How To Sleep After Gallbladder Surgery (Tips, Do’s and Don’ts)

 by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.
Reviewed by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.

SuperHumans are the toughest, fittest, healthiest and happiest human beings on this planet. My mission is to help you realize your superhuman potential and learn how to live a long, happy and healthy life.

  Fact Checked
 by Rhealyn Tropia, RMT
Reviewed by Rhealyn Tropia, RMT

I’m a content organizer, fact-checker and super mom who ensures content is medically-reviewed, highly accurate, and engaging. My passion is organizing information and ensuring the facts are presented in a manner that is interesting and easy to understand.

how to sleep after gallbladder surgery

Sleeping can be challenging when you have just undergone a gallbladder surgery. All those medications that were administered during the procedure can also make it difficult to fall asleep in unfamiliar surroundings with an aching body. 

It is my goal to provide you some tips and tricks so the experience after a gallbladder surgery will be as comfortable as possible. 

In this article, I will be talking about how to sleep after gallbladder surgery, the best sleeping positions after gallbladder surgery, and when it is necessary to consult a doctor post-surgery.

Why It’s Hard to Sleep After Gallbladder Surgery?

Gallbladder surgery is a common procedure that is performed when the gallbladder has become inflamed or infected. The gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile, which is used to digest fat.

When the gallbladder becomes inflamed or infected, it can cause severe abdominal pain and nausea. Gallbladder surgery involves removing the diseased organ and then reconnecting the liver and pancreas ducts to allow bile to flow into the intestines where it is needed for digestion.

Let’s take a look at common reasons why recovering patients have difficulty sleeping after gallbladder surgery.

1. Abdominal Bloating or Pressure

The most common side effect of the surgery is abdominal distension, which is a feeling of fullness and can be accompanied by pain and discomfort.

The symptoms may be worse on the first night after surgery. As your body heals, these symptoms should improve. If you have questions about how to manage this symptom, talk with your doctor.

2. Effects of Medications Administered to You During Surgery

It is not uncommon for patients to report difficulty sleeping after gallbladder surgery. The medications used during the procedure, such as sedatives and painkillers, can cause fatigue and drowsiness, which can lead to disrupted sleep patterns.

The drugs that are commonly used during surgery include: painkillers (such as morphine, hydromorphone, fentanyl), antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, metronidazole), and antifungals (miconazole).

3. Pain From the Incisions During the Surgery

Gallbladder surgery can be performed laparoscopically (with small incisions) or with open surgery. In either case, the gallbladder is removed and the patient is stitched up. The risk of pain after gallbladder surgery is not high, but it can cause difficulty in sleeping for some patients.

woman in pain after gallbladder surgery

After acute pain from the operation has subsided, you may have discomfort in your upper abdomen that can cause you to awaken during the night. If this happens, try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever before bedtime.

You may also find relief by placing a heating pad on your abdomen or wearing a tight elastic bandage around your midsection. If you are experiencing discomfort while sleeping and do not find relief with these home treatments, contact your health care provider for more advice on managing pain after gallbladder surgery.

4. Difficulty Finding a Comfortable Sleeping Position

After gallbladder surgery, it is common to experience difficulty finding a comfortable sleeping position. The discomfort that many patients feel after this type of surgery is the result of a combination of factors, including abdominal swelling and pain, as well as the healing process itself.

While it may be tempting to sleep on your back or stomach immediately following surgery, these positions can cause additional discomfort and make it difficult for you to breathe.

5.  Insomnia Post-surgery

 Insomnia is a common side effect of post-anesthesia after gallbladder surgery. It can be caused by the medication patients are given during and after the surgery, which can cause difficulty in sleeping after gallbladder surgery. Post-anesthesia can cause difficulty in sleeping after gallbladder surgery due to several factors:

  • The anesthesia used during the procedure may disrupt your natural sleep cycle.
  •  The pain medication you receive during and after the surgery may make it difficult for you to fall asleep or stay asleep.
  • Increased levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol can contribute to insomnia symptoms.

Best Sleeping Positions After Gallbladder Surgery

The most common questions that community members on the SuperHumn page would ask around gallbladder surgery and sleeping issues are “After gallbladder surgery, can I sleep on my side? How should I sleep after gallbladder surgery?”

Sleeping on one’s side after gallbladder surgery can help prevent pain and reduce the risk of complications. The best way to sleep on your side is with a pillow lodged between the knees, or with a pillow under your hip and between your legs (with another pillow in front of you).

sleeping on her back after gallbladder surgery

Which side to sleep on? I would recommend sleeping on your LEFT side. Sleeping on one’s left side helps to relieve this pain because gravity pulls blood from the shoulder to the heart, reducing swelling and pressure on nerve endings. Sleeping in this position can be uncomfortable for some people, so make sure to try out different pillows and types of bedding to find what works best for you.

It is also recommended that you sleep on your back for at least two weeks following gallbladder surgery. When you sleep on your back, the stomach empties into the small intestine, where food is digested, and the liver and gallbladder work to remove toxins from the body.

In this position, gravity will help move these fluids through your system without causing any pain or discomfort.  Sleeping on one’s back also helps to reduce pressure on the abdomen, which can help reduce discomfort. It also helps to keep the stomach contents from moving backward into the throat, which can cause nausea and vomiting.

On the other hand, you should avoid sleeping on your stomach, as well as crossing your arms and bending over too often when lying down or sitting.

10 Tips to Sleep Better After Gallbladder Surgery

“How can I sleep after gallbladder surgery?”

After gallbladder surgery, getting your sleep back on track is the most important thing you can do to recover from your surgery. It can be challenging to get into a good sleep pattern after gallbladder surgery, but it’s doable. Here are 10 tips for how to sleep better after gallbladder surgery:

1. Sleep on Your Back or Left Side

Sleep on your back or left side, and not on your stomach or right side. lying on your back will help you breathe better because it helps keep your spine in a neutral position. If you’re lying on your back, gravity will help keep your upper airway open and prevent any obstruction of the airway.

If you sleep on your left side, this also helps keep your airway open by keeping your right lung engaged with gravity. Sleeping on the left side also helps prevent heartburn by keeping food and drink from traveling into the esophagus while you sleep.

As also mentioned earlier, sleeping on one’s left side helps to relieve this pain because gravity pulls blood from the shoulder to the heart, which reduces swelling and pressure on your nerve endings.

2. Pain Relievers

Take prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers. If your doctor has prescribed painkillers for after surgery, be sure to follow their instructions about taking those drugs. It’s also important to take any other prescriptions or over-the-counter medications as directed by your doctor or pharmacist.

picking medicines on the table

You should also take precautions against postoperative infections by following directions for cleaning your wounds and keeping them covered with sterile bandages until they heal.

3. Design Your Room To Be a Good Environment for Sleeping

First, you’ll want to make sure your room is dark. If the light is coming in through the window, consider wearing an eye mask or blackout curtains.

This will help your body produce melatonin, which is a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles and plays an important role in helping your body heal after surgery.

Next, make sure there are no distractions in the room—no phones or TVs (or at least turn them on mute). You don’t want anything that might wake you up while you’re trying to sleep.

And finally, if possible, put down some soft blankets or pillows so that when you lay down on them they don’t hurt your incisions.

4. Consult Your Doctor on Which Exercises You Can Do

Your doctor may recommend that you avoid certain activities, including vigorous exercise, for the first few weeks after surgery. This is because activity can cause pain and discomfort as well as increase the risk of infection.

However, physical activity can help reduce stress levels, allowing you to relax more easily at night. The following is a list of recommended exercises that can help with sleeping better after gallbladder surgery:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi
  • Walking
  • Swimming

5. Refrain From Consuming Heavy Meals a Few Hours Before Bedtime

When you have had your gallbladder removed, you will need to make some changes in your diet and lifestyle to prevent complications such as diarrhea or bloating.

It’s important that you avoid fatty foods or greasy foods for at least two or three months after surgery because they can cause gas and cramps in your abdomen. You should also avoid large meals containing high-fat foods like fried chicken, fish sticks or hamburgers because they can cause nausea and vomiting after surgery.

If possible, refrain from eating within three hours of bedtime because this may increase heartburn while sleeping on your back; however this may not be possible if you have had weight loss surgery since it could cause dehydration due to low salt intake during the day.

6. Use an Essential Oil Diffuser

If your gallbladder removal has left you feeling exhausted and unable to sleep, consider using an essential oil diffuser to help ease your symptoms.

The scent of lavender is known to relax the body, so using this oil in your diffuser may help you get more restful sleep. You can also try rosemary and chamomile, which have been shown to improve blood flow and circulation.

essential oil diffuser

In addition, many people find that these scents help them unwind after a long day at work or school—so if you’re having trouble winding down before bedtime, try adding some essential oils into your diffuser.

7.  Right Pillows and Mattress

Make sure that you have the right pillows and mattress to support your body as you find the best sleeping position. Try these tips:

Use pillows: Use several pillows under your head and neck to elevate them slightly. A pillow between your legs can also help keep them separated and help with circulation in your legs.

Use a wedge pillow: Wedge pillows are great for sleeping on your side after surgery because they keep pressure off of your abdomen. They are also useful if you have had hip or knee replacement surgery because they help keep the hips elevated while sleeping.

Sleep on your back: Sleeping on your back is one of the most comfortable positions for some people after gallbladder surgery or other abdominal procedures because it keeps pressure off of your abdomen and promotes good circulation. Be sure to use extra pillows under your knees for comfort.

8.  Stay Hydrated

Stay hydrated during the day, but avoid too much liquids by bedtime so you can have less bathroom breaks for an uninterrupted sleep. This can help ensure that you have fewer bathroom breaks during the night, which means more sleep.

Your doctor will probably advise drinking plenty of water and other fluids while you’re awake and then limiting yourself to just a few ounces of liquid at night. You may find it helpful to set an alarm clock or use an app to remind yourself not to drink too much before going to bed.

9. Limit Screen Time Before Bedtime

Post-surgery or not, you should limit your screen time before bedtime to help you sleep better. Screen time is a term we use to describe the amount of time you spend staring at your screen, including your TV and computer monitor.

The problem with too much screen time is that it can disrupt your sleep schedule, which can cause you to wake up feeling groggy and exhausted during the day. If you’re trying to improve your sleep, limit the amount of time you spend in front of screens before going to bed.

If possible, keep your bedroom completely dark so that the only light in the room comes from lamps or candles. This will help regulate melatonin production and make it easier for your body to fall asleep faster.

10.  Take Natural Supplements. 

Consult with your doctor first before taking any medication. If you’re struggling with insomnia, you should consider taking natural supplements that encourage sleep. Consult with your doctor first before taking any medication.

taking supplements

There are a number of natural supplements that can help you sleep. If you’re looking for a way to help you sleep, consider taking supplements that contain melatonin, Valerian root, and chamomile tea.

You can also take an instant mood booster supplement which keeps you calm and relaxed during the day, and help improve your quality of sleep.

When to See Your Doctor About Sleeping Problems After Gallbladder Surgery?

If you’re having trouble sleeping after gallbladder surgery, it’s important to know when to see your doctor. If you have any of the following symptoms or concerns, call your doctor:

  • You can’t sleep for more than two hours at a time.
  • You find yourself falling asleep at inappropriate times during the day, like while driving or during a meeting.
  • You feel sleepy during the day and are having trouble getting through your daily activities without feeling tired.
  • You’re having trouble concentrating on things or remembering things that happened recently.

FAQs About Sleeping After Gallbladder Surgery

How To Get In Bed After Gallbladder Surgery?

Getting in bed after gallbladder surgery can be tricky. You have to be careful not to strain your abdominal muscles or lift any heavy objects.

  • If you’re having trouble getting up or down from the bed, ask for help from a friend or family member. If you don’t have someone available, call your doctor or nurse for assistance.
  • Ask for help when putting on your socks and shoes, as well as when putting on your pants—it’s best to avoid bending at all costs.
  • Make sure that there is plenty of room around the bed so that you aren’t constantly bumping into things when trying to move around the room.
  • Another to get into bed is by using a transfer board, which is a flat piece of wood that has handles on one end and a cutout for your feet on the other.

How Long After Gallbladder Surgery Can You Sleep on Your Side?

If you had laparoscopic surgery, you can sleep on your side as soon as the surgeon gives you the okay—which will be immediately or within a few days after your procedure. You’ll need to avoid moving around too much and lifting heavy objects for at least six weeks, but beyond that, sleeping on your side shouldn’t pose any problems for you.

woman sleeping after gallbladder surgery

If your procedure was open, however, there’s a bit more waiting involved—about six weeks after your procedure before sleeping on your side becomes safe. This is because some of the internal organs have been moved around during surgery and need time to heal before being put back into place again.

How Can I Be Comfortable After Gallbladder Surgery?

The recovery time after gallbladder surgery can be tough. You may experience pain and discomfort as your body adjusts to the changes you’ve undergone.

It’s important to take care of yourself during this process so that you can get back to feeling like yourself again as soon as possible. Here are some tips for being comfortable after gallbladder surgery:

  • Take your pain medication as prescribed by your doctor. Don’t skip any doses, even if you feel good. Painkillers can help reduce swelling and inflammation, which will make it easier for you to feel less sore and stiff when you move around.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Your body needs extra fluids when recovering from major surgery, so it’s important to stay hydrated with water or another noncarbonated beverage (such as tea) throughout the day.
  • Try using a heating pad on areas where you’re experiencing discomfort or stiffness—but don’t use it too hot! The heat should be just warm enough to relax tense muscles without causing burns or discomfort.

How Much Rest Is Needed After Gallbladder Surgery?

If you had a laparoscopic cholecystectomy—a minimally invasive surgery that removes the gallbladder through a small incision in your abdomen—you should be able to return to normal activities in one week. If you had an open cholecystectomy, which requires making a larger incision in your abdomen, you should be able to return to normal activities within two weeks.

If you have any questions about how much rest is needed after gallbladder surgery, talk with your doctor or nurse.

How Long Does Your Stomach Stay Swollen After Gallbladder Surgery?

Depending on the type of surgery, a patient’s stomach will be swollen for anywhere between a few days and several weeks after surgery. In some cases, the swelling may last even longer.

After the surgery, you’ll need to avoid eating solid food for at least six weeks, but you can drink liquids and clear liquids. Your doctor may also recommend that you take an antacid medication, such as Prilosec (omeprazole), to help minimize stomach acid.

However, stomach swelling after gallbladder surgery is not always an indication of a problem. It may be normal for your stomach to be swollen for several days after the procedure due to abdominal muscles pulling on the intestines.


In this article, I have discussed how to sleep after gallbladder removal. These are important to avoid sleep deprivation. There are certain factors that must be considered during the recovery stage for gallbladder surgery. 

Some of these include pain, anxiety and medication side effects. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea are also possible following gallbladder surgery. 

All of these need to be taken into account during the recovery period. People who have had a recent gallbladder surgery should remember that they still need to practice healthy sleeping habits.

If you still have any questions about sleeping after gallbladder removal then feel free to leave them in the comments below. I’d be happy to help where I can.

I have two articles related to sleep and surgical procedures, you might want to check out sleeping after wisdom teeth removal and how to sleep with a kidney stent. Please join our SuperHumn free Facebook group for more information on wellness and longevity. Be empowered!

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