The Best Way to Sleep After a C-Section

Getting adequate sleep after a C-section can be challenging as it can take some time to get comfortable and relieve abdominal discomfort and incisional pain. Postpartum depression and anxiety, which are often associated with C-sections, can also make it harder to sleep well. [12] Sleep is crucial for postpartum recovery as it helps maintain attention, learning, and memory. [9, 14Pain medication, having essentials nearby, delegating tasks to family and friends, and keeping your baby in a swivel bassinet next to your bed can help improve the quality of sleep after a C-section. Sleep deprivation is inevitable during the first few months after giving birth, but there are ways to set oneself up for better sleep.

Your body goes through a lot of changes throughout pregnancy and postpartum, all of which can take a toll on your sleep. [10, 13] These changes aren’t only physical; they can also affect your mental health.[4] Not to mention, caring for a newborn takes around-the-clock work especially within the first few days after giving birth.

If you had a C-section, aka a Cesarean birth, getting quality sleep afterward can be a little more difficult compared to vaginal delivery. That’s because the recovery process is much longer due to it being a surgical procedure. [16] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 32.1% of all deliveries in the U.S. are by Cesarean. [3]

Here’s why getting adequate sleep after a C-section is harder to come by and what you can do to get the best sleep possible to support your recovery and healing.

Why is it hard to sleep after a C-section?

Unlike vaginal births, C-sections involve making a 3- or 4-inch incision into the wall of your uterus to deliver your baby, according to the Cleveland Clinic. [5]

“Abdominal discomfort and incisional pain can both make it more difficult to sleep after a C-section,” says Stephanie Hack, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist and host of the Lady Parts Doctor podcast. “Finding a comfortable position can take some time.”

Additionally, having an emergency C-section is indirectly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is related to postpartum depression (PPD), according to an April 2022 study in Environmental Research and Public Health. The same study suggests that mothers who had an emergency C-section had higher PTSD scores compared to mothers who had a planned C-section. [7]

“Several studies have linked C-sections to PPD,” notes Hack. “A 2020 study found an indirect association with the development of post-traumatic stress disorder in moms who had unplanned or emergency C-sections, which increased their risk of PPD.” [12]

And having postpartum depression and anxiety can make it more difficult to sleep well at night. In fact, numerous studies have linked insomnia and poor sleep quality with depression symptoms during the postpartum period. [11]

According to a small study in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, the chance of depression in women with poor sleep quality was 3.34 times higher than in those with good sleep quality. Moreover, waking up frequently throughout the night can make you feel excessively sleepy during the daytime and contribute to your anxiety and depression symptoms, increasing your risk of insomnia.[8]

Some research also suggests that the sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone hormone levels during the postpartum period can contribute to changes in mood and cause night sweats. You may wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, which can make you feel more irritable and tired. [15]

And if you’re breastfeeding, you may sweat a little more than those who don’t, according to the Cleveland Clinic. [6] (Check out our best sheets for cool sleep if you’re experiencing night sweats.)

Why is sleep important after a C-section?

Sleep is vital for maintaining everyday bodily functions, and after giving birth—especially with a C-section—sleep is important for your recovery. “Sleep allows your body time to rest, which is an important part of the healing process,” Hack says.

Quality sleep also allows you to better cope with all of the changes you undergo throughout the postpartum period, and without sleep, your anxiety or depression symptoms can heighten and spiral. [8]

“While we don’t fully understand the mechanism, evidence shows that lack of sleep increases negative emotional responses to stressors and decreases positive emotions,” explains Hack. “Furthermore, sleep helps us maintain attention, learning, and memory, affecting our ability to cope. Lack of sleep limits our coping abilities.” [9, 14]

How to sleep after a C-section

Although it’s going to take time to recover from your C-section and some sleep deprivation during the first few months of the postpartum period is inevitable, you can set yourself up for better sleep at night with these tips.

1. Take pain medication as needed

Talk to your doctor about managing pain at home through medication, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. “There’s no prize for going med-free, and you don’t need to suffer unnecessarily,” Hack says. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) also recommends using a heating pad in your abdominal area to help relieve pain and discomfort. [2]

2. Make sure your necessities are close by

Keep all of your feeding and care essentials on your nightstand or somewhere in your bedroom so you don’t have to hunt for them and can go back to bed sooner. For example, place nipple cream, diapers, and snacks near you, Hack suggests.

3. Delegate tasks to close family and friends

This is a season of receiving help—so don’t be shy to reach out to your closest family members and friends for their support. Ask them to come over during the day to help with chores or errands or caring for the baby so you can squeeze in a nap.

“Get support from your partner or another support person and assign tasks that they can perform,” says Hack. “Retrieving the baby, burping the baby, changing the baby, feeding the baby (pumped milk or formula), and laying the baby back down can all be done by someone else. This will allow you to rest more.”

4. Use a bassinet instead of a crib

Have your baby sleep in a swivel bassinet next to your bed so you can more easily put them back to sleep after a night feeding or in between naps, Hack suggests.

The best position to sleep in after a C-section

Sleeping on your side on your back is best for C-section recovery, Hack says. Lying down on your belly might be uncomfortable for a while, and you want to avoid putting pressure on your incision while it’s healing.

Sleeping positions to avoid after a C-section

After the incision in your abdominal area has healed, you can sleep in whatever position you’d like. That said, sleeping on your stomach might still be uncomfortable for many people who are breastfeeding, Hack says.


Can you sleep on your side after a C-section?

Yes. Side sleeping is one of the best sleep positions after a C-section because it puts less pressure on your abdominal area, where your incision is still healing.

How long is bed rest after a C-section?

Bed rest isn’t recommended after a C-section unless you have a complicated birth, Hack says. Generally, you want to get up and walk around 12 hours after surgery to help promote the healing process and prevent blood clots. You’ll likely stay in the hospital for two to four days after a C-section, according to the ACOG. [1]

It’ll take a few weeks for the incision in your abdomen to heal, and in that time, you may have pain in the area. Talk to your doctor about ways you can manage your pain at home. [2] Consult your doctor about starting a new exercise routine and make sure to get the “all clear” before you begin working out. [1]


  1. ACOG. Cesarean Birth.
  2. ACOG. Postpartum Pain Management.
  3. CDC. Births–Method of Delivery.
  4. Chauhan A, Potdar J. Maternal Mental Health During Pregnancy: A Critical Review. Cureus. 2022;14(10):e30656. Published 2022 Oct 25. doi:10.7759/cureus.30656
  5. Cleveland Clinic. C-Section (Overview).
  6. Cleveland Clinic. Postpartum Nightsweats.
  7. Grisbrook MA, Dewey D, Cuthbert C, et al. Associations among Caesarean Section Birth, Post-Traumatic Stress, and Postpartum Depression Symptoms. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(8):4900. Published 2022 Apr 18. doi:10.3390/ijerph19084900
  8. Iranpour S, Kheirabadi GR, Esmaillzadeh A, Heidari-Beni M, Maracy MR. Association between sleep quality and postpartum depression. J Res Med Sci. 2016;21:110. Published 2016 Nov 7. doi:10.4103/1735-1995.193500
  9. Kozusznik MW, Puig-Perez S, Kożusznik B, Pulopulos MM. The Relationship Between Coping Strategies and Sleep Problems: The Role of Depressive Symptoms. Ann Behav Med. 2021;55(3):253-265. doi:10.1093/abm/kaaa048
  10. Lu Q, Zhang X, Wang Y, et al. Sleep disturbances during pregnancy and adverse maternal and fetal outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 2021;58:101436. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2021.101436
  11. Okun ML. Disturbed Sleep and Postpartum Depression. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2016;18(7):66. doi:10.1007/s11920-016-0705-2
  12. Smithson S, Mirocha J, Horgan R, Graebe R, Massaro R, Accortt E. Unplanned Cesarean delivery is associated with risk for postpartum depressive symptoms in the immediate postpartum period. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2022;35(20):3860-3866. doi:10.1080/14767058.2020.1841163
  13. Soma-Pillay P, Nelson-Piercy C, Tolppanen H, Mebazaa A. Physiological changes in pregnancy. Cardiovasc J Afr. 2016;27(2):89-94. doi:10.5830/CVJA-2016-021
  14. Thompson KI, Chau M, Lorenzetti MS, Hill LD, Fins AI, Tartar JL. Acute sleep deprivation disrupts emotion, cognition, inflammation, and cortisol in young healthy adults. Front Behav Neurosci. 2022;16:945661. Published 2022 Sep 23. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2022.945661
  15. Trifu S, Vladuti A, Popescu A. THE NEUROENDOCRINOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF PREGNANCY AND POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION. Acta Endocrinol (Buchar). 2019;15(3):410-415. doi:10.4183/aeb.2019.410
  16. Tzeng YL, Chen SL, Chen CF, Wang FC, Kuo SY. Sleep Trajectories of Women Undergoing Elective Cesarean Section: Effects on Body Weight and Psychological Well-Being. PLoS One. 2015;10(6):e0129094. Published 2015 Jun 12. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0129094

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