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How Sleeping Positions Affect Pressure Injuries and How to Prevent It

Pressure injuries are a common and often preventable complication of extended periods of immobility. These injuries occur when sustained pressure is applied to specific areas of the body, reducing blood flow to the skin and underlying tissues. As a result, the skin and tissues can be damaged or even die, leading to painful and potentially serious infections. 

One factor that can contribute to the development of pressure injuries is the position in which a person sleeps. In this article, we will look at how sleeping positions affect pressure injuries and offer advice on how to avoid them through proper sleep positioning.

What Are Pressure Injuries?

A pressure injury, also known as a bedsore or pressure sore, occurs when force is applied to the skin's surface. This force can be in the form of constant pressure on a specific area of the skin or by dragging the skin against another surface. Pressure injuries are prevalent on the bony parts of the body.

People who are unable to move and those with limited mobility are at high risk of developing pressure sores. These sores can also affect the elderly because their skin thins with age and is easily damaged.

Stages of Pressure Injuries

Bedsores are divided into four stages.

Stage 1: Early stage bed sores cause redness or a blue/purple tint, and the skin may feel warm.

Stage 2: The affected area looks more damaged, and it causes significant pain. The wound may also become discolored.

Stage 3: The affected area develops an ulcer that digs deep into the skin.

Stage 4: The ulcer deepens and causes damage to the muscles and bones.

How Sleeping Positions Affect Pressure Injuries

Your sleeping position plays a critical role in determining whether you develop pressure injuries. Sleeping generally serves as a chance to relax and reset your body after a day of putting strain on your ligaments, muscles, joints, and tissues. However, if your sleeping position continues to put pressure on your skin, it won’t recover.

If you constantly wake up with pain, it may be time to change your sleep position. You can reduce the risk of pressure sores by taking certain precautions and avoiding certain sleeping positions. 

Common Sleeping Positions and Their Impact on Pressure Injuries

Sleeping positions have great effects on your overall well being and some can heighten your risk of developing pressure injuries. Here’s a breakdown of some common and best sleeping positions and their impact:

Supine Position (Lying on Your Back)

The supine sleeping position entails lying horizontally on your back with your head resting on a pillow and your neck in a neutral position. This position puts the head, neck, and spine in neutral alignment. Although the supine position is comfortable for some people, it can put intense pressure on certain areas of the body, such as the tailbone, heels, and the back of your head.

Bedsores are more likely to develop if you stay in the supine position for an extended period of time. To avoid pressure injuries while sleeping in the supine position, use a supportive surface or change your position frequently.

Prone Position (Lying on Your Stomach)

A prone position is a sleeping position in which you lie flat on your back with your stomach and chest on the bed. Lying on your stomach has its benefits, such as improved oxygenation and respiratory mechanics. It does, however, have an adverse effect on your ankles and knees, potentially increasing your risk of pressure injuries in those areas.

Sleeping in the prone position can also put undue strain on your neck and spine, resulting in pain or even more serious injuries when you wake up. Similar to the supine position, using supportive surfaces and changing positions frequently can help reduce the risk of bedsores when sleeping in the prone position.

Lying on Your Side

The side-lying position puts your head, neck, and spine in neutral alignment. This is one of the best sleeping position if you want to reduce the risk of pressure injuries, as it allows for better distribution of body weight. However, it is important to use a pillow to avoid placing too much weight on your hip, which can lead to pressure injuries on your heels, elbows, and hip.

Other Sleeping Positions

There are some variations to the three common sleeping positions listed above, such as semi-prone and semi-supine. These positions involve partially lying on your stomach or on your back. Both positions allow for great distribution of pressure on the body, which is great for reducing pressure injuries.

Tips For Preventing Pressure Injuries Through Proper Positioning

We have put together some tips for bed sore prevention. When implemented properly, these tips can help avoid pressure injuries.

  1. Change positions frequently: Changing your sleeping position frequently allows for better distribution of pressure on the skin. Aim to change your sleeping position every 2 hours or even more frequently.
  2. Use supportive surfaces: You can use a supportive surface such as a pressure-relieving mattress or cushion to redistribute pressure.
  3. Avoid crossing ankles: Crossing ankles puts pressure on your heels, increasing your risk of bedsores. When sleeping, keep the feet and ankles in a relaxed, uncrossed position.
  4. Use pillows and cushions: You can use pillows and cushions to support the body and reduce pressure on bony prominences.
  5. Keep the head of your bed elevated: Keeping the head of the bed elevated at a 30-degree angle reduces the risk of pressure injuries on your back and heels.

Summing it Up

Proper positioning is critical for preventing pressure injuries, particularly in those who are more vulnerable, such as those who are bedridden or have limited mobility. Your sleeping position can elevate or reduce your risk of pressure injuries. It is also important to follow a proper nutrition and hydration plan to keep your joints, muscles, and skin healthy.

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