underwent my knee reconstruction surgery for my torn ACL. I had many months of recovery time to experiment with different knee braces and aids to help me achieve a good nights sleep.
Here are my tips for sleeping with a knee brace:
Don't fit the knee brace too tight. If your knee brace is too tight, it can sometimes cut off your blood circulation, giving you a dead leg sensation when your leg has been deprived of oxygen from the blood. This is one of those Goldilocks situations where you want the knee brace tight enough to support your knee. But not so tight that it creates discomfort and cuts off your circulation.
Find a knee brace that doesn't sit at the crease of your knee joint. This one is related to the above tip where you don't want the edges of your knee brace pushing against the area behind your knee joint. It can sometimes cut blood circulation while you sleep, again giving you a dead leg sensation. I find the long sleeve knee braces are much better at maintaining good blood flow. This is due to the extra length causing the knee brace to end on your calf and thigh muscles.
Try different sleeping positions. This is an obvious one, however sometimes it can help to read it as a reminder. If you are finding discomfort in your normal sleeping position, it may be worthwhile shifting positions to see if there is less pressure being placed on the knee and knee brace. For example, if you usually sleep on your back, your stretched out legs may cause the knee brace to sit in an unnatural position. By sleeping on your side, your knee brace will bend your knee into a more natural position and you will feel less restricted by the brace.
Make sure to take your pain medication before going to bed. This is more relevant for those that are recovering from surgery or a severe knee injury. You may feel like the knee brace is keeping you awake at night. However, it may be the pain that is preventing you from reaching the deep sleep. To counter the pain, ensure you are dosing the recommended amount of pain medication to eliminate all the factors preventing you from sleeping.
Support your knee and leg with cushions. This was one of the key tips that saved my sleep. I prefer to sleep on my back. However, when I was sleeping with a knee brace I would have to keep my knee bent (to prevent my circulation from being cut off). But this caused an issue. Each time I would drift off to sleep, my leg would fall down which would jolt me back awake. To stop my falling leg from constantly interrupting my sleep, I used several pillows around and underneath my knee to keep my leg upright.
Apply ice to your knee before going to bed. A top tip for having a good nights sleep with a knee brace is to ice your knee immediately before going to bed. Icing your knee helps to reduce any swelling around the knee joint. Reduced swelling means less pressure being applied by the knee brace and therefore less discomfort.
Sleeping with a Knee Brace - FAQs
Is it Safe to Wear a Knee Brace While Sleeping?
If you have been reading from the beginning, I'm guessing by now you will know the answer to this question "Should you sleep in a knee brace?".
It is completely safe to wear a knee brace while you sleep. In fact, if you are recovering from an injury it is probably safer to wear a knee brace than it is to not wear one. This is because the knee brace is there to protect your knee from further injury. Not wearing a brace may result in you unconsciously injuring your knee further when you move about while sleeping.
How long do I have to wear my knee brace to sleep?
This will depend on the extent of your knee injury and the instructions that have been given to you by your medical professional.
Speaking from my experience, a knee brace should be worn to bed until you can comfortably and confidently walk around without the need of a brace during the day.
This is usually around 6 – 8 weeks after the point of injury.
Key Takeaways for Sleeping with Knee Braces
I understand sleeping with a knee brace isn't the most comfortable thing in the world. However, as you have discovered throughout this article, the benefits far outweigh the potential risks.
A knee brace keeps your knee in the correct position to prevent any further injury from occurring.
It also helps to provide support for those individuals who tend to toss and turn while they sleep. This is very important, as you are less aware of the movements you make while asleep, and could potentially damage your knee further with one wrong move. A knee brace will prevent this from happening.
I have provided a comprehensive list of tips and tricks to reclaiming your sleep while wearing a knee brace to sleep. These were discovered with trial and error during my recovery periods after the number of knee injuries I sustained.
I sincerely hope you have found this helpful and I wish you a speedy recovery.